So there we were, a week or so ago, out on a Saturday night for a curry, Me and Mrs. 17 Seconds, and quite a few friends, including members of Aberfeldy and the Last Battle.
At one point during the meal – in relation to discussions about the Tory HQ in London being stormed at tuition fees, someone said ‘Where’s our Ghost Town?’
To which someone else replied ‘Give the bands a chance [the Colation]’s only been in for a few months!
I think if you’ve read this blog before, you probably know how I feel about the present government. It’s not to say that having a right-wing government in power automatically leads to a counter-culture of music, books and film, and as Mike Leigh pointed out on TV one night, not something that should be taken as being a good thing either.
But just watching this video nearly thirty years after the song came out…it’s never been more timely, sadly:
This was the Specials’ last single before they split; though the Special AKA worked with Rhoda Dakar to produce a record that remains truly frightening, about date rape, entitled ‘The Boiler’ and then to score a major hit with ‘Free Nelson Mandela.’ Two very different and awesome tracks.
Rhoda with the Special AKA -‘The Boiler.’ mp3 (*WARNING* – this track will freak you out. You have been warned)
Of course, there were other British folks* writing political music in the eighties, writing about what was happening in Britain and further afield. Elvis Costello wrote ‘Shipbuilding’ about the Falklands War, which was also performed by Robert Wyatt; and also two other classics in ‘Pills and Soap’ and ‘Tramp the Dirt Down.’ Morrissey’s solo debut Viva Hate finished with ‘Margaret On the Guillotine.’ The Jam did ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down…’ and then there was pretty much the whole career of Billy Bragg, New Model Army…yet the last twenty years have seen little to compare with these. Sure there have been a few songs; Apache Indian’s ‘Movin’ On (Special)’ about the election of the first BNP councillor in 1993; early stuff from the Levellers (Check out ‘Battle Of the beanfield’ and Gene’s 1999 single ‘As Good As It Gets’ about New Labour.
Of course, songs do need to be good and get out there. ‘Ghost Town’ was a number one. Billy Bragg’s ‘Take Down The Union Jack’ may have had admirable sentiments but the song was piss-poor, frankly.
What we need is a song that is a HIT that unites the people. Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?
* I’m not meaning to undermine how important Hip-Hop was here – Public Enemy alone deserve several posts devoted to them.