I’m currently reading the Johnny Marr autobiography and I must be one of the few reading it actually thinking “enough of this Smiths talk, hurry up and get to the bit when you joined The The and Electronic!” After all, a The The song gives this blog its name.
Johnny actually met up with Matt Johnson and agreed to join The The before he had even encountered Morrissey, so The Smiths could be seen as something of a temporary diversion from Plan A.
The Beat(en) Generation was the lead single from Mind Bomb, the first of the two albums that Johnny collaborated on with Matt. Marr seems to prefer the less overtly political, slightly jazzier ‘Dusk’, but personally Mind Bomb and the related tour (‘The The versus the World’) have a special place in my heart. Arguably this choice is less of a protest song and more of a lament for a generation that wasn’t protesting enough, a generation ‘reared on a diet of prejudice and misinformation’.
As with much of Matt Johnson’s work (Heartland, Armageddon Days), it could have been written yesterday:
When you cast your eyes upon the skylines of this …
Once proud nation
Can you sense the fear and the hatred
Growing in the hearts of its population?
Over to Roy:
There are some artists who’s political activism goes way beyond singing and writing songs. Jello Biafra walked it like he talked it. In 1979 he wrote and recorded this politically charged Punk Rock classic that imagined California Governor Jerry Brown as a ‘hippie-fascist’ President of America crushing dissent via his “suede denim secret police”. Even this level of absurdist satire never envisaged a Trump America. In 1979 he ran for Mayor Of San Francisco finishing third out of a field of ten, receiving 4% of the vote and in 2000 he came second to Ralph Nader in a bid to become President of the US Green Party. Jello’s latest band ? Guantanamo School of Medicine. Oh and Jerry Brown is Governor of California again.
“Know Your Product” by the Saints
Following the range of eminently worthy political songs of the last few days (“Paper Planes” and “Mother of Pearl” particular highlights), it seems almost too prosaic to include a band moaning about rampant consumerism. However, what a band! At the time of the track’s release in 1978, I was too enamoured of early synth heroes (Numan, Jarre, Vangelis, Oldfield) to appreciate either the song or the band. However by the time I arrived at university a cuople of year later, this group and the other Aussie punk bands (particularly Radio Birdman, Nick Cave’s Boys Next Door & Beasts of Bourbon) formed the regular soundtrack to my life in college dorms. Offering more than the regular punk combination of guitar, drums and coarse vocals, singer Chris Bailey has acknowledged the debt owed to Sam & Dave & Stax records in the brass arrangement.
How was I to know that the cynical lyrics:
“Cheap advertising, you’re lying
Never gonna get me what I want
I said, smooth talking, brain washing
Ain’t never gonna get me what I need”
we then sung with great gusto (often late at night after one or two beers), would eventually represent the industry which has formed most of my life’s work. However, 40 years on, the sentiments of the song are just as relevant & it’s still a ripper tune
Richard’s choice of Beat(en) Generation prompts me to follow with my personal favorite protest song today instead of Day 1. Given the pantheon of societal issues this countdown has presented, Late Boomer rage is a bit whingy, but Kevin Gilbert’s “Goodness Gracious” is even more relevant to my (our?) age group today than when it was released in 1995 — “we’re the clean up crew for parties we were too young to attend.” Unbelievably prescient. Gilbert was Sheryl Crow’s boyfriend and co-creator of Tuesday Night Music Club — his burgeoning solo career was cut way too short — he died in ’96 by his own hand (bad pun but seriously, autoerotic asphyxiation?! WTF!) Sorry to make you stare at an album cover for 4 minutes, but there are few videos of this song and the studio cut is the best one:
Without question this has been my favourite and my most frustrating day thus far. Why frustrating? Because I had “California Uber Alles” in my list, along with The The’s “Armageddon Days”, which I shall now also shelve. However, the inclusion of “Know Your Product” has eroded any frustration I may have had, so thanks for that, Ian!
So, instead, like “California” I’ll stick with 1979 for today’s choice. One of many great singles by this band at this time, the lyrics were inspired by the difficulties faced by the unemployed and lower-paid working class in protesting against a system stacked against them. A right-to-work march was taking place in Slough when pupils from Eton started jeering the marchers, and a street battle then ensued.
It was the only release from the Setting Sons album, it reached number 3 in the charts (given their future habit of going straight in at number 1, this was presumably seen as something of a failure?!) and did not have an accompanying video. In recent years, it has achieved a certain “notoriety” as being the favorite song of our former Prime Minister. Presumably, the incumbent P.M. would choose Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (and Stabler)”?
Anyway, time to “sup up your beer and collect your fags, there’s a row going on down in Slough”
The band in question here were adept at using their pop sensibilities to get their message across and their debut album in 1986 spawned four singles: “Flag Day”, “Sheep”, “Happy Hour” and “Think for a Minute.”
So, this track from that album, ‘London 0 Hull 4’ is like the other bookend for Richard’s first offering of the day.
Part of a generation not protesting enough?
Well, just ‘Get Up Off Our Knees’