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Working-Class Perspectives

Reactions were mixed to the announcement that songwriter Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Some literary aficionados were outraged that a popular musician had won the prize (rather than a novelist or poet), while others were delighted that the literary potential of song writing had finally been acknowledged at such a high level. Some criticisms pointed to Dylan’s position within the popular music canon, pointing out that he is yet another western, white man whose elevation to Nobel Laureate status reinforced white, western patriarchal hegemony.

While I was never a fan of Dylan, not for any particular reason, he has had a huge influence and impact. His music has often been political, and in the 1960s spoke to young people hoping for change and a more equitable and just society. Now that a songwriter has been recognised for his literary talents, has the space opened up…

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Skepta is now top of the tree and his Konnichiwa album has protest songs (so says the BBC). But how long can you sing songs about being held by cops; when you are a slick hitmaker? The glamour, the people, the money, the need for minders that surround you… the busy schedule that steals your day away …. he may have got there by a DIY route and kept control late in the day. Will he be able to keep it real when its all red carpets and feigning models. I mean Puffy Daddy has run his own businesses for many years; there comes a point when DIY ceases to mean much. It was cute that just before his album started the Time Out rolled up this house and found it used as a storage place for his business. but even then he wasn’t sticking stamps on himself like wot real DIY publishing means.

How long is he gonna rap “The feds wanna shift man / Wanna put me in a van / Wanna strip a man / I ain’t a Chippendale / Wanna strip a male / Put me in a prison cell / Got me biting on my finger nails.” with any conviction?

The analysis will have to get more political, more theoretical, more abstracted from his personal situation. And probably threatening to his own pro feet ability…

Can integrity survive success? Can a radical message survive institutionalisation or being framed on corporate media?

But for now Ok this Tottenham boy wants people to ‘shed preconceptions’ that’s not bad thing. I’m reading Mike Hales book on ‘Thinkwork’ from 1980 and he had this idea of ‘pre conceptualism’ and it set me thinking about whether cultural works can reach out into that pre-idea stage of thinking. There’s a hope music or art might be able to get past the normalisation of our thinking as it enters onto cultural or intellectual platforms… But to do that it would have use very undercapitalised platform, autonomous underground venues, collectively run shows, illegal shebeens maybe, but not a gallery. How is it done? How is it done?


for more thoughts in this vein see my now FREE ebook…

I found this article in Red Pepper fascinating (and related to both Agit Disco and Conspiracy of Good Taste  ):

Raised voices: the UK campaigning choirs movement


Street choirs spring from various strands of progressive politics and protest singing. Many have their roots way back in the socialist and labour movements. The names of Birmingham Clarion Singers and Nottingham Clarion Choir, for instance, are tributes to the movement associated with the Clarion socialist newspaper founded in late 19th-century Manchester. Birmingham Clarion Singers was established in 1940″

Yes but this was a part of the Rational Recreations movement which strove to get working class people involved in ‘respectable’ rather than revolutionary activity. These choirs seem a bit more radical and political.

 “Today, the street choirs network numbers more than 50 choirs across Britain.”

Could they turn the tide with song?  Could singing in the street return to human activity after being banished by the good taste movement led by Sharp and others plus commoditisation plus mass media?

Is a new kind of songwriting going to emerge?

There is an initiative to make an oral history of the movement see more here:



“A Nigerian singer known for singing about corrupt politicians has been found five days after he was kidnapped.”BBC 29 June 2016

This song, ‘Gyara Kayanka’, is the reason he was kidnapped and threatened. Ado is from the state of Adamawa and I think the song is in the Hausa language. Anyone have a translation of the lyrics?



Michael Kemp writes on F*Bk: “Walked out in the rain a couple of days ago and spied a ‘REMAIN’ poster in the window of the student household at the bottom of the street. That put a spring in my step, so, when I got home, I made them a CD compilation – “A Song for Europe” and lobbed it thru’ the letterbox.”

01 Should I Stay or Should I Go? (3:07) ~ The Clash
02 If You Want Me to Stay (3:01) ~ Sly & The Family Stone
03 Welcome to Craggy Island (2:57) ~ Father Ted
04 A Song for Europe (5:47) ~ Roxy Music
05 Together Stronger (3:48) ~ Manic Street Preachers
06 Boris the Spider (2:30) ~ The Who
07 Mon amie la rose (2:17) ~ Françoise Hardy
08 Stay With Me (By the Sea) (3:23) ~ Al Green
09 Stormy Weather (1952 version) (3:43) ~ Billie Holiday
10 Emotional Weather Report (3:47) ~ Tom Waits
11 Flood (4:47) ~ Jocelyn Pook
12 I Love EU (5:05) ~ Gruff Rhys
13 Café Europa (4:17) ~ Deep Forest
14 The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles (7:59) ~ John Cale & Terry Riley
15 Let’s Work Together (3:12) ~ Ry Cooder


The Dixie Chicks haven’t learned their lesson yet it seems and are as political as they ever were. Nice to see them back with a world tour and sold out in the USA too.

Continuing the theme of the big stars that issue political edicts I agree with!

I just watch the burning of a police car in Paris and angry scenes. Amongst it all there was an orchestra of sort playing, I had the sound down…(was it on RT?). Does anyone have a source on this? There seems to be a news blackout?!?

Jamala has just won the Eurovision with a protest song about the Tatars in Crimea ‘1944’ its about ethnic cleansing and Stalin but with obvious relevance to the situation in Crimea since the Russian takeover.

It seems like the mainstream music world has been won over to agitdisco and is trying to take the reins and make the running. How is it that certain ‘political’ statements are OK whereas most are not?

A jokey cake graphic suggests that the votes are 90% ‘political’ in the sense that people vote for countries they ‘like’ or feel allied to.

“The country scored 534 points with its song 1944, about the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Josef Stalin.” BBC

Phillipe Sands QC has cowritten a book called ‘East West Street’ about the beginnings of international justice in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi ‘war criminals’. This is when ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’ became part of international law. Sands tells the story from a very personal perspective. The part of it that caught my eye was that two people on opposite sides of the bench at Nuremberg were fascinated by the same piece of music. Herschel Lauterpacht had studied in Lviv in Ukraine. Hitler’s personal lawyer Hans Frank had given a hate speech there that led to the murder of some 100,000 individuals including friends and teachers of Lauterpacht, and the grandfather of Phillipe Sands. Franks was prosecuted at Nuremberg by Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin. Frank was executed on the 16th October 1946.

The extraordinary thing is that Sands discovered that both Lauterpacht and Frank were comforted during the Nuremberg trial by J.S. Bach’s ‘St Mathew Passion’.

How extraordinary is this? At times of such profound emotion anyone with a bourgeois background or widespread love of orchestral music might be likely to get spiritual comfort from St Matthews Passion ‘one of the masterpieces’ of sacred classical music. And Hans Frank was one of the only defendants, along with Albert Speer, to show any remorse.

The scale and cold bloodedness of the Holocaust has held me in awe and dread since I first discovered  in as a young child. It is now hard not to think of it as a result of class oppression; of the extremes of numbing that were possible. The sublimation of emotion into high art that is listened to or observed without expression of emotion (or even bodily movement) seems to be part of this conditioning.

This may be of interest:”Collective Listening” followed by discussion – sounds very #agitdisco

<p><a href=”″>The Pop Group Q&amp;A at Rough Trade</a> from <a href=””>Rough Trade Shops</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The Pop Group Q&A at Rough Trade