Owen Adams gives us his top 13 anti Margaret Thatcher songs in a potent reminder of the power of the protest song.
FROM a very young age, I had nightmares about Margaret Thatcher ” even before she became prime minister.
During her time as education minister (1970-74), she earned the epithet “Maggie Thatcher, milk-snatcher”, and I equated her with the Land of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the East and sincerely hoped she’d be toppled from her broomstick and squashed by Dorothy’s tornado-uprooted house. How dare she take away our free milk! Hefner had the same idea when they incorporated the Munchkins’ celebratory verse Ding-Dong The Witch Is Dead” in their joyous anthem The Day That Thatcher Dies.
With the senile baroness slipping in and out of hospital, that day can’t be long coming now ” and the event has the potential of provoking some kind of civil war. While the political establishment ” no doubt Labour as well as Tories ”â will be solemnly wasting millions of taxpayers’ pounds on a grand State funeral, hundreds of thousands of us proles will be putting on our dancing shoes and saluting the Grim Reaper.
It’s often been said lately that David Cameron and his Etonian chums are trying to push through crippling reforms faster and harder than even Thatcher dared to. But in the post-Major era of airbrushed public image, it’s hard to really hate him because he appears so harmless. Smug maybe, but so placid-looking. Almost kindly. And we’re encouraged to feel sorry for his deputy, who apparently cries to himself at the sacrifices he’s having to make in order to save the nation from financial ruin. Aside from rapper NxtGen calling health secretary Andrew Lansley a “tosser” and “manky codger” and some agit-propping from underground scenesters such as The King Blues, Spanner and Captain Ska, anti-Tory anthems are thin on the ground this time around.
Besides, no sooner will someone have penned a strident protest song, then the Coalition will have made one of their so-called U-turns (so-called, because they will almost definitely try to slip the same policies through by a more sneaky route). Thatcher’s most famous slogan became “this lady is not for turning”. She seemed to thrive on being reviled as she merrily ploughed on at full throttle ” destroying beyond repair miners’ and working-class communities, and the notion of community and society itself.
While Cameron preaches the flaccid, unfeasible notion of the Big Society, he, helped by media magnates, the City and the entire remote political class, manages to blithely skirt around the poor and downtrodden; his mentor and predecessor left them for dead in the first place. She met the troublemakers head-on in her iron juggernaut, and bought the others in the midst off with the patriotic fervour of the Falklands War and the “right to buy”Â shares in what previously belonged to all of us (BT, British Gas etc) and council houses. Cameron and co are now engaged in finishing her work, while the Labour Party lies ineffectual, compromised and sold-out. It’s up to us ordinary disenfranchised, dispossessed folk to derail the gravy train ” next stop, June 30, mass strike. Everyone ready?
While we’re marching these days to techno (the black bloc’s music of choice) or insipid indie (check UKUncut’s J30 promo), we should all be getting our playlists ready for the Thatcher Death Disco and remembering the golden era and perhaps, maybe, giving inspiration to a new generation of angry songwriters.
Here’s 13 essential songs no Thatcher-despiser should be without:
1. Crass: How Does It Feel To Be The Mother Of A Thousand Dead?
Like countless others of my generation, much of my political education came from Crass and their record sleeves. Their relentless ” and healthy – disdain for Thatcher reached a crescendo on Sheep Farming In The Falklands, from whence How Does It Feel came. It was castigated in Parliament and an attempt to prosecute the band for obscenity. The publicity only helped to ensure the EP’s massive underground success. There were plenty of other anti-Falklands songs, but this was the most brutally laid bare: “You smile in the face of the death cause you are so proud and vain/ Your inhumanity stops you from realising the pain/ That you inflicted, you determined, you created, you ordered/ It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered.”
2. Robert Wyatt: Shipbuilding
Given the treatment by both Wyatt and Elvis Costello on a double A-sided single in 1982, Wyatt’s is the most heart-wrenching version. I can recall seeing the patriotic bunting up on the estate outside my window as the more fortunate local soldiers returned from Thatcher’s election-boosting war as this 45 was on the family turntable.
3. Billy Bragg: Between The Wars
In the halcyon years of Top Of The Pops, you had Steve Wright on primetime TV introducing this “evocative song” in the days when socialism was a credible opposition to the evils of Thatcherism. She put paid to that. “Sweet moderation, the heart of this nation, desert us not” Bragg pleaded, but no answer came.
4. The The: Heartland
Sometimes the gentler songs are imbued with far more power than the shouty ones. Matt Johnson explored our “special relationship” as the “51st state” while lambasting Thatcher for presiding over the land where “pensioners are raped and their hearts are being cut from the welfare state”. He adds: “Let the poor drink their milk while the rich drink their honey/ Let the bums count their blessings, while they count their money”. We’re still waiting for Utopia and for Hell to freeze over.
5. Dub Syndicate: No Alternative But To Fight
When your cup of disgust runneth over and you run out of words, say it with dub’¦ with a Dalek-ised Thatcher sample.
part 2 of top 13 anti Margaret Thatcher songs is here