Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – Dreadlock Holiday by 10cc

This reggae song with the line “I don’t like cricket, oh no, I love it” has immortalized this song as a cricket song. It has appeared in compilations of songs about cricket such as “Stumped! Songs We Love About Cricket” and is an obligatory entry in best cricket songs list. In particular this song has been associated with West Indies cricket where in the past this song has been used in montages of West Indies cricket players highlights. Unfortunately this is one of those moments where you take one line out of context and  suddenly decide to make the entire song to mean about it similar to how people treat One by U2 as a sweet love song or The One I Love by REM as a love song dedication.  There’s something ironic that a bunch of white English musician playing reggae music about getting mugged in Jamaica (that some people have even argued to be potentially racist) has now been twisted to be the ultimate celebration of cricket in West Indies.

Verse 1
“I was walkin' down the street
Concentratin' on truckin' right
I heard a dark voice beside of me
And I looked round in a state of fright”

So the song sets up the theme of the protagonist walking in the street of Jamaica however the protagonist hears a dark voice (aka a black person) which scared him

“I saw four faces one mad
A brother from the gutter
They looked me up and down a bit
And turned to each other”

So he surrounded by 4 gangster (as those four faces are “from the gutter”) and they look at the protagonist and try to size him up. Also note how he referred to those criminals as his “brother” which is part of the joke of the song

Chorus 1
“I say
I don't like cricket oh no
I love it
I don't like cricket no no
I love it”

The whole parody of this song is that we have a white person trying to prevent being mugged by the criminals by pretending to be a “brother” of those by stating they share the same interest. So when the protagonist is singing “I don’t like cricket, I love it” he is basically saying to those criminals”Don’t mug me, I love you Jamaican people. See I love cricket just as much as you do” . That if he shared the same interest as the gangster (remembers that he doesn’t know the gangster love cricket but just assumed it) they won’t rob him. Essentially the equivalent would be if Asian gangs tried to mug a tourist and the tourist responding “I love table tennis and kung fu, please don’t mug me”.  Some people may accuse this of being racist but to me it’s clearly tongue in cheek and it’s clear that the song is mocking the protagonist.

Funny enough this part of the song reminds me of a story my father once told me that he was mugged once in Vietnam and he tried to get his stuff (which were actually plans to escape from communist Vietnam) returned to him by approaching the criminal gang and pretended that he was from a gang in another city of Vietnam and appealed to the “honor amongst thieves” mentality and that they are essentially “brothers” that have to look after each other. He was actually successful and manages to get his stuff returned from the thieves. So it turns out it is possible to charm gangster if you are smart and charismatic enough. However I doubt a person who clearly looks like a British tourist and saying stereotypical platitudes would be successful attempting this.

“Don't you walk thru' my words
You got to show some respect
Don't you walk thru' my words
'Cause you ain't heard me out yet.”

This is probably the most controversial part of the song where we have Gouldman and Stewart singing in a faux Jamaican accent which has been accused of racism. For one thing imitating and mocking accent is very common and people have no problem mocking English, American, French, German, Spanish etc accents so I don’t personally have a problem with that even if I understand other people do. However even ignoring that issue this line usually is interpreted to be imitating the black gangster telling the protagonist to show some respect and that Gouldman and Stewart were mocking black people.

However I like to interpret that these lines to be actually from the protagonist talking tough to the gangster in a faux Jamaican accent demanding the gangster to hear him out and to give him respect. After all the whole theme of this song is mocking a tourist using stereotypes in a bad attempt to develop rapport with the gangster. When people cringe and were offended when they heard Gouldman and Stewart singing in a bad Jamaican accent, maybe they should think that is the point and they are bringing this phenomenon to a caricature levels. That the protagonist of the song is imitating the Jamaican accent attempting to be their “brothers” and acting macho in telling them off and demanding respect. This interpretation also works structurally as this is part of the chorus of the song and in the same section as “I don’t like cricket, I love it” which was clearly from the protagonist point of view so there is no reason why it should shift perspective when it is continuing the same section of the song.

Verse 2
“Well he looked down at my silver chain
He said I'll give you one dollar
I said You've got to be jokin' man
It was a present from me Mother
He said I like it I want it
I'll take it off your hands
And you'll be sorry you crossed me
You'd better understand that you're alone
A long way from home”

This continues the story where the gangster is humoring the protagonist (probably amused by his faux accent) and wants to “buy” the silver chain the protagonist is wearing for a single dollar. However the protagonist refuses due to the sentimental value of the silver chain. The gangster then goes serious and tells him that he is a tourist long way from home and he better accept his demands or he will cut off his hands so I guess the tourist isn't his "brother".

Chorus 2
“And I say
I don't like reggae no no
I love it
I don't like reggae oh no
I love it
Don't you cramp me style
Don't you queer me pitch
Don't you walk thru my words
'Cause you ain't heard me out yet”

In an amusing situation knowing that the “loving cricket” line didn’t work and that the gangster still consider him to be a tourist instead of a “brother”. The protagonist tries to change tactics and now switch to another stereotype of Jamaican culture and saying he love reggae in an attempt to bond with the gangster. He then put on his faux accent and now is mixing with “Jamaican” lingo such as “cramping my style” and acting tough with him.

Verse 3
“I hurried back to the swimming pool
Sinkin' pina colada
I heard a dark voice beside me say
Would you like something harder
She said I've got it you want it
My harvest is the best
And if you try it you'll like it
And wallow in a dreadlock holiday”

So the protagonist runs away from the gangster after the failed attempt to bond with them back to the hotel. He goes and drinks some pina colada until he heard a girl trying to sell him some weed (as it is “harder” then alcohol and she promotes that her “harvest is the best”).

Chorus 3
“And I say
Don't like Jamaica oh no
I love her
Don't like Jamaica oh no
I love her oh yea
Don't you walk through her words
You got to show some respect
Don't you walk thru her words
'Cause you ain't heard her out yet”

The protagonist hilariously declares how much he loves Jamaica and his reasoning is because this is the country where marijuana is legal and people can openly obtain and purchase it. That it only takes a bit of weed to overcome the trauma of attempted mugging by a gangster. He puts on his faux accent defending her from criticism from people who judge her for being a drug dealer.

Chorus 4
“I don't like cricket oh no
I love it (Dreadlock holiday)
I don't like reggae oh no
I love it (Dreadlock holiday)
I don't like Jamaica oh no
I love her (Dreadlock holiday)’

The final chorus summarises the whole song where it reveals the protagonist superficial appreciation of Jamaican culture. He “loves” Jamaica and feels kinship with the Jamaican people simply because he loves cricket and he loves reggae and he loves weed.

Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of this song because I’m not a fan of reggae music but I find the lyrics hilarious even if I can understand why some people may be offended by it.  For people who are offended, just think what would happen if you see a person in real life behaving like the character in this story? Are you sure you wouldn’t laugh? It's just a funny story. Hell this is no different to some of the humour from David Brent in The Office (Sidney Poitier).

The idea that someone could snip out a single line of the song “I don’t like cricket oh no, I love it” from this really politically incorrect song and be reinterpreted into a song that celebrates cricket in the Caribbean just adds to the hilarity.  


  1. Thanks for explaining the lyrics! I heard this as a teenager and loved it but gave no thought to the lyrics. I just heard it again on the radio and started listening to the text and thought" Hey, what is this?" Really funny text!

  2. Thanks also from me for explaining the song. For some reason I played it yesterday. I remember listening to it on the radio when it came out and not making sense of the lyrics.

  3. Remember, this is in British English, with some slight Jamaican/Patois additions. All these expressions were current in English at the time.
    For example: 'Take it off your hands' simply means take it from you, literally relieve you of it. Likewise, 'cramping my style' is just an ordinary Brit expression, nothing to do with the Caribbean at all.
    This is a pop song and only that so, even though it is based on reality, it is very tongue-in-cheek (ironic) and you shouldn't read too much into it.
    Went to see 10cc in 1981 and cringed when they played this... but that's the trouble with irony, isn't it?

  4. The word 'brother' (or 'brotha') is slang for 'black man'. The song's protagonist calls the 'one mad' guy with the 'dark voice' 'a brother', not HIS brother.