In August 2018, Labour’s John McDonnell called on Twitter and then in a press release for the relaunch of the Anti-Nazi League. Citing the success of Tommy Robinson and Boris Johnson’s Islamophobic likening of Muslim women to letterboxes, the shadow chancellor said, "Maybe it’s time for an Anti-Nazi League type cultural and political campaign... The ANL pioneered highly influential cultural movements like the Rock Against Racism, which attracted tens of thousands of people of all ages to anti-racist festivals and protests.” The response was predictably partisan: the New Socialist was in favour, Dan Hodges against. Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, complained that McDonell was plotting against parliament. ‘McDonnell believes – and says so – that true democracy is on the streets. This seemingly well-meaning tweet needs to be seen in that context. In government, ‘the street’ would be a key weapon in the hard left armoury.’Read More
An apocryphal moment has Sid Vicious walking by Freddie Mercury in a recording studio, circa 1978. The Sex Pistols were likely recording their vastly overrated Nevermind the Bollocks LP while Queen were likely recording their pop-metal classic Jazz. Ever the charmer, Vicious is said to have approached Mercury and baited that he was the person bringing ballet to the masses. Mercury, dynamite with a laser beam, riposted to Vicious, who he saw as a poseur, “We’re doing our best, Simon Ferocious!” Malcolm McLaren’s boy band may well have been the talk of the town but for the proletariat, it was with Queen. Declasse youth could be punks, but as Neil Davidson pointed out at one of Red Wedge’s panels at Historical Materialism London, to a large extent, it was a trend…Read More
At some point or another, every artist ponders their purpose. Do they matter? To whom and in what way? What does it even mean to be relevant? And as the world changes quickly, will their art, their music, their words, continue to have an impact?
Algiers consciously ask these questions of themselves, and are constantly aware that doing so both is and requires a struggle. One of the things that makes them such a notable act is that their consciousness of this both ideologically and structurally.Read More
Musician and socialist Dave Randall’s Sound System: The Political Power of Music was released to positive reviews in May. Randall, a veteran musician who has worked with Faithless, Sinead O’Connor and Emiliana Torrini among others, examines in the book music’s many uses and abuses from the perspective of both a practitioner and a serious Marxist. Here, Red Wedge republishes an interview conducted with Randall by rs21’s Colin Revolting on the book, its inspiration, some of its highlights, and how a radical movement can subtly but actively approach popular music.Read More
Poor Mike Pence. Greeted with a friendly gaggle of actors who both recognize him and are willing to express well-meaning concern over the havoc he may wreak as vice president. Pity too Donald Trump, who now feels blindsided by the realization that the theater isn't somewhere he and his cohort can retreat from the consequences of their actions.
Trump's reaction is what ultimately makes the action of the Hamilton cast a Good Thing. The man spent fifteen months using his own bully pulpit in a far less kindly way.Read More
A collection of anti-racist activist and photographer Syd Shelton’s work from Rock Against Racism has been collected together for the first time. Is this book a nostalgic trip to the bad old days of 1970s racial conflict or does it have something to offer a new generation fighting the changing face of racism in the 21st century? Maybe both?
Shelton’s starkly black and white photographs portray the sharp contrasts in 1970s Britain. National Front marchers and anti-racist crowds, the police and the youth on the street, the punks and Rastas, Sikh pensioners and black and white kids, the bands and the audiences.Read More
In the face of profound social, political and economic tragedy, it has often been the case that popular musicians, out of a sense of solidarity, put out a song to capture the moment and inspire the movement. It is often the case, by virtue of historic specificity, that these songs don’t date well, their universality caught in the particularity of a given moment. There are a few songs, however, that have outlasted their origins and continue to resonate. Neil Young’s “Ohio,” Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots)” and, most recently, in the face of the spate of police murder of Black youth, and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Prince’s “Baltimore.”
Reminiscent of mid-period Prince and the Revolution, it combines a funkish shuffle in a minor key with vaguely country/western sounding acoustic and electric guitars. The lyrics, while angry, are more sad and resigned than anything else...Read More
Paul Kantner was not the leader of Jefferson Airplane, the sixties band that came to epitomize the counterculture. Leadership rotated, original leader Marty Balin once joked, to whichever member was currently involved with Grace Slick. Neither was Kantner Jefferson Airplane or 70s Jefferson Starship’s lead vocalist, being only one of four singers, his warm, understated vocals often eclipsed by Slick and Balin’s more attention-grabbing turns. Nor was Kantner his bands’ primary songwriter – one of the Airplane’s four primary songwriters, he was just one hand on the Jefferson Starship overcrowded deck. All this is not however to bury Kantner – that occurred, literally, in January 2016, at age 74 – it is absolutely to praise him. Indeed to praise him in the most comradely fashion: as a key component in a countercultural collective, the very antithesis of the individualist diva.Read More
The world must know. The world simply must know, must be shaken by the shoulders until it collectively acknowledges that something like the Monks can exist. That there can be such a thing as “avant-garde garage rock,” and that it can be played by active American G.I.’s increasingly alienated with the army. It needs to know, fifty years to the calendar month after the release of their only album.
Ten years back there was in fact something of a surge in interest around the Monks. A documentary was made, a tribute album was put out featuring the (International) Noise Conspiracy, the Fall, and a few other recognized inheritors of the garage rock sound.Read More
This is NOT an obituary. Indeed this article was written on Friday Jan 8th and Saturday Jan 9th. It is clear now that the meaning of "Lazarus" on the new record cannot be reduced to the Thin White Duke persona, though it is clear that, of all of his personae, Bowie felt most comfortable staging his death – his final work of art – using the persona of the dying, emaciated mid-seventies iteration of his chameleon-like ch-ch-ch-changes. The very act of planning an album release – including a tremendously disturbing music video of a very sick Bowie – around one’s death seems of a piece with Bowie’s lifelong artistic project…Read More