SONGS FROM THE SOAP BOX
This week I watched an interview by Polly Toynbee a Writer for The Guardian. She interviewed John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten formerly of the Sex Pistols. It’s not often that I am impressed with a celebrity’s views on politics. However John is no ordinary bloke or rather I should say, this interview proved that he is actually an ordinary bloke who cares about his country and its future.
She asks him about his Anarchist past and his views on the present government. He’s mellowed and matured as he says and talks a lot of sense in my opinion.
Here’s the interview, it may interest some? See what you think.
Can recording artists make a difference? Peace, Politics and Protest are these good enough reasons to write a song? Most definitely, in my opinion. Lyrics and music are a powerful tool, they can stir up emotions and provoke thought. Look at the huge hit by Band Aid, Do they Know Its Christmas? The brainchild if Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. Following the BBC coverage of the Ethiopian famine of 1983-85 they formed a band with unprecedented success and in so bringing the world’s attention to the suffering in Africa. The power of music is an enormous tool in telling tales of poverty,war,repression and racism to name but a few. Singers and musicians have been using their platform for years to spread the word some with great achievements. Lyrics and music tell a story and sometimes that story is angry or sad one.
I’ve picked out 5 songs that stand out for me. You may not agree with my options, but we live in a democracy.
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS -ALTERNATIVE ULSTER
Stiff little fingers are a punk band from Belfast, Northern Ireland formed in 1977 at the height of The Troubles. They wrote and played material based on their own experiences of ‘The Troubles’. A copy of their first single was sent to John Peel who played it repeatedly. This lead to distribution, with Rough Trade and stardom for the band. Sometime after, Stiff Little Fingers were banned from playing Newcastle upon Tyne, after a local councillor heard “Inflammable Material” being played by his daughter. The track was “White Noise”. The song’s lyrics include racially offensive terms, but it is an anti-racist song, with the last verse about Irish people hitting home with the message. They split up in 1982 and reformed in 1987.
‘Alternative Ulster’ is a song about life in the provinces surrounding Belfast. Rawness anger and frustration are channelled through the lyrics and music. I love Stiff Little Fingers, part of my growing up experience and this track is my favourite by them.
CURTIS MAYFIELD – WE GOTTA HAVE PEACE
Curtis Mayfield was born in Chicago in 1942. R&B and funk singer, writer, guitarist and record producer. His politically conscious Afro American music produced songs protesting social and political inequality. The ‘Civil Right Act’ was passed in 1964. His group The Impressions produced music that became the soundtrack for black students, in a summer of revolution. At the end of the decade Mayfield was a pioneering voice in the black pride movement.
‘We Gotta Have Peace’ is from Mayfield’s 1971 album Roots and was a huge commercial success. The song a simple plea for ‘peace for our children’ is sung beautifully by Curtis, with his distinctive voice. Love Curtis, love his music and love this simple message, if only it was that easy Curtis.
UB40 – 1 in 10
UB40 need no introduction really. Formed in Birmingham in 1978 they have had more than 50 singles in the UK charts as well as considerable international success. The band’s name UB40 is from the ‘signing on’ document used to gain unemployment benefit from the government. It stood for Unemployment Benefit form 40. Their first album was named ‘Signing Off’ also a reference to themselves signing off from unemployment benefit. The political charged lyrics in their first album made it a huge success in the UK. The lyrics struck a chord in a country going through political turmoil. The rise of the racist BNP party, wide spread public concern, high unemployment, under a conservative government and its leader Margaret Thatcher.
1 in 10 was released in 1981 from their second album ‘Present Arms’. The song refers to the 1 in every 10 people of the population that was unemployed. Love UB40’s first 2 albums and love this song.
PINK- DEAR MR PRESIDENT
Alecia Beth Moore better known to us as Pink was born in 1979 in Pennsylvania USA. Singer, song writer, actress her career started in 1995. Pink has released 6 albums and her sales stand at 16 million in the US and 40 million worldwide. A colourful character and never shy of speaking her mind through her lyrics.
‘Dear Mr President’ is a song released from her ‘I’m Not Dead’ album. The song is a direct letter to George W Bush and his administration. It criticises the Iraq war, the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’, equal right for homosexuals and the administrations lack of empathy for the poorer classes. Pink claims this is the most important song she has ever written. She never wanted it released as a single for fear of it being perceived as a publicity stunt. However she did hope President Bush would hear the song and be proud to live in a country where people are allowed to voice their opinions.
The song received positive reviews by music critics. Its folkie sound, with great instrumental and great backing vocals this is like poetry. I really like this song and Pink has a beautiful voice. You can tell she sings it from the heart. Nice one Pink, takes some balls to be that direct. I applaud you …
JOHN LENNON – IMAGINE
After the Beatles split in 1969, John Lennon went onto a successful solo career. John was always known for revealing his rebellious nature in his songs. Controversial, through his political and peace activism. He moved to Manhattan in 1971, where his critism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon to deport him. Some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement.
‘Imagine’ is probably the most famous song he released as a solo artist. I can’t imagine pardon the pun anyone not knowing this song. It was released in 1971 from the album of the same name. John said it was an anti-religion, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional and anti-capitalistic song, but because it was sugar coated it was accepted. The lyrics tell of Lennon’s vision of world peace a ‘utopia’. John and Yoko Ono created the idea of an ideal country called Nutopia. Nutopia having no borders, passports only people governed by cosmic laws. Over did the drugs I think when they envisaged this. ‘Imagine all the people, living life in peace…..you may say I’m a dreamer’. Beautiful words John and a beautiful sentiment, amazing music and just a wonderful song in my opinion. I’m a dreamer myself and would like nothing better than to see world peace. Imagine!
Before I go, thanks for the recommendations last week, some great stuff I enjoyed them. Loved the King Curtis link, amazing thanks for that. Greeny’s Guitar I stand in awe of your music experiences. Dave Binks, I did a sharp intake of breath when you suggested someone could sing ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ better than Etta. This is one of my top 10 favourites and I was more than sceptical. Beth is a great vocalist and along with that guitarist, well I was impressed. I loved the modern take on Etta’s classic, but for me Etta will always be the best. You’ve got me listening to Joe Bonamassa though.
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