Released in 1984 at the height of what was the most bitter and confrontational industrial strike that has happened in my lifetime.
My most abiding memory of the song, aside from dancing to it in the student union, was when The Redskins gave a live rendition one Friday tea-time on ‘The Tube’ some six months into the strike.
Having just crashed their way through Hold On, lead singer Chris Dean (who also at the time wrote for the NME under the name of X Moore) introduced a temporary member of the band for Keep On Keepin On. A miner from Durham (which was the closest mining area to the Newcastle studios where The Tube was recorded) took to the stage and attempted to explain why he was on strike. His words were met with applause from the audience down at the front of the stage but they didn’t reach the ears of those of use sitting in our living rooms as the microphone had mysteriously failed.
There was uproar afterwards as Channel 4 was accused of deliberately sabotaging the performance. The TV station claimed it didn’t know in advance that the striking miner would take to the stage and had no idea that he would take to that particular mic which had actually malfunctioned during the performance of the first song. I’ve got this footage on VHS tape and it is true that when Martin Hewes was singing backing vocals on Hold On he couldn’t be heard….but it still seems to have been all too convenient.
The publicity helped get the single some radio airplay and enough sales to take it into the Top 50, but sadly not enough to ever lead to a Top of The Pops appearance.
In an era of ever increasingly bland chart fodder, I’ve no doubt at all that The Redskins would get no airplay nowadays. Indeed, even when you watch or listen to shows that look back at the music that was most synonymous with the era you’ll never spot The Redskins.
Keep On Keepin On is a cracking record, as indeed is the LP Neither Washington Nor Moscow with its heady mix of pop, soul, blues, folk, punk and left-wing politics and it’s very obvious that The Redskins were a hugely talented band who could have made and sold records for many years to come. But they didn’t…..
Where others such as Bragg and Weller could accept that there was more to the life of a musician than writing and recording agit-pop songs, it really was all-or-nothing for Chris Dean & co. They painted themselves into a corner with the interviews they gave to the music and mainstream press and in due course the sad defeat for the miners and the ever-increasing shift to the right in UK politics meant they had nowhere to go and nothing meaningful to say. For a while The Redskins had stood firm, held tight and fought. But in the end they chose to die on their feet than to live on their knees. The break-up was swift and inevitable. But they left a fine legacy:-
mp3 : The Redskins – Keep On Keepin’ On (Die on Your Feet Mix)
mp3 : The Redskins – 16 Tons (Coal Not Dole)
mp3 : The Redskins – Reds Strike The Blues!