Law Rocks

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By Alex Wade on

In need of a musical study break?


Here are six songs to lighten your mood (and keep you in touch with the law).

6. What a Waste — Ian Dury and The Blockheads

I could be a lawyer/with stratagems and ruses. I could be a doctor/with poultices and bruises…

The late, great Ian Dury put a witty and rhythmic spin on failing to achieve in the 1978 classic ‘What a Waste’. The things he could have been included poet, lorry driver, teacher (in a classroom full of scholars) and sergeant (in a squadron full of wallahs). All were scuppered by his determination “to play the fool in a six-piece band”. Ironically, Dury’s huge success, not to mention his brilliant lyrics, suggest that perhaps his career had more of lawyerly “stratagems and ruses” than might first be imagined.

5. Lawyers in Love — Jackson Browne

Among the human beings in their designer jeans, am I the only one who hears the screams and the strangled cries of lawyers in love?

Thus sang Jackson Browne, an American singer-songwriter who has sold over 18 million albums in the United States. But what did he mean? Illumination is not necessarily to be found via a forensic analysis of the lyrics, but there is another line in which Browne imagines the then USSR to mutate into “a vacationland for lawyers in love.” Hmm. Whatever it means, at least lawyers’ capability for love appears in a song.

4. Legalize It — Peter Tosh

Legalize it — don’t criticize it / Legalize it, and I will advertise it.

Peter Tosh pre-empted the state of Colorado, the country of Uruguay and the hash bars of Amsterdam in a 1976 eulogy to cannabis. One section avers that “judges smoke it/Even the lawyers too.” True? We couldn’t possibly comment.

3. Lawyers, Guns and Money — Warren Zevon

The protagonist of ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’, written by American rock musician Warren Zevon (1947 – 2003), sure is down on his luck. After an amorous encounter with a waitress, while “gambling in Havana”, he finds that she is “with the Russians too”. Ultimately he ends up hiding in Honduras, “a desperate man” — but one who is buoyed by hope. Lawyers, as much as money (and guns), will get him out of the jam he’s in (the song does not say whether his hope is realised).

2. I Fought the Law — Bobby Fuller

This well-known hymn to the rule of law was originally written by Sonny Curtis of the Crickets. In 1966, it was covered by the Bobby Fuller Four, who had a top-ten hit with it, and then again by the Clash in 1979. Many other versions have been recorded or played live by bands including the Grateful Dead, the Stray Cats, the Dead Kennedys and Johnny Cash.

In 1989, the Clash’s version was played during Operation Just Cause, when United States military forces surrounded the Apostolic Nunciature in Panama while trying to capture Manuel Noriega. After 11 days, Noriega gave himself up. He has since served many years in prison in different jurisdictions, allowing ample time to reflect on the wisdom of opposing the law.

1. Legal Man — Belle and Sebastian

Scottish band Belle and Sebastian are consistently well reviewed by critics but have yet to make it big. Maybe success would come their way, if only they could reach more lawyers? In ‘Legal Man’, released in 2000, the band reveal a rare knowledge of how lawyers’ minds work, promoting contract law as a means of securing romantic love.

“Notwithstanding provisions of clauses 1, 2, 3, and 4; Extend contractual period, me and you for evermore” goes the song, an upbeat ditty with a Sixties feel. Having exhorted its eponymous hero to “refer to our discussions, confirm the terms of our love affair”, it ends by advising Legal Man to “get out of the office and into the springtime”. That’s sound advice, especially if studying land law has got just a bit too much…