Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ghost Town

Somehow, my lecture on music and subversion ended up with Ghost Town by the Specials.
I might well have ended at Band Aid and Free Nelson Mandela, if I hadn't started at the Communist witch-hunts, with Pete Seeger and Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill. There wasn't time to advance beyond the 1980s.
Jerry Dammers was interviewed on the local TV programme today about just that song, and the way it was adopted by the ANC: that must have been a thrilling moment for him. He had been campaigning against apartheid since his school days.
I played The Slits' Typical Girls next to Culture Club's Do You Really Want To Hurt Me to show the different ways reggae entered the British music world; and Bob Marley's I Shot the Sheriff next to Enoch Powell's oops I mean Eric Clapton's. And there was Gil Scott Heron, almost inventing rap singlehanded (with a little bit of help from the Lost Poets).
I have been really enjoying putting these lectures together and I have learned a lot- mostly about Ewan MacColl and his partitioning-off of English/Scottish/whateverish folk music, which stopped anything he laid his hands on from cross-fertilising, which is what pop music does, traditionally.
In isolation, the lyrics of Under My Thumb by the Rolling Stones sound exactly what they are- misogynistic poo. I told the students about Women's Liberationists dancing away to them before realising that it was time they formed their own bands! And there was Poly Styrene, mocking the way teenagers were marketed-to as grubby and in need of a good scrub: Germ Free Adolescents sounded as fresh as a daisy.
You were a poet and a genius, Poly.

1 comment:

Wilky of St Albans said...

I've often wondered what part that song had in the release of NM. It's a very catchy tune, and a lot of people became aware of NM via that song. I don't think Jerry Dammers has received the credit he deserves, although I suspect he's had a few awards that have gone unreported in the Daily Mail.

'Sir Jerry' has a ring to it. Why not? Geldof got a gong and he said f*ck on live tv!