Meet the man who mashes up Nicola Sturgeon with David Bowie
'There's too much politics!' says the man who's become a cult hero with his daily dose of musical satire
When Home Secretary Amber Rudd issued the fateful words “necessary hashtags” during a Sunday interview following the Westminster terror attack there was a range of reactions.
But surely only one man figured it sound a bit like the riff from the song I Can’t Stand the Rain. That man was Tommy MacKay, and he set about recording a satirical cover of the Tina Turner hit mocking the Home Secretary’s apparent ignorance of all things technological. (sample lyric: I can’t stand the RAM/Inside my Windows).
It was just the latest addition to a satirical canon that includes songs about the great and the good of British and Scottish politics, whether that be a country song about Sadiq Khan (it sounds like Stand By Your Man) or a cover of London Calling called Corbyn Calling to the more niche delights of a ska track about Green party MSP Andy Wightman.
MacKay’s greatest hit was surely Ziggy Sturgeon and the Spiders from Katie Melua’s Ears, an album headed by a David Bowie inspired homage to the Scottish First Minister but also featuring a song about Professor Brian Cox and the amusingly titled Positively Forth Bridge. The BBC made it their highlight of the political week.
So the prospect of another independence referendum and the potential for more tunes must excite him? He sighs: “There's probably too much politics and stupidity right now. I'm dying to get back to completing my Pointless concept album but all this imbecility keeps cropping up. It's exhausting. But yes, I'm both looking forward to and dreading indyref2. A lot of regurgitating of the old arguments could get a bit wearing though.”
The key figures in the last independence vote gave him plenty of material and propelled him into the public consciousness. He once performed under the title The Sensational Alex Salmond’s Gastric Band (for younger readers: that’s a play on The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) and Labour’s most high profile campaigner was a favourite. “Jim Murphy was a rich seam for a while during the Scottish Referendum campaign. I had at least four songs about him, including S.O.C.I.A.L.I.S.M and Evo Stick It To The Man.”
Currently a song in honour of Mhairi Black, but featuring some rude language, is proving popular and Michael White’s moustache, a tune about the veteran Guardian politico’s facial hair from Tommy’s glam rock album, continues to win fans.
Having been in punk bands back in the day MacKay started writing silly songs to perform at open mic nights in Edinburgh and things snowballed from there. Now he records a song a day for his Daily Reckless website which he started in 2000 as a parody of Scotland’s then best-selling daily the Daily Record. Recent efforts have taken aim at Gordon Brown, Theresa May, Donald Trump and straight bananas.
He explained: “Each song can take anything from half an hour to two hours. If it’s just a cover of an old song, it’s the lyrics which take the longs and the sourcing of any additional soundbites and sound effects. If it’s an original song, then the recording will usually take long than writing the words. I get bored quick though, so I try not to linger or do too much polishing.”
And his work as attracted some famous fans. MacKay has worked with right-on comedian Stewart Lee and The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci. He explained: “Armando did a series of imaginary song lyrics on his Facts and Fancies show and I asked him if I could set them to music. He said yes and the result was ‘Imagine There’s No Album’.”
Tommy’s still churning out new music every day, some of his tracks attract hundreds of thousands of plays on YouTube. “Doesn’t pay though!” he adds glumly. However, with plenty more politics ahead thanks to Brexit and indyref2 that could change.