Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Some Songs for N30 (naked 80s nostalgia fest!)

Hardly the first person to say it I know, but it really is a crying shame that our There is a Better Way campaign lacks a decent soundtrack.  It seems popular music has become totally disconnected from lives lived and battles fought. Popular music in 2011 is a caterwauling, narcissistic freakshow.

So at the risk of coming across all fogeyish, I really do have to scream that it wasn’t always thus! The struggle against Thatcher was played out against a soundtrack of immense variety and occasional brilliance. Thought it might be fun to remind people of this as they prepare for N30.

I’ve also been desperate to write a musical list for a few weeks now - for therapeutic reasons really; to help me get over the fingernails-down-the-side-of-ship excruciating horrorshow that was Scotland’s Greatest Album.

So here we go with a mad 80s nostalgia fest. I've used a pretty liberal interpretation of 'political' here and all are from Britain and Ireland. Opening it up to the States would have been too problematic; a danger that Public Enemy would've scooped all 15 places. Still an awful lot has been missed out. In no particular order...my fave political songs of the Thatcher era:

Yeah, tempted to go for something off the first LP but this track is of special sentimental value given that it was the first thing I taped after we bought a video recorder off my Dad’s winnings on the Celtic Pools. Played to death. My old boss was Terry Hall’s brother-in-law; something that cannot be said about Grahame Smith.

Totally loved the Ruts and this is punk/reggae crossover at its devastating best; you can almost smell the terror invoked by an out of control Special Patrol Group. Magnificent.

Er, almost afraid to include this in the current climate. But it’s Dexy’s, it’s Dance Stance and it’s a song of towering brilliance. Just has to be in there. And yes I know Eugene O’Neill isn’t Irish. But a songs gotta scan...

You’re in for a treat if coming across this for the first time. The sexual politics were I think lost on me at the time; too busy enjoying the signature post punk early eighties trebly guitar fest. Genuis.

What to choose? Nearly went for personal face Charlie Don’t Surf but, having today listened to Gideon outline the next phase of his attack on workers‘ rights I thought it just had to be this. Incidentally, deeply regretting telling my eldest that by the time I was her age I'd seen the Clash at the Apollo. Further regretting my maw telling her that she didn't worry too much. You can see where this is leading #bulliedfather

I’m told that my homes on a nuclear free zone, that ain’t no help when there’s bills to be paid. Police accountability, non-nuclear defence strategy, it’s foolish ideology, it’s made the fight a mockery’

Excellent political songwriting, by the Mancunian band Easterhouse; not the band Scheme from Easterhouse, Glasgow (who were an interesting lot in many ways but, unfortunately their music was completely pish). A misconception that used to get me particularly riled back in ’85. And I had a temper on me back then. Their debut album, Contenders, was genuinely powerful but very few tracks appear to have found their way onto Youtube. Shame, I was looking forward to hearing Lenin in Zurich.

Even the Mods were angry back in the 1980s. One of only two bands I seen play East Kilbride as a teenager (other was Orange Juice), they were great live. By the way, for that scoot, my kids would be sleeping in the shed.

A really, really silly band; the whole socialist (Red, geddit?) skinhead cultivated image and the SWP poster lyrics. But the tunes were fantastic and after a couple of decades of ridiculing them, I’m genuinely staggered at how amazingly fresh this sounds. Anyway, you’ve gotta love a band that releases a single called Go Get Organised!

Still remember reading the NME review of Our Favourite Shop arguing that Weller’s political voice had matured at the same time as the SC’s music. Quite. Having watched a number of horrible Occupy pepper spray and baton incidents over the past week this really does resonate.

Had to be in there. And so it should, it’s awesome.

Remember feeling very sophisticated buying Eden; they had that sound. This is from the second, inferior, album but great nonetheless.

Always thought it was mightily impressive the way the Petrols scorned the Undertones legacy to make edgy, political and, in early use of sampling etc, really quite innovative music. For a band with a major contract they were overtly and heavily political, using record covers to bring attention to issues like the use of Diplock courts in Northern Ireland. Brave and strong. This track is awesome.

I know this will get me into trouble but, much as I love him as a person, could never really take to his delivery. However, remember seeing him perform this at the Apollo supporting TSC during the miners’ strike. Powerful right enough. Guess the question will be posed more than once tomorrow.

A fascinating bunch. It’s incredible to think just how big they were; totally uncompromising and yet sold a stack of records – probably more than Joe McJedward sell these days. I used to correspond with guitarist Penny Rimbaud, saying things like, ‘love your records but you shouldn’t be too hard on religion ‘cause my mum and dad are religious and they’re really ok’. Amazingly, he used send me lengthy patient replies and loads of stencils to ruin good t-shirts with. I was a wee anarchist soul as a 12 year old, I really was.

Got into reggae through this, the Ruts and the Clash. Forever grateful Linton!

So  go on then, what have I missed?