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Ken on ‘Ken’

Luke Turner of The Quietus interviews Ken Livingstone as he makes another attempt to regain his position as Mayor of London, and asks Ken what he thought about Ken:

How many men would have loved to have a song written about them by Kate Bush – and especially one that refers to them as a “sex machine”. The song was recorded for a special edition of TV series The Comic Strip.

Did you like the track, Ken?

KL: Of course I was a fan of the song. What was particularly funny was that I think she was bigger in the States than here, but it used to be the case that ten years ago there are people writing ‘who is Ken? What is GLC?’ I suppose it’s a bit like if someone heard about the Bananarama track and asked ‘what cheap fares?’ You have to be at least 50 to remember it.

You seem to have been quite a popular subject in songs.

KL: I did stuff with U2, and then over the years because the GLC was putting on concerts and then when I was mayor. Even in between, when Blur did the gig against tuition fees, so I’ve always been around the edge of the music world.

There’s a line in the Kate Bush song where she calls you a ‘sex machine’

KL: If only this were true. If only Kate Bush had seen me as a real sex machine?


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  1. Rob't

    This ignorant Yank has to ask: what is the GLC?

    • Peter

      The GLC was the “Greater London Council”, the 1967 successor to the 1880s London County Council as the Local Authority for the London area. The “Leader of the GLC” which Ken was from 1981-86 was the leader of the largest party group on the council, and effectively boss of London.

      The GLC was abolished wholesale by Margaret Thatcher in 1986, and London’s CountyHall sold to a Japanese property company who famously attempted to prevent London war veterans from accessing the London County War memorial which is situated in the building. Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour Government created a new “Mayor of London” and a much slimmed down “Greater London Authority” to go with it. Ken won the first election for Mayor in 2000, and was re-elected in 2004, but lost in 2008.

      None of this is to be confused with the “City of London” which is something different and has its own “Lord Mayor of London” the successor to Dick Whittington.

      • Robert

        Thanks! This was never one of my favorite Kate songs, so I had never much bothered about the details, but it is always fun to be reminded about the richness of Kate’s work. Thanks for the answer. Rob’t

  2. Bigger in the states? Bless ’em.

  3. Sky

    When I worked at Lambeth Council in the early 90s, my boss told me she had been Ken’s secretary before the abolition of the GLC. She remembered him as a very fair, amusing man to work with and a real character. She didn’t mention anything about him being a ‘funky sex machine’ though. 🙂

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