Journalists of British daily The Guardian have made a list of protest songs. All of them in the English language.
I’ll reproduce some of that list on this blog. Not exactly in the same way as they did. Eg, they have options to listen to songs on Spotify, which is not available in all countries.
And I have added links. And grouped the songs according to themes. The theme of this entry is protest songs against British Conservative ex prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Stand Down Margaret The Beat 1980.
A highlight of the Beat’s debut album, I Just Can’t Stop It, this unambivalent demand feels like a brash cousin of Ghost Town, the Specials’ more complex, downbeat song of social protest. Released just 12 months after Thatcher came to power, the Brummie ska outfit had already seen straight through the new regime: “I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow/ Our lives seem petty in your cold grey hands.” GT
Tramp the Dirt Down Elvis Costello 1989.
Whether you feel it’s fair or not, when Margaret Thatcher finally dies, this bitter lament from Costello’s Spike album will find itself on every ageing leftie’s stereo. The former Declan MacManus taps into both his Irish folk roots and early Dylan to ask whether the former Conservative prime minister can live with every “tiny detail” of her crimes against the working class, before stating that he’s only living to be able to dance on her grave. Possibly the most personally vituperative song ever recorded. GM
Ghost Town The Specials 1981.
The 2-Tone stars’ peak moment famously hit No 1 in the UK charts in the very week that riots tore through the poorest boroughs of Britian’s inner cities. Inspired by the 20% unemployment rate reached in 1981 in their hometown of Coventry, Jerry Dammers’s haunting reggae anthem described the ensuing social chaos with devastating accuracy, warning that “the people getting angry”, but also despairing that the violent anger that should have been aimed at Thatcherism was turning the young working class against one another. GM
Not included in the Guardian list, but also about Thatcher: Brighton Bomb, by the Angelic Upstarts.
Rock against Thatcher: here.
- ‘Daily Telegraph’ closes Margaret Thatcher comments due to abuse (digitalspy.co.uk)
- Margaret Thatcher: feminist icon? (newstatesman.com)
- Ding Dong! When Protest Songs Weren’t Dead (kenanmalik.wordpress.com)
- Thatcher ‘witch’ song 2nd in UK charts in death protest (abc.net.au)
Wicked Big Youth, Mr Rocksteady Ken Boothe plus Dennis Alcapone and Rico at Reggae Brittania….caught the dread DJ at his best! photo by Pogus Ceser
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