Skip navigation

Tag Archives: working class

Here’s another subject that the first Anglo Agit Disco didn’t get to grips with – Steven Patrick Morrissey. This is a selection of Morrissey covers …. but none by Japanese Bands? I am not a big Morrissey fan. But for all his sometimes unpleasantness (recently nationalistic & anti-immigrant) and erratic thinking, he’s been a prolific working class song writer and I suppose he always ‘thinks for himself’. And it seems that many people do covers of Morrissey songs, so here’s another Japanese chapter that I’m keen to read in English. Looking through YouTube it is possible these versions are widely considered as better than the original Smiths versions. It is tempting to spend hours listening to both versions … but hey! life is short.

Some samples:

Placebo – ‘Big Mouth Strikes again’ (2003)

Bow Wow Wow – ‘I Started Something I couldn’t Finish” (2007)

OK go – ‘Interesting Drug’ (2017)

Jeff Buckley – ‘I know its over’ (1985)

Kitten (Chloe Chaidez’s band) – ‘Panic’ (2011) Kitten also had a song entitled ‘Japanese Eyes’ in 2012.

Marianne Faithful ‘Dear God Please Help Me’ (2008) Lyrically the gender reversal is powerful and weird.

Its difficult to see how some of these lyrics are self-evidently political… an Alienated rebel? Influenced by the Moors Murders and James Dean! A working class poet? In a very different vein to Mark E. Smith! But I’d like to see their lyrics compared sometime.

A recent review:


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:



This is more than a simple playlist; it’s a podcast programme with its own artistic value. Beautifully put together. Transpontine says: “Mix based on DJ set at  Housmans Radical Booksellers benefit at  Surya a while ago with  Stefan Szczelkun Paul Jam  Stewart Home Martin Dixon.  A mix I did a little while ago of music from the 1984/85 miners strike, with ChumbawambaNocturnal Emissions , Test Dept, Style Council and more…”

Finally winning a Brit award for her last album ‘A Perfect Contradiction’ that was supercharged by Pharrell Williams and Plan B contributions. A working class hero is something (not easy) to be – Paloma has apparently hired fluffy Owen Jones to be her support act, or is it well-educated mouthpiece, in London and Brighton gigs. Jones is perhaps hoping for a return of ‘Rock Against Racism’ to turn back the tide of Ukip buffoonery . Let’s hope the suffocating world of suck-cess doesn’t shut Paloma up.


“My mum gets upset when I say I’m working class. She goes, ‘I worked bloody hard for you not to be working class! At least say you’re lower middle class!’ But if I’m looking at what has been praised in recent years there do seem to be a lot of white middle-class boys who, in my view, have it easiest in the entire world… They’re very well represented in the music industry at the moment.” from an interview with Adrian Deevoy in the Mail 14-2-15 She has said she can’t write political songs, but as we showed with Agit Disco there are ‘shed loads’ of political songs out there she could do or team up with the singer-songwriter of… So come on Paloma but your mouth where your money is. At the same time MasterCard is cashing in on her in the Brits and Paloma is an ‘ambassador’ for the Prince’s Trust who helped her out when she was younger – so success suckers you in sly sorts of ways.

Owen Jones later considers his experience in a Guardian Article

Best ever Agit Disco album just republished on SoundCloud in August 2014

It is really great to see this important and little known album re-issued again on SoundCloud after twenty years. It was first issued as a cassette tape for those who frequented 56a Infoshop and its networks in South London. I was struck by its eloquent and radical lyrics and beautiful, inventive instrumental backing when I first heard it. Certainly it was the stand-out album of political songs of the Nineties in South London. I had seen Steve Cope perform his songs solo on a few occasions like at a St Agnes Place squat party, but these recordings of the songs with other talented local musicians frame Cope’s powerful lyrics with a musicianship that makes them works of art as much as heart-felt protest songs.

Each track on Soundcloud now has a carefully chosen image that adds something to the digital presentation that the analogue tape could not of course have. I wondered if this was the result of a particularly magical recording session but Martin says “It was essentially live music, so I never thought of the recording (on Fostex 8 track) as being exceptional, just a different thing.” Also looking at the cassette liner notes it looks like different tracks were recorded at different locations.

The song ‘Animals’ makes me cry every time I hear it. Such a passionate and

poetic song. My favourite of the whole album. It addresses peoples in-humanity in a deeply felt alliance with all animals, with nature even, against the violence of oppression and exploitation targeted by the callous few against the majority of people. It also works as a statement against cruelty to all life. For me it achieves a singular artistic statement that sums up the righteous anger that liberation needs. An important and necessary emotion that is hard to express most of the time. Its key chorus-line: “I’m with the animals” is spat out over a rolling and hypnotic bass rhythm. About 4 minutes in there is some brilliant growling trumpet playing by Martin Dixon that expresses the build-up of outrage in a way that reminds me of the expressive power of some of the best modern Jazz playing.

Read More »

What did people make of Gordon Sumner’s aka Sting’s TV concert on 22nd December with Jimmy Nail? (1). On the one hand it was a promo for his latest album ‘The Last Ship’, on the other an impressively reflexive return to the subject matter of his working class childhood in the ship-building town of Wallsend in the North East of England.


photo credit: ‘Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’

He was refreshingly honest for a celebrity. He told us that as a boy he was scared of going into the shipyards because of the noise and danger. He was inspired by catching the eye of the ship-launching Queen Mother from her regal RollsRoyce. He thought that this might have sown the seed of his aspiration to grandeur that later drove him to become a pop superstar. That was before the whole ship building industry in the North East went belly up. His songs deal with all aspects of that community from the militants to Read More »

As a working-class artist, growing up in north London, he realised that “my lyrics were my only power”. The music business was corrupt and he decided to take them on with his LP ‘Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part 1’.

Tuesday 27 November on BBC Radio 4’s Mastertapes at 1530 GMT

Tex Sample, ‘White Soul: Country Music, the church and working Americans’,  The Abingdon Press, Nashville 1996

I found this odd book on the way home from taking some students to see the brilliant Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum. Perry integrates the signs and wonders of oral and popular cultures into objets d’art with consummate grace and extraordinary skill. But in the expensive exhibition at the British Museum it gave me the chills. The cold wind of recuperation that steals the souls of our children. I might have resisted a book on country & western music at times in the past. Prejudice against ‘rednecks’ and ignorance of country music beyond the all-time-greats like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, might have put me off. But this guy Tex can write with great eloquence about working class culture and how the dominant culture is presented to working class people with the most fracturing effects. Published just three years after my own The Conspiracy of Good Taste, there are things in this book I wish I could have written.

A few of the chapter headings: Rowdy and Loud at the Twist and Shout: working class taste; Elitist taste and the politics of aesthetics; Country music and the politics of resistance; Traditional politics and populist anarchism.

“It was in Miss Ellie’s class that I learned for the first time that country music was ‘bad music’. I distinctly remember the experience. My mother loved country music and woke me every morning with a kiss on the cheek and the music playing loudly on the radio. I can still feel physically what I felt in being told country music was bad music. On the one hand, I felt a sense of getting taller, because I had learned something that most people in Mississippi must not know since they so absolutely bought into it. On the other hand, it was the first time I can remember my mother being smaller, or not ‘enough’. Back then I had no words for these feelings. I just knew I had not had them before. While I believed I was learning something important, I also felt a strange difference from my mother for the first time.” p.42

Read More »

Singing in public is becoming increasing illegal, as is any live music, as the system inexorably colonises the lifeworld.

Hamish Birchall from the Live Music Forum is a good source of information. A good short summary here:

Full details and history here:

‘Live music is, like anything else which is an attraction in licensed premises, potentially a public order problem,’ he began. ‘If you start from that point of view, then it becomes clear what you must do…’ St Albans Liberal Democrat councillor Chris White, when he gave evidence to the Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Tuesday 14 October 2008.  Chris White is also chairman of the Local Government Association’s Culture Committee, and also their licensing spokesman.

Sign the petition against criminalising live music!

Read More »