Wednesday, 14 December 2011

You Don't Get Me

What might The Strawbs’ Part of the Union,

Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA

and Show of Hands’ Roots

have in common?

Well, curiously enough, they’ve all been used as propaganda for causes directly opposite to the beliefs of the writers/performers.

Part of the Union became the unofficial anthem of the TUC despite it being intended as an anti-union satire. Bruce Springsteen had to ask Ronald Reagan to stop playing Born in the USA at Republican party events and the BNP put Roots onto a CD it issued of British music. That last led to the creation of Folk Against Fascism.

With Part of the Union you can see how the mistake has arisen and with Born in the USA it was obvious that no-one in the Republican party had actually listened to the lyrics with any real attention. I have a touch more sympathy with Roots (and that is the most sympathy by a spectacular margin I will ever have with the those racist prats) as it contains the lines ‘we lost St George in the union jack/It’s my flag too and I want it back’ though that does refer to the Act of Union, not nationalism. But to those of us who have wandered through the folk clubs of this land, the idea that folk music is sympathetic to the right wing is truly startling. For it is a great truth that where four or more unreconstructed lefties are together, one of them will be singing an 18th century ballad about sheep stealing. To be certain, Ewan MacColl, one of the godfathers of the folk music scene, went through a phase when he insisted that you could only sing songs from your own country but that’s a far cry from forced repatriation.

The Guardian ran a column at the time written by some metropolitan exquisite who reacted to folk music much as Ronald Firbank may have reacted to a ferret with artistic pretensions and who made the patronising assumption that because folk music is associated with the countryside and the past it was therefore right wing and insular.

Roots was inspired by the actions of the last Government who wanted to change the licensing laws concerning live music performances which would have effectively ended all live music in pubs. When it was put to one of their ministers the disastrous effect this would have on the folk music scene, he sneered in reply that his idea of hell was two folk singers in a pub in Bristol. Roots is Show of Hands’ response to this.

Oh, and if you think it is an angry song, then try this which really lets us now what they’re thinking:

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