Here is the news…


Utterly depressed by the news this evening. With the threat of a Tory government becoming not only a nightmare but a possible reality, do we really need this?

And what about British Airways?

Billy, we need you more than ever.

Billy Bragg -‘There Is Power In A Union.’ mp3

And just in case people need a reminder of how bad things got…

The Men They Couldn’t Hang -‘Ironmasters.’ mp3

Elvis Cosetllo -‘Tramp The Dirt Down.’ mp3

Did they really believe that this war could end wars?

This Sunday marks Remembrance Sunday, in remebrance of Armistice Day 1918 ‘The eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month.’ We did it in school, like a lot of people. I remember doing it aged about eight, via watching a programme called How We Used To Live, a show that looked at a family in Yorkshire.

A few years later, on a family holiday in France, we drove along passed the roads where the cemeteries are. Even as a twelve year old, it was quite sobering, and the picture at the top gives an idea of what it is like. The graves of thousands of young men, slaughtered for…?

For a long time, I considered myslef to be bordering on being a pacifist. In recent years, I’ve wondered whether I still would be. I would categorically have refused to fight in the Falklands War, or either of the Gulf Wars. These had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns and a lot more to do with muscle-flexing and oil, in the case of the Gulf. I like to think I would have fought against Hitler, and volunteered in the Spanish Civil War against Franco (the latter may have some rather ideological and romantic ideas, based on reading Laurie Lee and George Orwell). As for the First World War…did it achieve anything?

Eric Bogle wrote a song ‘No Man’s Land‘ that made John Peel’s Festive Fifty twice. Once as ‘No Man’s Land/Flowers Of the Forest’ by June Tabor in 1977 and later in 1984 as ‘The Green Fields Of France’ by The Men They Couldn’t Hang. Everytime I hear eiether version of this song I’m deeply moved, and reminded of the futility of war. Especially those that use young people as cannon fodder. I was appalled a few years back when it was revealed that the Army were still heavily recruiting around some of the porrest areas of Glasgow, near where I was working and where many kids were seriously disenfranchised. Oddly enough ‘Officer Class’ wasn’t being mentioned.

Check out Eric Bogle‘s work, and other people’s covers of it. I also was lead to him through The Pogues (‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda) and Billy Bragg (‘My Youngest Son Came Home Today.’) Even reading the lyrics is frankly, pretty emotional.

June Tabor -‘No Man’s Land/Flowers Of the Forest.’ mp3

The Men They Couldn’t Hang -‘The Green Fields Of France.’ mp3

Thanks due to Steve at Teenage Kicks for his bringing these to my attention!

‘Scuse me pal, can ye spare some change?

I’ve written about my sheer admiration of the wonderful Richard Thompson before. Today’s post is only partly about him, but mainly a reflection of worry about a worsening of the economy, and how it affects so many people. For some, it’s a worry about how to pay the mortgage. For some, a worry about how to survive into next week. And still some people think politics is nothing to do with them.

Richard Thompson’s song ‘Last Shift’ is reflection on the closure of the Grimethorpe colliery in 1993. The number of mines in the UK has fallen drastically over the last twenty five years, as Conservative governments shafted the working people. Some folks’ somewhat disturbing attitude is that if it’s not making a profit, we close it down, and sod the infrastructure, the successive generations of unemployment. It would have been nice if when quoting the prayer (not St. Francis of Assisi, though it was attributed to him) on Downing St in 1979 if God had struck Margaret Thatcher down. Failing that, Norman Tebbit for his ‘My Father did not riot. My father gor on his bike and looked for work.’

It impacts in so many ways. I’ve torn strips off kids for making anti-Polish remarks as they are currently the whiping boys of society for unemployment. There’s a Citizenship day coming up at school, probably time for me to explain how casual racism leads to global disaster.

That Richard Thompson song, anyway, before I get this blog withdrawn for being too political.

‘ Stow your gear and charge your lamp
Say goodbye to dark and damp
DSS will pay your stamp
Last shift, close her down

Leave your manhood, leave your pride
Back there on the mucky side
Take the cage for one more ride
Last shift, close her down

Put the business in the black
And they’ve stabbed us in the back
With old school ties and little white lies
They left our town for scrap

Golden handshake, sling our hooks
Now we’re nursemaids, now we’re cooks
Now our kids steal pension books
Last shift, close her down

Now the scrapper boys infest
And the wrecking balls caress
Like vermin round a burial ground
They catch the smell of death

Old Grimey’s lost its soul
Fifty million tons of coal
And we’re beggars on the dole
Last shift, close her down
Last shift, close her down’

Richard Thompson & Danny Thompson -‘Last Shift.’ mp3

It got me thinking about this song, by The Men they Couldn’t Hang.

Oh this is an old story that’s rarely ever told
the raping of the country, of the valley
the men who came to reap with a musket and a bible
they wanted to take the valley
the valley! the valley!
they wanted to take the valley
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

and so far a pittance all the people worked the land
all the men and the women and the children
and on sundays it was down to the chapel in the town
the preacher said give generously!
give generously! give generously!
the people they gave generously
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

the union met in secret on the dark side of the hill
by the light of a thousand candles
their pay had been cut, all the people come on out
and by scores they were joining Rebecca
Rebecca! Rebecca!
the people were joining Rebecca
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

ironmaster, call the army
call the hungry from the irish sea
ironmaster, call the parliament
it’s no sin to fight to be free!

from the smokey stacks of merthyr
to the hills of Ebbw vale
from Swansea docks to Merseyside and Liverpool
with the union leaders crushed
and the union quickly smashed
they blackend the face of the country
the country! the country!
they blackend the face of the country
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

now on a hill in Brecon is Crawshay’s ruined house
and it blackens out the green of the valley
and on the battered grave is the epitaph they gave
it stands there, god forgive him!
forgive him! forgive him!
and all who rot in hell with him
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

ironmaster, call the army
call the hungry from the irish sea
ironmaster, call the parliament
it’s no sin to fight to be free!

and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way
and oh the ironmasters, they still get their way!

The Men They Couldn’t Hang -‘Ironmasters.’ mp3

It’s Friday night and all I wanna do…

… is sleep.

Well, here’s three fantastic tracks. It must be thirty-somethingness, that I want to play these on a Friday night rather than going mad to someting er…faster and heavier.

(I’m not that middle-aged, though, I’d rather read The Wire than many of the other music magazines more obsessed with celebrity and/or the past).

Joanna Newsom -‘The Book Of Right-On.’ mp3

Kristin Hersh -‘Your Ghost.’ mp3

The Men They Couldn’t Hang -‘Green Fields Of France.’ mp3 (Found the 12″ single of this in a record shop in Edinburgh the other week, I was ecstatic).

There will be more to come this weekend, there’s a lot to review still…