Friday, 13 November 2009

Why aren't there any freedom songs from Tooting?

This week Severin told me about a documentary idea he had around apartheid and the links to music. It got me thinking about the controversial mixture of music and politics. Severin believes that if musicians have a stage then they should use it to spread an important message, a viewpoint shared by Bono. However others feel that the two worlds don’t and shouldn’t mix. Obviously these are cold-hearted people untouched by songs like If that were me by Mel C (my favourite line being: I couldn’t live without my phone/but you don’t even have a home) or the powerful War Song by Boy George.

Personally I would say that I’m not that big a fan of political songs, which is strange considering I used to be resident in the socialist republic of Tooting (maybe that's why the revolution failed?). Am I right in my political dissent or do I just need a better education?

After much brain ache I came up with these few....

Marvin Gaye - What’s Happening Brother?

From the What’s Going On album, which marked a new direction in Marvin Gaye’s song writing. Marvin Gaye was one of the first artists I got into when I moved away from pop into more serious music in my teenage years. Always a socially conscious youth I found his later work was far superior. This was always one of my favourites.

Bob Dylan – Times they are a changin’
Ok, so it’s a bit obvious, but it was the first tune I ever learnt to play on the guitar, and still the only one I can play with a modicum of decency. Dylan has always resisted the title ‘voice of a generation’ but of course he was and still continues to be. I thought he was a bit of a cock for this – if he doesn’t like being admired and respected then maybe he should have become a traffic warden rather than a musician.

The Specials – Ghost Town
Although I can’t listen to this tune now without thinking of that episode of Father Ted, it’s still one of my favourites. The tune was written in response to Thatcher’s policies, which the band thought would increase unemployment.

The Clash – Bank Robber
I’ve always been a fan of a song with a story, which is why I love this one. Behind the story however is a tale of social deprivation and the drudgery of a working class life.

The Streets - The Irony of it All
Maybe not the strongest tune on the album, and a bit na├»ve in its political messaging, but compared to his contemporaries, at least Michael Skinner was trying to say something interesting. Makes a change to Lilly Allen whose idea of politics is to shout ‘fuck off’ to the people she doesn’t like. Hmmm, that’s going to change the world Lilly!

This week I have been trying to get Severin to broaden his musical horizons and failing miserably.


  1. What about Eton Rifles from The Jam? 'All that Rugby puts hair on your chest'.

  2. Oh - and in case I need to explain - it is about the students from Eton who formed a militia to break up strikers on a 'right to work march' Facists! Good thing that an education from Eton doesn't guarantee you political power any more...

    ...what? Dave Cameron and most of the Tory front bench went to which school?

    Oh dear...

  3. I did think of that one, but after Cameron claimed it as one of his favourite tunes it kind of lost its impact for me really. Silly, I know.