The true story behind Super Furry Animals ‘The Man Don’t Give A F*ck’
It’s the single that holds the record for most instances of the F-word.
‘The Man Don’t Give A F*ck’ – the anti-establishment anthem from those creative Welsh nonconformists Super Furry Animals, will forever be enshrined in rock ‘n’ roll history.
The band’s protest against ‘the man’ has been described by Furries frontman Gruff Rhys as “about the mistreatment that we’ve had at the hands of politicians for years”.
Today, as the single celebrates 25 years since its release, it seems more prescient than ever.
Released in December 1996 on Creation Records, the song is based around the sample – “You know they don’t give a f*** about anybody else” – from the Steely Dan track ‘Show Biz Kids’.
Originally intended as a B-side for previous single ‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’, the band had not been able to clear the sample in time, due to Steely Dan wanting thousands to release it.
That’s when record label boss Alan McGee intervened, agreeing to pay the US group the money they wanted.
“We got so big as a record company, at one point we were turning over about £40m in the 1990s,” McGee recalls. “£40m would be big now but in the 1990s that was f****** massive.
“We were putting out so much stuff. I would go away at the weekend and take away future releases.
“I was given the B side to the next Super Furries single and one of the songs was ‘The Man Don’t Give A F*ck’ and it was the best thing I’d ever heard them do.
“So I said, ‘Why are we giving away this song as a B side?’. I was told, ‘Steely Dan wanted £7,000, so we’re just going to put it as a B side and pay them a royalty’.
“I said, ‘Well just pay them the £7,000’, so we did and it was f****** great’. I think it’s one of their best songs, isn’t it?”
The sample featuring the F-word is repeated more than 50 times and the single came with a warning sticker on the cover advertising the fact – another masterly piece of marketing by McGee and the band.
As for McGee, he had no concerns about putting out an expletive-strewn song as a single.
“The truth is I don’t know if swearing is that big a deal, I swear the whole f****** time! That is me. I’ve never curtailed the way I speak for anybody.
“In the 1990s, talking to the establishment, or whatever you want to to call them, I’d talk to them the way I talk to you.”
Most usage of the F-word
At the time it was claimed the single featured the F-word “more than any other song”, but Insane Clown Posse’s F*ck The World in fact beat it with 93 instances.
However, in 2004, the band released a 23-minute live version of the single recorded at Hammersmith Apollo and beat that record with more than 100 uses of the F-word.
As for the single’s infamous cover image, a striking colourised version of the original photograph of Cardiff City maverick Robin Friday flicking the Vs at Luton Town goalkeeper Milija Aleksic, it appears to stem from the writing of the book ‘The Greatest Football You Never Saw: The Robin Friday Story’ by journalist Paolo Hewitt and Oasis bass player Guigsy, as much as it was a tribute to the footballer from the band themselves – and the several group members who are Cardiff City fans.
The single contains a tribute on the sleeve from Hewitt and Guigsy.
It reads: “This record is dedicated to the memory of Robin Friday, 1952 to 1990, and his stand against ‘the man’.
“Robin Friday was a nonconformist and lived every second of his life with an intensity that burned for all to see. Friday not only flicked V signs at goalies who stood no chance against his prowess, but he flicked V signs at anyone who tried to tame him.
“He was the superstar of the suburbs, the one who made George Best look like a lightweight.”
McGee recalls: “Guigsy and Paolo did the book around the same time and they wanted me to help them out with that, so I spoke up for the image being used a few times.”
The song has now passed into the annals of rock ‘n’ roll folklore and is the band’s climactic set-closer when playing live.
For football and Furry fans – and aficionados of swearing – it’s the perfect f*cking match.
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Embarrassing moments? I was a great Steely Dan fan and loved Showbiz Kids and the album which I played incessantly. I was with my then girlfriend and another couple in the American burger bar Lexington in Queen Street Cardiff one night in 1973 when this track came on and the staff turned the volume up to 11. Never having heard the single version I was merrily singing along until the dropout where the word was replaced by silence. You got it, a momentary silence with me supplying the missing word at the top of my voice. They asked me to… Read more »
I remember seeing the charts on the wall of Our Price in Cardiff showing Super Furry Animals “The Man Don’t Care”!