Marx’s Europe was haunted by a single spectre, but the furthest shores of the Welsh cultural psyche are stalked by two figures as powerful as they are petrifying: the Mam and the Missus. Such well-ploughed dichotomies as that of Madonna/whore are wholly inadequate as explanations of this particular view of feminine duality. Here I shall focus on the Missus, a figure who inspires both hypersexualised fascination and visceral dread of her destructive powers. This delicate divide between titillation and terror is nowhere more suggestively straddled than in Goldie Lookin’ Chain’s seminal release ‘Your Missus is a Nutter’. A full transcription of this sadly underexplored work is available for reference here.
The modern mantra with which the song is interspersed – ‘Oh son, your missus is a nutter! / Leave her alone: your missus is a nutter!’ – is addressed to an unspecified male, but one whose generational position as ‘son’ establishes him as a representative of contemporary Wales. The song’s opening salvo runs thus:
I seen you last night, you were drinkin’ in the pub
You were drinkin’ with that bird you tried to chat up in the nightclub
Can’t say her name but she’s got a gammy eye
And I feel an air of violence when I have to walk on by…
The protagonist’s fearful admission that he ‘Can’t say her name’ places the Missus in that litany of terrors named but unnameable, from Rider Haggard’s She to Rowling’s Lord Voldemort. In the following lines:
I never seen a woman make a fuckin’ skinhead cry
And I never seen a woman tryin’ to snap an arm with a thigh…
the emphatic repetition of ‘I’ve never…’ further establishes the narrator as inexperienced novitiate, in thrall and in awe, an admitted amateur who Tried keeping up with your missus only to check himself with the exclamation ‘What was I thinking?’
She looks like Caprice, but it’s a shock
To see her wrestling 2 police, with one in a headlock…
The ‘shock’ here is of course not the shock of the new, but rather that of the old – the Bakhtinian-Rabelaisian spirit of disorder traditionally embodied by the grotesque. The Missus’ carnivalesque excesses make her a natural enemy of post-Victorian law, and her confrontation with the agents of established order here described also draws on Wales’ long history of radical struggle and the intrinsic part played by women. Sheila Rowbotham’s Women, Resistance and Revolution and Jill Miller’s You Can’t Kill the Spirit : Women in a Welsh Mining Village contain many such images of radical female agency, but none perhaps break upon the inner eye with such vividity. Locked in tipsy combat, the Missus as agent of chaos and the Policeman as agent of order form almost a yin-yang, symbolizing eternal socio-political tension in which hierarchy is continuously upset and reasserted.
Against an increasingly disjointed musical backdrop and fragmenting lyrics, reminiscent perhaps of splintering barstools, the narrator’s urging of heteronormative obedience – ‘She needs to keep calm and use her charm’ – is self-evidently absurd and only serves to underline his hopelessness. This revelation is in fact followed by a rueful recognition of the narrator’s own part in encouraging the evolution of what he fears will now destroy him, as he recounts how he ‘used to think it was funny’ to observe the Missus’ powers of terror and destruction. (The mention of pub ashtrays, with indoor smoking still allowed in this period, lend the narrator’s Proustian recollection of his voyeuristic devotion a pleasingly quaint touch.)
The line ‘Oh son, your missus is trouble: every time you have a drink she has a double’ makes explicit her appropriation of the ‘double’ symbol of testicular authority, again underlining the narrator’s comparative passivity and the troubling implications of this for contemporary Welsh masculinity.
The narrator’s single moment of agency is the warning: ‘Stop lookin’ at me love this is water what I’m sippin’!‘. Water, a source of both life and death, is here drunk in obvious tribute to the Missus’ creative and destructive powers – a libation in fact too precious to pour, but ‘sipped’ instead, in an obvious attempt to ward off and appease the Missus.
‘I seen her get on a mountain bike…’
In the song’s climactic lines, we see the Missus, heretofore imagined in a wholly urban context, ally herself with a symbol of the rural. The sexual implications of ‘mounting’ a ‘mountain’ bike, and indeed the celebratory reclaiming of enthusiastic sexuality expressed by the term ‘bike’ itself, need little exposition. The action effectively presents a modern-day fertility ritual in which Wales’ agricultural and post-industrial identities are coupled.
‘…and she drove into Chipland, and did ‘em all in… Wicked!’
The narrator’s apotheotic vision of the Missus as liberatory goddess, righting the wrongs with which both urban and rural Wales have been historically afflicted, is powerful. Are we not all in ‘Chipland’, a name evocative of an urban underclass empire, awaiting salvation from our unnamed oppressors? A folk heroine in the same pantheon as Rebecca or Boudicca, the Missus takes righteously violent action because others cannot. Her mountain bike is both chivalric steed and chariot.
The final interjection of ‘Wicked!’ is, no doubt, intended to serve as an ironic reminder of the waning power still held in Wales by Nonconformist Christianity, and effectively points up the inefficacy of its attempted judgement on such feminine autonomy.
This paean to gynocracy fades out with a chorused repetition of ‘pussywhipped!’, the Missus’ devotees submerging themselves in an ecstasy of Swinburnian submission.
The Mam, yin to the yang of the Missus, is a no less fascinating archetype, who must regrettably await elucidation, until of course a similarly enlightening exposition is made of the Freudian fascination underlying GLC’s ‘Your Mother’s Got A Penis’.
This post is taken from the forthcoming volume Safe as Fuck, Clit: Post-Industrial Gender Identity in the Work of Ironically Boorish Novelty Welsh Rap Crews, published by Tongue In Cheek Books. Place your orders here!