4 April 2014


There are loads of stats that can be thrown about from today’s offering.

– in February 1981, this became just the second EP ever to reach #1 in the UK singles charts; the first had been back in 1976 when greek crooner Demis Roussos took his Phenomenon EP to the top of the hit parade

Too Much Too Young became the first live track to reach #1 in more than 9 years; the previous occasion had been Chuck Berry with My-Ding-A-Ling

– at 2:04, the lead track was the shortest #1 throughout the 80s

– the five tracks on the EP had ten different composers

Terry Hall‘s dad was in the audience for the Coventry gig at which the b-side was recorded; this was the first time he’s seen The Specials perform in concert (the two songs on the a-side were from a separate gig in London)


The thing was, back in 2014, the mp3s put up were of appalling quality with all sorts of hisses and crackles.  The fact I’ve now picked up a better copy gives me the excuse to re-post the music.

mp3 : The Specials – Too Much Too Young (live)
mp3 : The Specials – Guns Of Navarone (live)
mp3 : The Specials – Skinhead Symphony (live)*

* features Longshot Kick The Bucket, Liquidator and Skinhead Moonstomp

I feel it is only right that I should close with the two comments which were contributed to the original post, as one is smart/witty and the other is educational.

Jacques the Kipper says:
April 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I can see Ellen Degeneres at the back on the left…


Stevo Kifaru says:
April 12, 2014 at 9:24 pm

And ironically/coincidentally the three live tracks on the b-side of this E.P. were recorded at Coventry Tiffany’s where the previous (and first-ever live recording to hit the U.K top spot) No1 My Ding-a-ling was also recorded, albeit the venue was called the Locarno then….

That’ll be The Locarno which is namechecked by Terry Hall in this stunning b-side:-

mp3: The Specials – Friday Night, Saturday Morning


SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen)

I’m placing these two songs together in one posting as  I reckon they are very close cousins. Both tell the story of being out on the town and the immediate consequences thereafter.

mp3 : The Specials – Friday Night, Saturday Morning

In which Terry Hall wonderfully narrates the tale of someone who has gone out and had a predictably awful and all too common end to his night.

Out of bed at eight am
Out my head by half past ten
Out with mates and dates and friends
That’s what I do at weekends

I can’t talk and I can’t walk
But I know where I’m going to go
I’m going watch my money go
At the Locarno, no

When my feet go through the door
I know what my right arm is for
Buy a drink and pull a chair
Up to the edge of the dance floor

Bouncers bouncing through the night
Trying to stop or start a fight
I sit and watch the flashing lights
Moving legs in footless tights

I go out on Friday night
and I come home on Saturday morning

I like to venture into town
I like to get a few drinks down
The floor gets packed the bar gets full
I don’t like life when things get dull

The hen party have saved the night
And freed themselves from drunken stags
Having fun and dancing in
A circle round their leather bags

But two o’clock has come again
It’s time to leave this paradise
Hope the chip shop isn’t closed
Cos’ their pies are really nice

I’ll eat in the taxi queue
Standing in someone else’s spew
Wish I had lipstick on my shirt
Instead of piss stains on my shoes

I go out on Friday night
and I come home on Saturday morning

Back in 1981, most towns and cities in the UK had a limited choice for young people looking for a decent night out. The pubs, for the most part, catered for all ages and you stood a good chance of bumping into older folk who were on more than nodding terms with one or more of your family. The choice of booze was limited depending on the brewery to which the landlord or ale-house was attached. Males would be in the bar area and females would be in the lounge….the idea of both sexes mingling in a pub was fairly alien. Which is one of the reasons almost everyone aged 16-25 went to the equivalent of Terry’s Locarno as that was the only place you could engage with someone of the opposite sex; such places were referred to most often as cattle markets.

Oh, and you could just completely forget the any sort of above ground nightlife for anyone who wasn’t hetero….

Fast forward 35 years

mp3 : Arctic Monkeys – Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured

In which Alex Turner wonderfully narrates the tale of a group of lads who have gone out and had a predictably frantic and manic end to their night.

We’ll ask if we can have six in
If not we’ll have to have two
Well, you’re coming up our end, aren’t you?
So I’ll get one with you

Won’t he let us have six in?
Especially not with the food
He could have just told us no though
He didn’t have to be rude

You see her with the green dress?
She talked to me at the bar
Wait, how come it’s already two pound fifty?
We’ve only gone about a yard

Didn’t you see she were gorgeous
She were beyond belief
But this lad at her side drinking his Smirnoff Ice
Came and paid for her Tropical Reef

And I’m sitting going backwards
And I didn’t want to leave
I said, “It’s High Green, mate
Via Hillsborough, please”

Well, how funny were that sketch earlier
Up near that taxi rank?
Oh no, you would have missed it
Think it were when you went to the bank

These two lads squaring up proper shouting
‘Bout who were next in the queue
The kind of thing that’d seem so silly
But not when they’ve both had a few

Well calm down, temper, temper
You shouldn’t get so annoyed
Well, you’re acting like a silly little boy
And they wanted to be men
And do some fighting in the street
They said “no surrender
No chance of retreat”

And so why are they in the taxi?
‘Cause I didn’t want to leave
I said, “It’s High Green, mate
Via Hillsborough, please”

Drunken plots hatched to jump it
Ask around, “Are you sure?”
Went for it but the red light was showing
And red light indicates doors are secured

Things had changed greatly by the time the 21st Century beckoned. Towns and cities, for the most part, have pubs which cater specifically for young folk. The choice of drink is beyond the dreams and imaginations of those of us who did our growing up with The Specials, as indeed is the way it is now consumed. There’s still some element of groups of guys hanging around together but nowadays you’re just as likely to see as many groups of gals….who are more than capable of displaying every behavioural characteristic of the male species. There’s still the equivalent of The Locarno but there’s also loads of other clubs catering for all tastes…..and whisper it, there’s even tolerance (now and again) for people of the same sex to be walking the streets holding each other’s hands.

One other thing to note which is also reflective of how things have changed since the early 80s. Terry’s resigned sounding tune has the pace and temp which points to the night, to all intent and purposes, being over and done with now once you join a queue for the taxi home. Alex’s frantic and speedy number lets you know that the night is still young and there is still so much to enjoy and experience……

Oh and for the benefit of our overseas readers, here’s my translation of the Arctic Monkeys lyric:-

Why wouldn’t that cab driver take all six passengers? It means we’ll have to get two taxis now to the Sheffield suburbs but mind and eat all of your kebab or fish’n’chips beforehand as the drivers don’t let you in if you’ve got food.

“Wasn’t that the most brilliant night? Was nearly perfect for me what with that stunner in the green dress chatting me up for ages. I was bitterly disappointed when that rich bloke came up and bought her a drink – I can’t afford to splash out on these bottles that the girls go for….money is tight. Talking of which, how come the taxi meter is showing it’s already £2.50 when we’ve hardly left the rank. Hang on a minute till I remind the cabbie that we’re going to mine at High Green but dropping you off at Hillsborough”

“Did you see the fight between those two daft lads? No, you wouldn’t have as you were up at the cash machine getting some more money. To be honest, it wasn’t really a fight more a shouting match but it could have escalated given they were both really drunk.

“Here mate, I’m not sure I really want to go home – it still feels as if there’s fun to be had down here in the town. Let’sopen the doors and jump out when he next comes to a halt at the traffic lights and we can run off without paying.

What do you mean it’s a taxi with doors that automatically locks when it’s sitting still? Is that what that red light down there means? Effin hell……..”



Bernie Rhodes knows don’t argue

And with that, the first record issued by The Specials was unleashed on the listening public.

1979 was a fantastic year for music, certainly here in the UK. It was the year that many of the post-punk/new wave bands really came to prominence and it was the year that sparked the two-tone craze.

I was sixteen years of age and totally unaware of ska. Glasgow had always been a rock sort of town, although things were in the air that would see a gradual softening of the hard elements of the genre and a whole new sound associated with the city would become incredibly influential. But it was a city that was predominantly white in nature, albeit we had an increasing Asian population that had been migrating here in increasing numbers with next to no fuss in terms of assimilation. There was next to no Caribbean population and black people were really few and far between and as such there was little demand for local radio stations to ever feature a style of music that had originated in those communities. It was also a sound never played on BBC Radio 1 (as I’ll come to a bit later on).

Hearing bands like The Specials, Madness, The Selecter and The Beat was something entirely new and felt exciting because it was so different. And there’s no doubt too that the rude-boy look of the black and white clothing and pork-pie hat was something that was visually appealing to any mid-aged teen. And the stylish and unusual dancing that accompanied the songs whenever any of the acts appeared on Top of the Pops hit a chord with those who were slightly younger and made the whole thing seem fun.

1979 marked my first forays into DJing, if playing records on a single deck at a youth night in the school could be regarded as DJing. The senior pupils were encouraged to help the teachers at these nights, which were basically an effort to provide bored 12-15 year olds with something to do instead of hanging around street corners and picking up bad habits. There were three of us who brought along our own 45s to play while everyone ran around making lots of noise burning up all that excess energy. Very gradually over a matter of weeks, our little corner of the hall began to get a dedicated audience and it was all driven by the fact they loved to do the Madness dance(s). In two hours of music, you could bet that more than half came through records on the 2-Tone label or its offshoots. And these kids were of an age when playing the same song two or three times in a night didn’t matter.

Gangsters wasn’t aired as much as others, possibly because it wasn’t the easiest to sing-a-long to; nor did it have a nutty dance of its own. But all these years later, I think there’s many who agree it was the best of the early 2-Tone releases, possibly surpassed only later on by Ghost Town by which time the serious side of the various bands were making astute and pertinent political and social observations.

I had no idea that Gangsters was a re-working of Al Capone by Prince Buster, a song originally released in 1964. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Madness, I wouldn’t have had any idea who Prince Buster was. Ska music never featured on any BBC Radio shows that looked back in time at chart rundowns of years gone by. Tamla Motown and soul music was often aired but I genuinely cannot recall any ska – evidence that big-name DJs and their producers (with the exception of course of John Peel) were incredibly conservative with the music they chose to air.

The first 5,000 copies of this single, which came backed with a song by The Selector, came with a plain white sleeve stamped with the title. These sleeves weren’t the most robust and most of them have deteriorated very badly over the years. If you somehow managed to pick up a copy, all of which were distributed by Rough Trade to the smaller independent record shops, and you’ve managed to take good care of it, then you could probably flog it to a hipster for a few hundred quid.

The vast majority of the 45s were released in what would become the generic 2-Tone sleeve with the immediately identifiable logo, all of which were distributed via Chrysalis records to all stores across the UK and further afield.

Worth noting too that the single was credited to Special A.K.A. with the band then reverting to the much easier on the tongue The Specials for the string of hit singles and albums that would follow, although they did go back to the original name in 1982 after a number of members left to form Fun Boy Three.

mp3 : Special A.K.A. – Gangsters

Here’s the other side of the single; it’s an instrumental that was recorded prior to vocalist Pauline Black joining the band:-

mp3 : The Selecter – The Selecter





Like many others of my age in 1980, I bought a whole bundle of singles by new emerging bands such as The Beat, Madness and The Specials. I didn’t go the whole hog and buy the natty suits and pork-pie hat, but I loved my ska bands.

In 1981, The Specials released Ghost Town, a song that was completely unlike any other that had ever emerged from the ska movement. It bulleted up the charts and spent a number of weeks at #1. In retrospect, it has been called the most prophetic of songs ever to be a chart-topper, and there’s all sorts of great pieces of writing all over the internet about how politically significant it all was.

But…….I’m sorry to say, and this may be seen as a piece of heresy, but my love for the song is solely related to the tune and the great vocal performances…

However, that shouldn’t be taken as meaning that I wasn’t aware of the political stooshie that Ghost Town was causing. I was growing up fast in 1981, just about to leave school and go off to University. I had a comfortable and very pleasant upbringing, but I was from an area where I had friends who should have come with me to university, but were in circumstances where they had instead to take on a job to in banking or with the civil service to help support their parents, one or both of whom were out-of-work. Poverty and deprivation weren’t alien concepts to me.

There is no other way to put it – Ghost Town is a savage attack on the state of British society at the outset of the 80s. The Tories under Margaret Thatcher had come to power in 1979 thanks in part to a famous main campaigning slogan of ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ with a poster that showed a huge crowd of people waiting to get into the unemployment office and sign-on.

Two years on, the situation was even worse – unemployment rates had almost doubled across the country. In some areas, particularly where there was a high concentration of young ethnic minorities, as many as 8 out of 10 folk weren’t in employment.

Throw in the rise of the fascist far-right in the shape of the National Front who were blaming non-whites for the state of the nation and a police force that was being given more and more stop-and-search powers by a government determined to appear as the party of law-and-order, then the ingredients were there for something to kick-off.

The people were getting angry.

So angry in fact that in April 1981, something happened that was totally alien in the UK. There was a riot in the streets.

It happened in Brixton in London, and it began as the reaction of a crowd to what they saw was the racist arrest of a local youth (something that was subsequently proven to be true).

The trouble escalated over a 48-hour period before being brought under control. For the first time that I could recall, pictures of police and civilians fighting toe-to-toe in the streets were shown on television, along with images of what seemed to be a whole neighbourhood on fire. And it really did look as if there was going to be some sort of major uprising, but within two or three days, the police had regained order.

Two months later, Ghost Town was released as a single.

But the song wasn’t just a reaction to what had happened in Brixton – in fact it had been written and recorded before the April riot. But to some it seemed to act as a rallying call, for within weeks of its release, as it climbed its way up the charts, there were more riots on the streets.

This time it was Toxteth in Liverpool that was initially in the spotlight. Again, it was initially a reaction to tensions between the police and disaffected black youths, and similar scenes of carnage were beamed live into our homes courtesy of the TV (and all this in the days before we had 24-hour news channels). Toxteth was on a larger scale than Brixton and before long, other riots broke out, the largest being in Handsworth in Birmingham, as well as in many other towns and cities across England.

My recollection is that it took about a week to get things back to normal.

Living in Scotland, I had a feeling of being sheltered from all of this trouble. It may have been Liverpool, Birmingham, London and so on, but it felt as if it was as far away as Detroit, Chicago or Los Angeles.

There was no rioting in Glasgow. Nor was there ever any threat of rioting in Glasgow, despite the unemployment problems being every bit as bad here as anywhere else. What I believe was crucially absent at the time, was a disaffected ethnic minority in my home city that was prepared to take to the streets in protest. I’m not going to make any absurd claim about racism not being an issue in Glasgow in 1981, but it certainly was nowhere near as big a problem as it was in the inner-cities south of the border. Oh and its fair to say, that policing methods were slightly different as well…

The fact I was physically separated from the trouble and violence is why I never, at the time, made the connection between Ghost Town and what was happening in many parts of the country. It was only in the cold light of day a short while later, when the music papers in particular made the connection that the little light bulb went on above my head.

To lots of people, this song will always be associated with events that briefly threatened the very fabric of British society. To this humble scribe, it’s just a great song.

Here’s the 12″ cuts with the second of the the two b-sides featuring probably my favourite ever Terry Hall vocal. Having said that, the other b-side is up there with the very best of The Specials.  It really is a maginificent three-track single.

mp3 : The Specials – Ghost Town
mp3 : The Specials – Why?
mp3 : The Specials – Friday Night, Saturday Morning




Here’s something else Dick van Dyke posted over at the old place back in June 2009:-

Is it me, or is ‘Friends ReUnited’ (and a hundred sites like it) a vacuous world of eavesdropping and one-upmanship? I mean, why, oh why, would you want anyone to know that you are now “Married (To Tracy) with 2 kids, a lumbering great mortgage and a hamster with terminal alopecia”?

And why pray tell, 20-30 years on, would you wish to be re-united with a ‘friend’ who boasts online (with photos) of his 13 foot dinghy, a Thai bride, and a timeshare in Playas de la Scunthorpe? (Bet he still has the ‘Scwewy Wabbit’ speech impediment though. Hah!) I mean, you thought the bloke was a complete cunto at school, so why would you wish to know of his subsequent adult success in the rowdy revolutionary world of soft furnishings?

Or of Maxine’s … ‘Divorced twice, 5 kids (left home). Now living with Trevor (as if you know him personally) and enjoy weekends at Dump Truck conventions in and around Caerphilly’.

Mildly curious? Christ no…

mp3 : The Jam – Burning Sky*

So anyway, in my worst midnight post-cheese-on-toast nightmare, I can just see me now – meeting up at ye olde Smegma Comprehensive School for their ‘20 Somethingth Anniversary Re-Union Night’. ….

Pissing down with rain on a bleak Tuesday in late February. I deliberately park my 14 year old Nissan Gusto a full 800 yards away. The invite said 7.30, but I thought I’d sneak in unannounced at about 8.15.

Like a prize twat, I Pull instead of Push the heavy front doors. I wonder how I might get back home in time for the 2nd half of the Champions League game on TV. Then I hear Eddie & The Hot Rods from the Disco in the gym … and crack a half smile.

mp3 : Eddie & The Hot Rods – Do Anything You Wanna Do

I was 16 when I last scuffed my shoes through these corridors. I didn’t have a past that could catch up with me. My mind wandered back. ‘You Boy. Keep to the left,’ growls the rampant Deputy Head – Leggy Hargreaves. ‘And tuck your shirt in, you insignificant little wretch’. Funny how the smell of rancid over-cooked cabbage still remains. Even though I still had my ‘life to live’, I recall just how dog-tired I felt with it all even then.

By the cloakroom, I catch my reflection in the glass of a near empty Trophy Cabinet. Belly-bulging Fred Perry over my ‘best’ jeans. Ever expanding forehead shining. Jowls like Deputy Dawg.

“Who the fuck is that?” I ask myself.

I’m collared by ‘Northern IT Guru of The Year 1989’ – Kevin Holdsworth – who is loud and proud and sporting a Devo T-shirt and inane greying goatee.

“I’m still that post-punk science fiction surrealist you know and love” he snorts. A trickle of adhesive saliva stays put in his beard.

“Did you know Basher Briggs was in prison?” Kevin announces.

“Remember how he never paid for his school dinners?” he continued. “Sneaking past dinner lady Doreen on her weaker left side; the side where she’s had the minor stroke and couldn’t see properly?”

“Oh, and remember when he smacked that effeminate lad who dressed as Ziggy Stardust?” Kevin bellows so much, his man-boobs quiver.

“Bust his nose he did. Covered his ginger quiff in blood and snot and purple make-up”.

I see a resplendent Miss Goodyear over by the rack of medicine balls. She was about 26 in 1979 and quite unrecognisable from the portly Molly Sugden figure she now cuts. Did she realise I wonder, just how attractive she was back then? As she flounced around the Art Dept caressing her coffee mug with both hands whilst wearing such unfeasibly tight trousers? Of course she bloody did! The camel toe which launched a thousand wanks. I wonder if she misses that long lost power which she held in the palm of her hand? Do Kate Bush, Agnetha, Debbie Harry et al still miss the teenage boys’ sea of .. adulation?

Evidently, in the year of Our Lord 2009, Miss Goodyear’s spottily cravatted and ‘distinguished’ husband Malcolm is Skipper at the Dewsbury Sailing Club. She says he’s trying to get Brotherhood of Man to perform at the annual Spinnaker Ball. Oh yes, he has contacts y’know; mostly through the KBC – the monthly networking Kidderminster Breakfast Commerce get-together. “And he’s a martyr to his IBS you know”.

“I wonder how he shits in a schooner when caught short?“ I hear myself thinking. Visions of him baring his arse to the choppy lake as his bowels rage are conjured up.

“Sorry, must move on. Work the room ha ha”.

mp3 : The Specials – Do Nothing

Sidle up to the sad fucker who basks openly in his own mediocrity.

“Ey up Colin. How’s yer mum?”

“She died”.

“Oh .. right”.

As I grab a handful of ‘nostalgia inducing’ Monster Munch, I see Sharon across the room. Her once long chestnut hair is now a thinning grey bob. Once bright, sparkling eyes are now dull, bespectacled and moon-stomped by crows. Pert breasts now spaniel-eared and spent. Should I pretend I haven’t seen her? Perhaps she will do the same?

The fact remains that hers was the very first errant hand in my underpants. Nonetheless, I can’t approach her now; not after all these years. Too much water under the bridge of sighs. Or as Sharon would no doubt put it, ‘Too Many Walls have been built in between us.’ I had to wash my own corduroy trousers that night – much to my mother’s puzzlement.

Dignity and embarrassment. Plus ça change ..?

I hear from a heavily tattooed love-god Dave, that 4th Former ex-‘bike’ Tricia Walsh has found Jesus – whilst she was working down at ‘Mr Bubbles’ Launderette. I also heard that Delroy – her skunkweed salesman boyfriend – has ‘found’ Wormwood Scrubs in the meantime. She prays for his rehabilitation. He continues to exchange Crack from the East Wing.

I check my watch as Blue Oyster Cult are introduced to the Steve St. Claire Disco decks. Mike Riley (aka Mavis) tells me that Tanya Wilcocks lost her circus acrobat husband last year in a bizarre trapeze accident. Her face is free from any colour and she visibly carries a wrung-out anger and bitterness which seems to be gnawing at her poor, empty soul. Why, she could crush that glass of Vimto with a single squeeze of her liver-spotted hand. Since the somersault tragedy, he tells me with added relish, she hates God and has rejected all religion.

“Best she keeps away from ex-bike Tricia Walsh and her freshly bashed bible” I whisper, as I sip on my can of warm Skol.

“Still a cynical fucker then, Dick?”

“No mate, not me. … Not me.”

mp3 : Whipping Boy – When We Were Young

*Note from JC : I’ve included the demo version of the song that was made available on the Extras CD from 1992.  It has a sound and feel that seems more appropriate to the posting…



There are loads of stats that can be thrown about from today’s offering.

– in February 1981, this became just the second EP ever to reach #1 in the UK singles charts; the first had been back in 1976 when greek crooner Demis Roussous took his Phenomenon EP to the top of the hit parade

Too Much Too Young became the first live track to reach #1 in more than 9 years; the previous occasion had been Chuck Berry with My-Ding-A-Ling

– at 2:04, the lead track was the shortest #1 throughout the 80s

– the five tracks on the EP had ten different composers

Terry Hall‘s dad was in the audience for the Coventry gig at which the b-side was recorded; this was the first time he’s seen The Specials perform in concert

I’ve long hummed and hawed about whether to use this 45 on the blog for the simple reason that it is record in terrible condition with all sorts of hisses and crackles.   But in the end…..

mp3 : The Specials – Too Much Too Young (live)
mp3 : The Specials – Guns Of Navarone (live)
mp3 : The Specials – Skinhead Symphony (live)*
* features Longshot Kick The Bucket, Liquidator and Skinhead Moonstomp

Enjoy. And hopefully you can track down versions with a far better sound quality.


Many many thanks to those of you who responded to the request to submit your favourite political song.  I will get round to posting all of them over the coming weeks but felt this is the one that should start things off.  Here’s the e-mail:-

Hello over there JC.

Glad to see T(n)VV on WordPress. (I am a WordPress expert so if you
ever have q's let me know).
I looked at seeing if there was a way of extracting the archive of
TVV, even after deletion, but sadly there wasn't.
Luckily there's the wayback machine.

I'm dropping you a line about your latest post though.
A few months back I created a cousin to F&M called Politics and Music:

I got bored of it very quickly though.

I would like if more than five people read it so I wondered if you'll
post the first entry from P&M, which isn't really about a political
protest song, it is more at a look at how the political protest song
is viewed.

If you don't like this one please feel free not to use it - or if you
want to post one of the other two articles on P&M.
Either or I'm not bothered. It's your gig and you decide.


I’ve always been someone who values the contributions to my blog(s) whether in the shape of comments or guest postings, so how could I refuse Webbie…..indeed all of his articles on P&M will appear here in due course although of course I’m hoping may of you will follow the link over there in advance.  Here’s the first article:-


I am an 80′s throwback. Born in the mid 60′s but the period when music began to resonate with me was from 1981 onwards. Why that particular year ? I don’t know. On Top Of The Pops everybody was having fun, having a party. I wanted to be invited.

It was also around this period that I was only a year away from the harsh reality of Thatcher’s Britain – No parties, just the dole. But watching these bands on the telly, in their bright colourful clothes, with the ballons, with the streamers. It took you away from the grey world outside.

At that time I was living in Liverpool. Only a few months before with my best mate Walter, we sat on some steps and watched the Railto burn.

As mentioned I wasn’t long for the unemployment line and soon became one of the 3 & half million signing on. Things were grim. Strikes, picket lines and where I lived – the riots. Switch on the TV, take your mind away…

The country was unhappy. Toxteth I witnessed. There was also Brixton and more.

History is slowly beginning to repeat itself with the Tory government (yes I know coalition but the Lib Dems are just puppets) with benefit cuts, cuts to the NHS, high unemployment and recession once again. An unpopular leader leading the country down another dark path.

These days there are many outlets to express our anger and frustration about the Tories, so the outrage is spread out and looks thin on the ground. Back then it was more concentrated. There were only four TV channels and everybody watching them. It was actually easier for some to get there word out. To vent their feelings, to raise those issues.

Music can reflect what people are thinking and feeling. The musicians like the rest of us suffered unemployment and then wrote about it. The most famous example in 1981 was The Specials with Ghost Town. A perfect reflection on the state of things. It captured the mood perfectly.

mp3 : The Specials – Ghost Town

The Specials obviously weren’t the first with social commentary. This has been going on every since popular music began. But to me it seemed that in the earlier part of the 1980′s there was an increase in these type of songs.
There was easily enough material for the songwriters. Thatcher and her battles with everybody. The dockers, miners, steelworkers… even the unemployed. Lots of misery and poverty around but also the open, raw capitalist greed.

Many bands attempted to raise awareness of fascism, racism, politics and the constant threat of a nuclear war. Even the established and well loved artist Paul McCartney sang about giving Ireland back to the Irish. But the single (as you will see from that link) was subsequently banned.  Other acts such The Police and yes, even Spandau Ballet also sang about that always touchy subject.

Every time a musical act does a take on one of these issues though, they are criticised. How dare these pop stars talk about politics. They should mind their own business.

The argument is always there whether they should get involved or stay out of it. The thing is that sometimes it works and sometimes not. There are a few instances when it became a force for good – such as with Band Aid and the eventual Live Aid concert. But sometimes the song becomes a bit of an embarrassment. The chart pop stars of the 80′s addressing a current plight somewhere. Their smooth, popular image then dented when they cry about war. It’s like a stand up comedian suddenly stopping midway through his act to do a slideshow on the African famine. Sometimes an uncomfortable act for us to witness.

A sample of potential embarrassment was with this line in a song, which was met with much derision when first heard:

“Don’t say you’re easy on me, you’re about as easy as a nuclear war…”

It was a throw away line, with the original message of the song not about a holocaust, but of relationships.
The rest of the lyrics in the verse before that line:

“People stare and cross the road from me
And jungle drums they all clear the way for me
Can you read my mind, can you see in the snow
And fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door”

Jungle drumming, snow visions, mind reading and to top it off – the demons:

mp3 : Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know

The line is remembered and brought much unwanted attention to Duran Duran. A fan misheard the lyric and wrote to Simon Le Bon to ask what “you bad azizi” meant.

This inspired them to create an experimental B side for a single released in 1990:

mp3 : Duran Duran – Yo Bad Azizi

From a potentially embarrassing lyric – another song. But they still didn’t compose this about the actual event of a nuclear war. It was just a riff on a letter they received. And as far as I’m aware Duran Duran have never done any protest songs, have never tried to raise awareness for the rainforests or poverty… or anything like that. Correct me if I’m wrong though.

Webbie, 9 January 2013


Note from JC

Webbie’s original posting linked to stuff on you tube instead of mp3s.  Given that you tube is owned by Google, who are also the owners of Blogger from which the original TVV was unceremoniously removed, readers will hopefully understand why I wont be posting you tube content at the new place.