Song of the Day #1,611: ‘Bengali in Platforms’ – Morrissey

‘Bengali in Platforms’ is a track from Morrissey’s solo debut, 1988′s Viva Hate, an album released just six months after the final Smiths’ album (Strangeways, Here We Come).

Viva Hate was the start of a strong solo run for Morrissey, and proof that even after the unfortunate demise of The Smiths, at least one half of the Morrissey/Marr partnership would continue to thrive.

This song, about a Bengali immigrant to England and the difficulty he faces assimilating, always struck me as satirical. Morrissey might be portraying a racist (given his repeated insistence that the young immigrant doesn’t “belong here”) but he’s doing so to make a point. Randy Newman has made a living doing this sort of thing.

But I was surprised to see quite a bit of debate and heated rhetoric about this song on the Web, and many accusations that Morrissey is, in fact, a racist. He calls that idea one of the biggest misconceptions about him and his work.

I’ve never found any of his work racist in the least. Those songs that touch on race seem to me to do so in a satirical fashion. But these charges have apparently dogged him for much of his career.

Bengali, Bengali
Bengali, Bengali
No no no
He does not want to depress you
Oh no no no no no
He only wants to impress you
Oh…

Bengali in platforms
He only wants to embrace your culture
And to be your friend forever
Forever

Bengali, Bengali
Bengali, Bengali
Oh, shelve your Western plans
And understand
That life is hard enough when you belong here

A silver-studded rim that glistens
And an ankle-star that…blinds me
A lemon sole so very high
Which only reminds me; to tell you
Break the news gently
Break the news to him gently
“Shelve your plans; shelve your plans, shelve them”

Bengali, Bengali
It’s the touchy march of time that binds you
Don’t blame me
Don’t hate me
Just because I’m the one to tell you

That life is hard enough when you belong here
That life is hard enough when you belong here
Oh…
Shelve your Western plans
Oh…
Shelve your Western plans
‘Cause life is hard enough when you belong
Life is hard enough when you belong here
Oh…
Shelve your Western plans
Oh…
Shelve your best friends
‘Cause life is hard when you belong here
Oh…
Life is hard enough when you belong

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One thought on “Song of the Day #1,611: ‘Bengali in Platforms’ – Morrissey

  1. Dana says:

    The difference between Morrisey and Newman (other than the enormous gulf in talent) is that Newman refects satire through tone, lyrically first, but also with voice. Morrisey sings the same here as he always does and, given his generally pretentious demeanor, I can understand why some might not see this as satire (though, as much as I would love to pile racist atop his other character traits, I assume it probably is intended to be satire)

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