This book was quite good fun – well written, breezy. And I feel smarter – or better informed – for having read it. Astounding how much overt racism there was…
So below are some songs that sounded I ought to hear, followed by books and plays I should read etc. And some clippings of note. Copyright? What’s that?
And I look forward to reading his book “Manchester, England.”
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going on? “Deals with social issues, ecology, inner city blues and war, but also bemoans the harassment of people simply because their hair is long.” [Yes, I had heard of the album, but wasn’t aware of its breadth. Clearly they should be teaching this shit in primary school.]
Ray Davies David Watts
Black Sabbath War Pigs
Edwin Starr War (1970)
Esther Williams LP From a Whisper to a Scream.
Gary Byrd Are you really ready for Black Power?
Gil Scott Heron Home is Where the Hatred Is
Where is the Love Donna Hathaway and Roberta Flack (“a meditation on an era of fading optimism and loss of hope”)
Dead End Street by the Kinks
Gang of Four At Home he’s a Tourist
The Slits Typical Girls
The Au Pairs It’s Obvious
Sex Pistols Holidays in the Sun
Jim Anderson, Felix Dennis and Richard Neville as editors of Oz – obscenity trial…
Underground: the London Alternative Press 1966-1974 by Louise Ferrier [Er, no. By Nigel Fountain]
A Change is Gonna Come by Craig Werner [subtitle Music, Race and the Soul of America]
The Ice Storm by Rick Moody (1994)
Article by David Widgery in the last (1973) issue of Oz “What finally knackered the underground was its complete inability to deal with women’s liberation.”
Play Magnificence by Howard Brenton [see if central library has it!!]
Film: Dead Presidents (1995)
Power cuts would become a feature of life in the 1970s; the Government would announce for each area of the country a series of four-hour periods each week in which there was a likelihood of disconnection. These emergency regulations would include advice to industrial users (to shut factories) and householders (to stock up on candles). Train services would be hit. In some cities, there would be traffic chaos as breaks in the power supply disrupted traffic lights.
In April (1975) Six members of the gang occupied the German Embassy in Stockholm, taking twelve hostages. The siege ended with two hostages dead and the Embassy on fire. [From this, I think, Hari Kunzru took the putative death of one of the characters in ‘My Revolutions’]
Our personal histories are a ragbag of memories, secrets, well-worn tales, and distortions, all subject to myth-making, and the same is true of our collective memory. Nations create an identity by manipulating a past, choosing what to forget or to recall. Scotland’s folk memory prefers to tune into heroic deeds at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when Robert the Bruce led an army of bravehearts and defeated Edward II of England, rather than the occasions when English forces got the upper hand, at Flodden Field in 1513 and Culloden Moor in 1745.
Through the 1970s, the Plastic People of the Universe developed various half-successful strategies for eluding the attentions of the police; the authorities, describing their music as ‘morbid’, had claimed it could have a ‘negative social impact’. Significantly, these kinds of phrases sound not dissimilar to those used by Mary Whitehouse about various TV plays, or Tony Blackburn about ‘Dead End Street’ by The Kinks. Those supporting oppressive totalitarianism often shared common ground with those defending militaristic capitalism, not least in their fear of unhindered cultural activity, of young hearts running free.
There was something of an epidemic of legally sanctioned drugs; for a couple of decades, pharmacologists and doctors had been prescribing drugs for depressive illnesses, particularly to women. In the Hulme area of Manchester almost half of all families were in receipt of supplementary benefit, and due to the catastrophic condition of the newly-built flats and maisonettes, the local council was considering mass demolition of their homes. As elsewhere, poverty was contributing to poor mental health, but society seemed content to respond chemically rather than politically to desperation and depression; there were six doctors serving Hulme, and in 1977 they were prescribed a quarter of a million tranquillisers and anti-depressants per month. Naturally The Fall were weighing in on the drug debate, in songs like “Rowche Rumble” and “No Xmas for John Quays?”.
Nineteen Seventy Seven, David Peace‘s second novel, is set in Yorkshire and portrays a shabby world blighted by the activities of the Ripper, but also by the corrupt police hunting the killer. Peace is a relentless writer, banging our senses with prostitutes, pimps, bodies and bad news, interweaving the story with a mass of contemporary detail and fictional transcripts of phone-ins on Radio Leeds. The Silver Jubilee is barely mentioned, and it doesn’t have to be; it flickers like a side issue, an irrelevance in the lives of characters mired in darkness and violence. According to one of the characters in the book, life is worse than any bad dream: “It’s when you pull back them bloody curtains. That’s when it hits you.”
Ex- Oz journalist David Widgery was one of the organisations prime movers and articulated the aims and ideas of Rock against Racism brilliantly. In Temporary Hoarding he made clear the links between racism on the streets and in the institutions of power, between paki bashing and the judiciary. “The problem is not just the new fascists form the old slime a master race whose idea of heroism is ambushing single blacks in darkened streets. These private attacks whose intention, to cow and brutalise, won’t work if the community they seek to terrorise instead organises itself. But when the state backs up racialism, it’s different.”
A few days later the plane went on to Aden where the pilot was shot and killed by the hi-jackers, and then on to Mogadishu in Somalia. The hijackers demanded that all imprisoned RAF members should be flown immediately to Mogadishu or the plane would be blown up, but the situation developed quickly; that same evening, a commando unit from the German Army stormed the plane, killing or wounding all four hi-jackers while avoiding serious injury to any of the hostages.
Victoria Park was followed by a Carnival of the North three months later in Alexandra Park in Moss Side, featuring the Buzzcocks, The Fall, Steel Pulse, China Street and John Cooper Clarke.
To a significant number of the Seventies generation, RAR functioned as a political education at a time when politics wasn’t working. One of Rock Against Racism’s messages was particularly valuable: that politics and culture could be reclaimed, and connections made. That you might start off by being into Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, and then discover Shelley the poet (or vice versa, of course). This was in contrast to the other England, the one which denies connections and narrows options. Paul Gilroy agrees: “There was literacy there, an alternative cultural literacy that was really profound.”
“Other events took place in 1979 which also set the agenda for the 1980s, including the election of the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua…”
page 304 [Really? I thought the first election was in 1984. Yes, I think I’m right.]
Pressure to conform and cooperate is always being exerted. Back in 1976, Vaclav Havel supported the Plastic People of the Universe in their struggle for a right to pursue their brand of creativity because he felt they had a democratic right to challenge and ask questions. One of their songs ridiculed the rulers of Czechoslovakia for hiding the truth behind a heavily glossed surface, wishful thinking and double-speak, and extolled both the role of the young in bringing about change, and the power of collective memory: “They are afraid of the young for their dreams/They are afraid of the old for their memory.”