Who you gonna vote for, in the general election?

In Parasite Child, Bill Fay directs this question to a young drop-out neighbour – a junkie and a chewing gum kid according to his granma and Uncle Sid.  It’s an accusation fired across generations.  ‘Parasite Child’ embodies the truism that, even in 1970, young people were less likely to vote.

The vote least likely to

The Conservatives’ promise to introduce commercial radio if elected in 1970 would have had an allure for many young people who remembered the excitement of the pirate stations in the 60s.  I’ve even heard it said that the reason the Tories won that year was partly because of the youthful appeal of this very policy.  It was a clever move – equating freedom and choice with opportunities to expand youth culture achieved through commercial means. Populism not paternalism became the order of the day in the Conservative Party, a transformation they completed in the 80s.  TheBill Fay election byline championing of commercial radio was one of its earliest manifestations.

Against all predictions, Ted Heath’s Conservatives won in 1970 and the first Independent Local Radio Stations – Capital and LBC – went on air in 1973.

Maybe I’m amused

I don’t know whether the prospect of commercial radio might have enticed Bill Fay’s ‘head like a sieve’ parasite child to place a cross on a ballot paper come polling day.  It feels unlikely from the perspective of the song.

The ‘who you gonna vote for?’ question is meant as much as a plea to ‘For God’s sake – think!’ as it is a call to political involvement.  But although Bill begins the song siding with the accusations of an older generation, he sounds unsure of his own response, as bemused and confused as the parasite child.  At times their voices seem one.  Perhaps he recognises that he and the young drop-out share a common humanity even as he despises his narcissism and apathy.

He ends with ‘The world seems slow, it’s stopped turning, it’s stopped learning’ but unlike the parasite child, he hasn’t given up on the need for daily struggle, to see evermore clearly, to not accept things as they seem or the world as given.  ‘I’m not the only one’ he declares optimistically, though not as confidently as John Lennon in Imagine the following year.


Parasite Child – Bill Fay

Grandma’s disgusted – the neighbours told her you’re a junkie
She said “It’s like I always said, he’ll be a parasite child”.

Maybe I’m amused, maybe I’m confused
But I know I’m not the only one
Everywhere I go, so much to know
The world seems slow, it’s stopped turning,
It’s stopped learning.

And your Uncle Sid said, “He moves like the whole world is after him
He’s a chewing gum kid, got a head like a sieve.”

Everything about me, it seems to me
I just can’t be what you want me to be.
Ain’t no use surrounding me, hey can’t you see?
I just can’t be what you want me to be.

Who you gonna vote for, in the next election?
You got no direction, parasite child.

Maybe I’m amused, maybe I’m confused
But I know I’m not the only one.
Everywhere I go, so much to know,
The world seems slow, it’s stopped turning,
It’s stopped learning.


‘Parasite Child’ can be found on Bill Fay: from the bottom of an old grandfather clock – a collection of demos and outtakes 1966-70 [Wooden Hill WHCD012, 2003]

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