This week’s rioting in London is the worst that has been seen in Britain since the Thatcher era of the Eighties, where racial discrimination and the economic took their toll, and there was widespread rioting across Britain, particularly in London, such as the infamous Brixton riots of 1981.
The news footage of 2011 is very similar to those scenes of the 1980’s, except for the significant reduction of IQ in the rioters themselves. Whilst the eighties riots were a protest against the obvious racial discrimination of the ‘sus laws,’ and the free powers that police had to stop and search any black man or woman on the streets of London, the sickening facts about 2011’s riots are that they are being carried out mindless thugs, following the crowd because of the promise of new shoes and a free Ipad.
It’s clear that Britain is in troubled times, and as a music blogger, I figured I ought to bring my rant to something music related. The 70’s and 80’s brought us some fantastic music, the cultural and political background providing songwriting material for some of Britain’s best bands.
So, here are my top riot-related songs, or those which I think best reflect a certain political climate of the times:
1) Riot Van – Arctic Monkeys.
Alex Turner is one of my favourite lyricists of ‘Noughties. His songwriting has the ability to put you right in the heart of the roughest part of their hometown, Sheffield. With lyrics such as those below, you get a real sense of the thoughts, or lack of them, running through the mind of the sort of people who think it’s okay to destroy people’s livelihoods that they have worked for years to achieve.
‘So up rolls a riot van
And sparks excitement in the boys
But the policemen look annoyed
Perhaps these are ones they should avoid’
2) Anarchy In The Uk – The Sex Pistols
Whether or not this song is critical of the anarchist movement, I can’t yet decide. Whilst you would obviously expect it to be in favour of such groups, some of the lyrics suggest otherwise.
For example: ‘Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it, I wanna destroy, passer by’ seems to sum up the situation perfectly for me. Gangs of what are effectively sheep following the crowd and fighting ‘the system,’ whilst not having a clue who or what ‘the system’ is. This classic song makes the perfect backing track to the interview below, that really does make you embarrassed to be British.
3) The Smiths – Panic
Yet another classic song, which serves to show how the scenes of rioting have spread across Britain like wildfire. These lyrics symbolise how it must appear to many that nowhere is safe, and it is almost ironic that half of the places mentioned in this song have been the victims of looting over the past few days:
Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again ?
The Leeds side-streets that you slip down
I wonder to myself
Hopes may rise on the Grasmere
But Honey Pie, you’re not safe here
So you run down
To the safety of the town
But there’s Panic on the streets of Carlisle
Dublin, Dundee, Humberside
I wonder to myself.
4) The Clash – Too Many To Choose From!!
It could be said that The Clash experienced it all in terms of the unstable nature of British society in the 70’s and 80’s. Songs such as White Riot, Police and Thieves, London’s Burning speak for themselves. But there was only one song for me, which I felt was suited best to the London of 2011. In other countries, the rioting here has been described as being like ‘the start of World War III,’ and with the Olympic’s looming in 2012, many may have been put off by the scenes of violence on British streets. So sticking with the theme of World War Three and the end of the world, here are some lyrics to London’s burning which I think seem fairly fitting:
‘The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river’
Just a note to say, I think it’s completely inspirational to see the response of communities across Britain, with mass clear-up operations taking place all over the country. Hopefully the idiots will see just how mindless and stupid they have come across as, and crawl back into their holes feeling utterly ashamed of themselves!