Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Thursday 20 June 2024

Go Easy Step Lightly

The big stack of CDs that came free with magazines that I wrote about a few weeks ago continues to give up the goods as I work my way through it. It seems that people at Uncut and Mojo were well connected to Pete Wylie- Pete and Mighty Wah! songs have turned up on several CDs. 

In 2011 Mojo came accompanied by a CD called Panic- 15 Tracks Of Riotous '80s Indie Insurrection!, a fifteen track compilation that opened with Madness and included Billy Bragg, The Three Johns, Robert Wyatt, Half Man Half Biscuit, Orange Juice, Redskins, and Felt among the line up. Halfway through was this...

The Day Margaret Thatcher Died (A Party Song)

At the point this CD was given away (and until this year with the release of Teach Yrself Wah!) Panic was the only physical release this song got. In the song Pete imagines the celebrations that would ensue with the news that Thatcher had died. He wasn't wrong either- when she died in April 2013 there were indeed places that celebrated. There has been some revisionism in political and popular culture over the years, Thatcher portrayed in some televisual accounts of the 1980s as a slightly eccentric but loveable Prime Minister with big blow dried hair, a handbag and blouses with big bows who did the UK a lot of good. This rose tinted view of Thatcherism, her governments, their policies and the 1980s is also propagated by various right wing rags and is one of the few things the factions in the current Tory Party agree on. But let's not kid ourselves- the Thatcher governments were hard right wing, authoritarian and deeply unpleasant, pushing a set of policies that among other things demonised huge sectors of the British working class, talked about the 'managed decline' of a city (Liverpool), gave their friends huge tax cuts (paid for by North Sea gas and selling off nationalised industries), ran down entire industries in the name of 'the market', creating the subsequent social problems which the people living in those communities were then blamed for. Trickle down economics- wealth doesn't and hasn't trickled down, it's flowed up. On top of that she deployed police as the military wing of the Conservative government and was very friendly with all sorts of unpleasant and murderous dictators and regimes (Pinochet, apartheid South Africa). Also, Clause 28. So, no thank you to the revisionist view of Thatcher. 

The song is great with Pete in fine form- crunching guitars, rousing vocals, and a chant, 'build a bonfire/ paint the sky/ come on down/ I'll tell you why/ She's gone/ and nobody cried'. Celebrating anyone's death may seem needlessly callous but for many people who lived through the 80s, Thatcher is an exception. 

In April 2000 Uncut magazine gave away Unconditionally Guaranteed 2000.4, sixteen songs for the fourth month of the new millennium, opening with Chappaquiddick Skyline and ending with Mercury Rev. Five songs in was Pete Wylie and The Mighty Wah!'s Disneyland Forever. 

Disneyland Forever

This is Pete at his biggest and grandest, a huge sounding song with widescreen production, massive chiming guitars, pounding drums and Pete's soaring vocal. The song originally came out on Wah!'s 2000 album Songs Of Strength And Heartbreak. Pete tells the story of the inspiration for this song when he plays it live. He met Gerry Conlon backstage at GMex, a Stop Sellafield show set up by Greenpeace with a line up including Big Audio Dynamite, Public Enemy, Kraftwerk and U2. Gerry Conlon had spent fifteen years in prison as one of the Guildford Four, wrongly convicted of being an IRA bomber. Gerry and the other three of the Guildford Four were released on appeal in October 1989- much to the chagrin of the Thatcher government. The Birmingham Six, similarly locked up on invented charges and police incompetence/ corruption, were freed not long after in 1991. Pete spoke to Gerry backstage, a man who had spent a decade and a half in prison for something he didn't do, wrongfully convicted by the British justice system. Gerry struggled with life after being released, suffering from mental health issues, drugs and alcohol dependency, and a suicide attempt. When they spoke backstage at GMex they talked about life inside and injustice and Pete asked Gerry what he was going to do. As Pete tells it, Gerry said, 'I don't know for sure but whatever happens its going to be Disneyland forever'. Pete found this inspiring, a man who could be consumed by hate and bitterness seeing the world and the rest of his life in that way. Gerry died of cancer in 2014 aged sixty having recovered from some of his issues and becoming a campaigner for those who have suffered miscarriages of justice. The song is Pete's attempt to do justice to the man- and justice he does. 

The third Wylie/ Wah! song from my pile of freebie magazine CDs was from 2003, a CD titled White Riot Vol Two (A Tribute To The Clash), sixteen Clash covers and a Joe Strummer song. The covers include Jesse Malin, The National, Joy Zipper (posted a few weeks ago), Sparks, Billy Bragg, Stiff Little Fingers, and Nouvelle Vague. It also had Pete Wylie captured live at The Railway, Haddington Festival in 2002, covering Mick Jones' Stay Free, just Pete, his acoustic guitar and more passion than can be measured.

Stay Free (Live)


Martin said...

Excellent post. Important to remember the truth about Thatcher, especially since it has been airbrushed (blue-washed) by some over time. That list of people she was friends with or admired included one J. Savile too, so clearly not a good judge of character either.

Ernie Goggins said...

Excellent stuff. Thanks.

Swiss Adam said...

Thanks chaps.
Fuck the Tories.

Batfish said...

Nice. I remembe her Education Secretary Keith Joseph visited our High School and the teachers all walked out and went down the pub. I remember the dig deep for the miners stickers everywhere. My mate Mark Davies saying relatives recognising serving Welsh Guards aquaddies in police uniforms on the picket lines. Someone noted that the biggest change she wrought to British politics was to convince the Labour Party not to stand for anything. Still very glad she's still dead