Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Songs for Social Justice: The Clash – 1977
36 years ago, there was a revolution in pop music. The popular protest songs of the 1960’s had faded. Young people growing up in multi-cultural working class neighbourhoods found the problems of society cut across ethnicities, that the root causes of unemployment, poverty and lack of progress could not and should not be blamed on BME and migrant communities. The Queen’s Silver Jubilee loomed. A referendum on Scottish devolution was on the horizon. Glam Rock, Prog Rock and Showaddaywadday ruled the charts – the bands had nothing to say.
The music and charts changed dramatically when a bunch of teenagers from London decided to over-throw their older peers and create a new sound which was influenced by the rebellious socio-political messages found in reggae. The new music came to be known as punk. It rejected conforming to the class structures, its ethos was D.I.Y. and the records they listened to were British and Jamaican reggae.
The Clash was the most obvious band to have had reggae influences in their music and they are credited as having brought the political edge to punk. Their music and songs were a reflection of their times and personal experiences, their messages connected with young people.
The Clash are often cited as being inspirations to countless other musicians, they gave many bands their first opportunity to tour and play in front of large audiences. The Clash broke down the superficial barrier between band and audience. Their music was innovative and changed with each album. Their song ‘1977’ railed against unemployment, the lack of opportunities for young working class people and the Jubilee.
Disastrously, 1977 sounds as relevant today as it was 35 years ago.
The Clash – 1977