Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Musical elite

August 25, 2010

I was at a music festival at the weekend expanding my musical consciousness. Not being very aware of what the yoof of today listen to, I conducted lots of wiki research into the various bands I ended up listening to. It appeared that lots of them met at school and were members of a certain social circle. There was something a bit depressing about how many of these up-and-coming musical figures were privately-educated. Granted, they were all extremely talented, but it’s obviously easier for that talent to emerge when you’re being supplied with musical instruments and lessons from a young age.

Tolpuddle 2010

July 28, 2010

This story reminded me that I had not yet written anything about Tolpuddle 2010.

Well, the weather was surprisingly great, the showers remained (mostly) hot and the mood was remarkably upbeat despite the onset of a right-wing Government. My summary of the weekend is Two Jako Thumbs Up.

There was, of course, plenty of political lunacy on display. If I had my way, the festival organisers would put more effort into promoting the event to ordinary trade union members, which would hopefully ‘moderate’ the political mood somewhat.

It’s important that this event is accessible to trade unionists who aren’t necessarily the hardcore activists. Instead of holding a political festival which essentially preaches to the converted it would be great if Tolpuddle could instil a sense of political awareness and commitment to TIGMOO in trade unionists who were not previously politicised.

One amusing speech was given by some gimp from the NUS who complained that the term NEET (describing 16-21 year olds not in employment, education or training) was somehow discriminatory and oppressive. It was ridiculous.

The NASUWT was inspired to hand out free kites at its stall. Nice idea, but it got a bit dangerous when they started flying into the electricity pylons.

Billy Bragg – musically solid, as usual. It was amusing to see Comrade Bragg (who made the mistake of backing the Lib Dems at the recent general election!) argue from the stage with people in the crowd who disagreed with his support for the alternative vote.

Are there any festivals other than Tolpuddle where the performers get heckled by people shouting out their views on proportional representation?

Very disappointed.

April 24, 2010

Billy Bragg, aka the Bard of Barking, has been saying too many nice things about the Lib Dems.

You’ve got to give the shareholders what they want.

January 20, 2010

Cadbury’s resistance to the Kraft takeover bid seems to have been in part undermined by a sizeable portion of its stock being owned by short-term shareholders in hedge funds.

RBS is being criticised for its role in the whole chocolately schebang. Since the government is the majority stakeholder in RBS, the government naturally takes some flack for RBS’ actions.

This all makes me very sympathetic to Billy Bragg’s call for the government to be far more interventionist in the managing of the effectively nationalised bank – curbing the bonus culture seems the very least that Brown and Darling could try to do.

In December an opinion poll suggested that nearly 80% of voters supported the windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses. The continuing unpopularity of the banks could be better exploited by the government if it seriously wants to reform the financial system and the culture in which the banks operate.

P.S. Tracy Corrigan in the Telegraph sympathesises with the Braggmeister and laments the lack of government direction on this.

P.P.S. Here is some Billy in action:

And the bells were ringing out…

December 25, 2009

(Don’t forget to email the Chinese ambassador)

Dreaming of a Rage Christmas.

December 21, 2009

The lack of progress made at the Copenhagen summit and other generally disheartening news stories did not make for great festive season cheer. However, the victory of Rage Against The Machine over X Factor product and Cowellite minion Joe McElderry in the battle for the Christmas No 1 spot in the charts has restored some of my faith in humanity.

When I was in the crowd at the Reading Festival last year listening to Rage blast out those roaring riffs and classic stickin’ it to da man lyrics I never never never never never never never thought that Killing in the name would be the hit song of Christmas 2009.

This is an unexpected upset to the longstanding tradition of bland, cheesy pop ballads monopolising the giddy heights of the Yuletide singles chart. One music retailer has told the BBC that the result is a “remarkable outcome – possibly the greatest chart upset ever”. True dat. Whilst I joined the ‘RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FOR CHRISTMAS NO 1’ facebook group many months ago and encouraged others to do so, I did not expect that there was any hope of the campaign leading to anything exciting happening. I am very pleased to have been proved wrong.

Even so, the significance of the Christmas Rage phenomenon should not be overblown. It’s not really a perfect blow against corporate dominance of the music industry when Rage Against The Machine are themselves signed up with a major record label (perhaps some compromise with the system is necessary, eh guys?!). Also: Rage are indeed an extremely political band but I’m sure that the vast majority of their fans like them for the music and rebel chic rather than because they actually agree with the group’s hard Left views. The song’s success does not signal a sudden revolution in the way the music business works or in political attitudes amongst Britons.

However, it is undeniable that the triumph of Rage is an important event in certain ways. It once again points to the democratic potential of the internet. A grassroots effort coordinated over social networking sites and with zilch budget has proved more effective than the largely traditional marketing techniques used by wealthy industry bigwigs like Simon Cowell to get even more money out of UK consumers. 

A large number of music fans (many of whom undoubtedly already own the song anyway considering how old it is or could download it for free from naughty file-sharing websites) have also demonstrated themselves to be willing to download a track legally. Perhaps this tells us something about the committment such campaigns can install in their supporters and how bored people are with boring commercial guff dominating the airwaves.

Anyway, it’s raised a bit of money for homelessness charity Shelter, has prompted Rage to declare that they will come to the UK next year to play more gigs, and has been a good laugh. Congratulations to the organisers of the campaign and well-done to the great British public for buying the best song!

Leftie lyrics that leave me Hmm-ing.

November 10, 2009

I am a great fan of musicians with a political agenda similar to my own. There’s nowt better than a good leftie song. However, sometimes even my favourite socialist-inclined songsters let me down with ludicrous lyrics…  

Anti-Flag – ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’

You don’t have to be a racist
To be a Nazi fuck
Your mindless nationalism
Gives you credentials enough

Hmm. Methinks the political punks of Anti-Flag are getting carried away with labelling anyone they don’t like a ‘Nazi’. Racism was an integral part of the Nazi ideology. It is ridiculous to try suggesting that people who are right-wing and nationalistic but nevertheless not racist should be associated so crassly with Hitlerism. It diminishes the meaning of the term when it is applied so flippantly! Silly Anti-Flag.


Billy Bragg – ‘Never Cross A Picket Line’

Technically this is an illegal strike
Never cross a picket line
But technically workers have no rights
Never cross a picket line
You must never cross a picket line

Hmm. Billy usually does so well at being politically sensible, but I can’t help but feel that saying “technically workers have no rights” is inaccurate. Technically speaking, Billy’s argument is balderdash! Even bearing in mind the context in which this song was written – with the Thatcher government’s eagerness to destroy trade union power and undermine the organised working-class – it still smacks of hyperbole to claim that workers had absolutely zilch legal protection. I love Billy which means I hold him up to a high standard and when he disappoints it’s only right that he be called out on it.

The Levellers – ‘Another Man’s Cause’

Now she wonders at it all
Just in whose name do these brave young heroes fall
And how many more are going to answer that call
They’re going to fight and die in another country’s war
They’re going die for a religion they don’t believe in at all
They’re die in a place they should never’ve been at all

‘Cause, your daddy well he died in the Falklands
Fighting for another man’s cause
And your brother he was killed in the Last War
And your mother well she’s lying home alone

Hmm. Rather than simply being anti-war, the main message behind this song seems to be that daddy should not have been fighting for “another man’s cause”. Perhaps the Levellers are attacking the political elite for sending troops off to fight a war from which little will be gained. Yet the critical references to dying in “another country’s war”, dying for a religion they don’t believe in, etc, prompts speculation that the Levellers think only self-interested wars should be fought. This makes me uncomfortable – what about the spirit of internationalism? Would the Levs have been opposed to daddy participating in another man’s cause such as the Spanish Civil War? And would the Levellers have been completely happy to surrender the Falkland Islands to the aggressive military dictatorship that constituted the Argentine government? For shame!

More songs of this nature to be moaned about soon – watch this space. Don’t be shy about suggesting any other leftie lyrics that leave you Hmm-ing!

Guevara said that’s crazy and ordered up a bottle of wine…

September 29, 2009

I’m waiting to watch Gordo’s speech on t’telly and I can hear the Levellers’ song ‘What a Beautiful Day’ being played in the conference hall. When I went to conference as a CLP delegate in 2004 it was also played numerous times. It’s clearly on someone’s ‘Labour conference mix’ CD that gets blasted out every year.  

The Levs celebrated Labour’s 1997 victory, but being anarchist types haven’t been too fond of what the party has been up to in government since then. I wonder if they’re ok with their tune, which seems to be vaguely about revolutionary idealism, being used to fire up the Labour troops before the leader’s speech?

Tolpuddle Thoughts Part 1: The Music

July 22, 2009

Myself, some other Paintbrushers, and a Scotch comrade went camping at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival 2009 last weekend. It was ace.

Tolpuddle is a top notch festival – it takes place in a beautiful rural setting; it has very impressive facilities (i.e. hot showers and toilets that you’re not afraid to use!); and of course it attracts a wonderfully diverse array of loony lefties.

The focus is on the political remembrance. Most people turn up at Tolpuddle on the Sunday for the march and speeches and then head away again.

However, as the festival has become more established over the years it has started hosting more and more musical acts, presumably to distract the socialist, communist, and anarchist campers and prevent them from fighting each other.

Much of the music wasn’t anything to write home about (perhaps the 21st equivalent of that phrase should be ‘to blog about’?). I doubt that anyone goes to Tolpuddle just for the music.

Amongst the biggest musical disappointments, in my opinion, were Trotsky’s Talkin Blues Buro, a band fronted by Marina, aka ‘the Soviet Sweetheart’, who was supposed to sing traditional Marxist music from Georgia.

The name was wacky, but the tunes and lyrics were just a bit tacky.

I’m not even convinced that Marina and her band really were from the Republic of Georgia! I think they may just have been putting on weird accents and singing songs vaguely about communism – which was all very odd.

A verse from one of their numbers went:

Wherever there’s a disaster

You know I get there faster

Than a capitalist can

Cos I’m a Marxist-Leninist man.

Bizarre! Taking into account that they might not have been genuine foreigners then the words seem especially unimpressive.

I insisted on taking us to see Rev Hammer play in the marquee on Sunday. I expected interesting things from Rev Hammer as I know he is buddies with some of my favourite crusty bands (the Levellers and New Model Army) and I’d heard he writes songs about 17th century radical John Lilburne.

Unfortunately the Rev came out with all sorts of soppy stuff dedicated to his wife, which sounded nice enough but wasn’t really what I was looking for at midday on the Sunday. Durbinite described him as a bit pedestrian. We didn’t stay long.

Of mediocre quality were five-piece folk rockers Jigsaw. They were fine, but I only really got excited when they played Levellers and Oysterband covers.

Next best was the Dublin City Workingman’s Band who headlined the Saturday night. Although I don’t really buy into the whole romanto-nationalist view of Irish culture (which country was the only one in Europe where more people volunteered to fight for Franco than for the Republic eh? Eh?!), I will admit that they were entertaining.

Durbinite was not satisfied with the relatively moderate level of fenianism displayed by the band and so had to get his more stridently nationalist kicks with some drunken anarchists afterwards.

An obvious contender for best music from this year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival is of course Billy Bragg, who played on Sunday after the march and speeches to a large crowd.

BB was on top form. He played a good mix of songs (‘Sexuality’, ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’, and the essential ‘There is Power in a Union’). His inter-song banter was as articulate and reasonable as ever. Draft that man into Parliament, says I! There are indeed few things better in life than Billy Bragg leading a rendition of The Red Flag.

However, because Billy has already enjoyed enough success and it goes without saying that he was excellent, I’m going to redistribute my musical praise onto Friday night’s headliners: the local band Who’s Afear’d.

They describe themselves as the pride of Dorset’s scrumpy and western scene. I think calling them Dorset nationalist or county chauvinist nutjobs would be more accurate. They were deranged and fantastic!

who's afear'dNever before did I know that there were people in Dorset sincerely angry about the “devestating 1974 ruling that severed Bournemouth’s ties with Dirty Hampshire County and forced the town’s incorporation into the green splendor of Dorset County”.

Who’s Afear’d are revisionists who refuse to accept the boundary changes and still consider Bournemouth to be part of Hampshire. They are very passionate about this.

They are also very frank in their hatred of Hampshire, so considering the fact that I spent many years living near Portsmouth I was understandably slightly concerned for my safety lest they were to whip the crowd up into a Hampshire-hating lynch mob.

But surely the best type of music is that which makes you feel a little bit scared?

I advise you to check out the “badger baitin, ‘ampshire hatin’ toss” that is Who’s Afear’d as they are certainly bound to become the next big thing (in Dorset!).

Here’s Who’s Afear’d proclaiming their love of Dorset:

Here’s an amusing video about their hatred of neighbouring Hampshire county that they’ve obviously put quite a bit of effort into:


So in conclusion, the music was a bit hit and miss, but Billy Bragg was reliably great and Who’s Afear’d were eye-opening. Remember folks: Always look on the bright cider life!

Iran for Freedom – Michael Jackson – They don’t really care about us

June 28, 2009