So finally Margaret Thatcher has died. It is unlikely that any political figure will have split opinion as much as The Iron Lady did over her years in power and indeed since her controversial tenure. Gigslutz sits firmly in the corner of those who took a half day off work to get shit faced in celebration of her death but this is not the time nor the place to get into a rant on her policies or her wrong doings. Although one or two digs may be slipped into this piece the chances are you’ve heard it all before and it’s been rammed down your throats since her passing. On top of that blood pressure is high enough the ways things are.
So let’s leave it at that and let it go. Instead of stewing over the policies, ideals and free-market economic policies which resulted in mass unemployment, destructions of communities (“there is no such thing as society”) war and throwing the blame at the feet of those who could not fight back (there I said it), instead, let’s look at how she inspired (not intentionally of course) a generation of musicians.
Musically, the 80s are often looked at as a period of dirge and dire clobber with images of ponces doing videos on yachts and Stock Aitken & Waterman’s “music” factory. But in reality it was an amazing period of dynamic innovation and some masterpieces came from youths who had been shat on from a great height by the witch leading their country and the discontent they felt towards the society they were forced to live in.
For the hordes of youth in the UK they had very little means to fight back against the policies which were repressing them. If you weren’t “lucky” enough to be one of Margaret’s beneficiaries then you were pretty much fucked. One tool in their arsenal however was something she probably did not consider. That of pop music. So many kids fucked off their UB40 forms (unemployment benefit form, and hence where the name of the Brummy band came from) and went about doing something about it.
When Noel Gallagher in 2012 was misquoted by the Daily Mail under the headline of “Things Were Better Under Thatcher”, what he in fact was eluding to was that under the Thatcher years the musical output was in fact a lot better than current times. Noel talked about a work ethic, the obsession of the unemployed to find work and because of this wonderful art, designers and acid house were born.
During the Thatcher years the youth had reason to rebel against the hostility they felt and stick two fingers up to the apathetic leaders. If you were not in a position to benefit from the policies inflicted upon you, then times were shit. Very shit. However, as a by product of this she collectively gave people something to fight against, something to fight about and something to be vocal about, and therefore brought people together. Arts culture in general was something Maggie could not give two shits about. Whether it be cutting subsidies to the British Film industry or reducing arts funding, this was not a part of Maggie’s agenda. “No, no, no”, she said “The lady is not for turning”. Fortunately for all of us there was a section of society that was not listening.
Alas she could not stop Johnny Marr and Morrissey sitting down and knocking ideas out, Ian Brown and co spray painting Manchester city centre, Danny Rampling opening Shoom, Tony Wilson letting many a mob loose or Paul Weller stroking Mick Talbot’s ear in a field somewhere.
Neither could she stop the multitude of records written specifically for her. So let’s have look at some of the well known and some the less known tunes that written specifically about The Iron Slut. (May she rust in peace)
Before she even entered number 10 artists were getting onto Maggie, with Jamaican dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson being the first in line to get a dig in. On his quality 1978 single ‘It Dread Inna Inglan’ he slipped in the lyrics “Maggi Tatcha on di go wid a racist show”
One of the first to get their distain out to the masses was political musketeers The Specials. They clearly knew their tunes and put their take on the Bob Dylan’s 1965 protest number, “Maggie’s Farm”. Their take gave a twist to the original updating the lyrics to slip in the National Front and Maggie’s age in growling sneer at their new PM.
Fellow Ska revivalists The Beat then went one better and had a top 30 hit with the more obvious “Stand Down Margaret” taking on the classic ska number ‘Whine & Grine’.
STAND DOWN MAGGIE, STAND DOWN PLEASE
During the Falklands War Elvis Costello wrote a song more famously released by Robert Wyatt called “Shipbuilding”. The tune was about the contradiction of ship building towns such as Sunderland, Clyde and Birkenhead having a brief moment of prosperity building ships to replace those wrecked in the Falklands and those building the ships being sent off to fight on them, some never to return. The fact she eventually closed down all those ship yards is a story for another day. ‘Shipbuilding’ also marked the first top 40 hit for Rough Trade. Costello continued his anti-Thatcher stance throughout her time in number 10. In “Tramp the Dirt Down,” he sings “When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam” in a song dedicated to the hopeful demise of The Iron Cunt.
New Wave synth poppers Heaven 17 also got in on the act with their 1981 debut single (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang which picked up on the relationship between Thatcher and her American counterpart Ronald Regan. The single was banned by the BBC because of being potentially liable towards Regan but it still managed to peak at 45 and proved to be a hit in the USA too, on the dance scene.
You’ve probably heard Hue and Cry’s “Labour of Love” a thousands of times however it probably never dawned on many that the up beat quintessential 80s pop and number 6 hit was a tune written about growing disillusioned at Thatcher’s regime. “Gonna strike for the right to get into your cold heart, aint gonna work for you no more”.
Now I’m not sure how much the legendary Curtis Mayfield knew or even gave a shit about the state of Britain under Thatcher however I don’t need an excuse to throw a bit of Curtis into an article so check out his collaboration with The Blow Monkeys on the super jazzed and funked up “Celebrate (The Day After You)”. How The fucking Blow Monkeys managed to get Curtis Mayfield to duet on a number is probably the most shocking thing about this song, however leaving that to one side Dr Robert and Curtis give Thatcher some stick on this one with wishful thoughts of her death “Taking money, losing hope and we’re gonna celebrate cos this party’s overdue and it’s gonna be the day after you”. The album this one came from was also called “She Was Only a Grocers Daughter” giving another reference to Baroness Twat.
Red Wedge main man and activist Billy Bragg should not be over looked in any anti-Thatcher musical list. Maybe his most obvious anti-Thatcher number is ‘Between the Wars’. Have a listen to the lyrics; there is not much else that can be added to them…
As with Billy Bragg it would be wrong to write this piece without mentioning The Smiths. Their careers were borne from the social commentary of what Thatcher created. On Morrissey’s first solo offering Viva Hate he concluded with ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’ which contained the lyrics “The kind people have a wonderful dream… when will you die?” Straight to the point Mozza lad.
Even Public Enemy got in on the act getting a dig in there on milk snatching bint. There aren’t many who get the adrenalin going quite like Public Enemy and their masterpiece “Prophets of Rage” from ‘It Takes a Nation of Million to Hold us Back’ name checks her when giving it to the Apartheid sympathizers. “Mandela, cell dweller, Thatcher you can tell her clear the way for the prophets of rage (Power of the people you say)”
GO ON PUBLIC ENEMY.
The songs have kept on coming too with Frank Turner’s brilliant 2006 take on modern society and laying the blame squarely at the right wing tyrants’ door with “Thatcher Fucked the Kids”.
With this we have only just skimmed the surface of the plethora of anti-Thatcher songs there must have been about 500 all in all. Check out the latest Gigslutz playlist for a few more anti-Thatcher numbers.
Personally im not old enough to fully remember the Thatcher regime and certainly not old enough to have fully experienced it. And speaking to those who were about at the time this is almost certainly a good thing. Speak to any working class Northerner of a certain age about this time and you will hear a similar tale of neglect, frustration and repression. But with repression comes anger. And with anger comes defiance, rebellion and most importantly, passion. A generation which was tossed aside by their government took this passion and using the tools given to them by the DIY Punk movement, established the starting point of almost every band you listen to. In some perverse way we must thank her for this.
“And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Granted the quality of the songs varies however the one constant is that the musical youth of Britain during her time was united against her. When she finally fucked off after being booted out by her own cabinet there was only one song released in honour of this. And that was Jonathan King’s, ‘We Can’t Let Maggie Go’. Sums it all up really, doesn’t it….?
There is probably no better way to end than to let Pete Wylie sum up for me…
Take it away Pete…..