History Repeating – Shirley Bassey and the Propellerheads


This techno-dance music hit was performed by Shirley Bassey and the Propellerheads.

The Propellerheads are a couple of electronic/dance club DJ/musicians who came from Bath (but are no longer wet behind the ears), Alex Clifford and Will White. They use backing tracks and engage in scratching and hop from hip-hop to big beat dance and spy film soundtracks. Their first EP titletrack “Dive” was  used as an Adidas commercial.

Shirley Bassey the singer on this track, “History Repeating” is well entitled to sing this track. She is a Dame. An English dame (not an American dame). She has sung a number of James Bond theme songs: Goldfinger(1964), Diamonds(1971) & Moonraker(1979). She was born in 1937(old enough to be my older sister.). She is old enough to be a grandmother, which in fact she is. She has seen some history. As I said she is well entitled to sing this track.

As you heard and saw “History Repeating” is a big beat, big band, jazz, dance music number that picks up on a 50’s/60’s retro feel and mood. If the video was brown, orange and lime green I would say it was 70’s retro but this video is black & white, “the age before colour”. They have narrow ties and the camera work is reminiscent of the 60’s and body movements of the beat generation. The commentator’s intro & outtro is in the style of that era. His outtro comment “It’s different” is in ironic juxtaposition to the words and message of the song.

A christian might take umbridge at the words of the song, thinking that they suggest a cyclical view of history rather than a linear view with beginning and end. But a christian might find a point of engagement with culture here, recognizing as the teacher in Eccelesiastes did that there is “nothing new under the sun”. He observed God’s completeness and self-sufficency , history’s patterns of repeating catergories and man’s finite, fragile, confusing and fleeting life of which he has to give an account. This may sound philosophical but is this video philosophical? Should we take it seriously?

Certainly the first verse sounds “world viewish” but the second verse shows that it is only a fashion statement. By the third verse we’ve escaped into the dance world where we don’t ask our heads but let our hips do the swinging. Maybe this is the world view conveyed “forget history and dance for the moment”.

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