Blair's Rock 'n' Roll Roots Come Back to Haunt Him


LONDON, March 2, 2007 — -- Not many people know this, but British Prime Minister Tony Blair fronted a rock band called Ugly Rumours during his years at Oxford University.

Now, 30 years later, Ugly Rumours is set to make a comeback.

No, not the original Ugly Rumours, but a new band -- using the same name -- whose first single is a cover version of the 1970 Edwin Starr hit "War (what is it good for?)" and whose lead singer bears an unsettling resemblance to … you guessed it, Tony Blair.

The video for the single, which can be viewed on YouTube, ends with the singer's arrest for spreading "ugly rumors" that have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

As if this wasn't embarrassing enough for Blair, the policewoman in the video responsible for handcuffing the fake "Tony Blair" is none other than the real Tony Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth -- a journalist and longtime critic of the Iraq War.

Booth, who is away on holiday, could not be reached for comment, but when contacted the song's producer, Ben Grey, he said that "she seemed perfectly happy to do it -- anything to spread the pro-peace message."

Initially released by the Stop the War Coalition in December, the single, available only as a download, was heavily promoted at last weekend's anti-war march in London, with organizers suggesting that it was a "musical referendum" on Blair.

Since then, online sales figures have been strong, and Music Week, the influential European music magazine, even suggested that the song could crack the U.K. top 10 charts this weekend.

Speaking to, Gennaro Castaldo, a spokesman for HMV records, said that although "sales of the song are likely to be politically motivated, the song is doing quite well and is in the top 20 at the moment. I think this is one of the first examples of a phenomenon that is set to continue, where political groups can build up interest by producing and distributing songs like this at very little cost."

As the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, Britain has already pledged to withdraw 1,600 of its troops from the country. The war, never too popular to begin with, has become an increasingly sore point for Blair's Labor Party.

In such a disenchanted political climate, observers say the producers of this song could not be more prescient.

As Ben Grey put it, "People have seen that we are in a quagmire in Iraq. And our song gives people a voice. A lot of people may not join an anti-war march but are against this war nonetheless. We are giving armchair protesters a way to show their protest."

Now, with the song's success, it seems as if protesting via iPod suits many people just fine.

And with possible plans to release the song in the United States -- following a recent consultation with Edwin Starr's own manager -- it looks as if this is one ugly rumor that won't be dying down any time soon.

ABC's Casey Schwartz contributed to this report

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