Good to see that Rage Against the Machine got the Xmas No 1 ahead of the latest in a succession of talent-show creations from the Cowell stable.

I downloaded the Killing in the Name… this week, and donated a couple of quid to Shelter via the campaign’s link: which I would encourage anyone to do because they do a lot of great work for the homeless and it’s below freezing outside this Christmas. Over £72,000 has already been donated, and I heard that the band will add any profits from the single over Xmas to that, which is fantastic.

It was after that I heard in the news that David Cameron was praising Simon Cowell, which just gave me another reason to hope RATM won.

Ewan MacColl

Last week, I went up to Salford, the city right next to Manchester, to the tribute to Ewan MacColl, who died just over 20 years ago. Born James Miller into a working class Scots couple who’d relocated to Broughton to escape a blacklist, he left school at 14 just as the 1930s depression was kicking in. He got involved in music, acting and playwriting, as well as left wing politics from a young age.

In terms of his music, he’s probably best known for his part in the British folk revival. He collected hundreds of traditional songs from Scotland and from other parts of Britain, recording new versions of them and rescuing many from obscurity. He also wrote prodigiously, and many of the songs he wrote became folk standards (often to the point that many people think they are far older). He also produced many protest songs, some of which became anthems for particular groups.

The three most famous songs he wrote are The Manchester Rambler, written around the time of the Kinder Scout mass trespasses of the 1930s, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, written for Peggy Seeger who he had an affair with in the 1950s and who later became his wife, and Dirty Old Town, written as a filler for a play but adopted by countless Irish bands (despite the ‘Old Town’ of the title being Salford, rather than Dublin as is commonly assumed).

Politically, he was for most of his life a communist. He even wrote songs extolling the virtues of the likes of Stalin and Ho Chi Minh. Despite that dubious allegiance, his politics did have a positive side – he was a long time peace campaigner and supporter of trade unions and civil liberties, and always held the cause of the common man and woman as paramount.

So, at the concert there were plenty of folkies, peaceniks and lefties. Peggy Seeger performed several songs, including The First Time… and The Joy of Living, which were incredibly powerful – the latter was written shortly before Ewan MacColl died as a farewell to the people and places he loved, and the only other time I saw it performed was around that time when he and Peggy played at the Hawth in Crawley.

There were other stalwarts of the ‘Critics Group’, the tightly knit collective of performers and writers who worked in London from the 1960s, and in which MacColl was instrumental. There were also some younger artists, including a particularly earnest American-Scot who writes lots of peace songs, and Jez Lowe, a sardonic and entertaining songwriter from County Durham.

The audience were encouraged to join in (which is not always that relaxing or tuneful, but did create a friendly atmosphere), and at the end everyone joined in with The Manchester Rambler – made all the more authentic with the dominance of the local accent producing the odd “Man-chus-TOH” in the chorus.

What struck me about it, coming as it did a few days after the fuss about the BNP appearing on Question Time, was that this was an event which was celebrating the life of a ‘white working class’ Briton, in a room filled with white British people, revelling in the sounds of traditional English, Scottish and Irish music and song.

Yet I can bet anything that not one of the people in that room would have any truck with the fascist BNP. What’s more, I bet they’d have had no time for MacColl, even if he’s done more to revitalise traditional English/British working class culture than any of that bunch have managed.

Smelled the spring on the sulfured wind

Just got back from seeing the Ewen MacColl tribute concert in Salford. I’ll write a longer post about it, but for now I have just one question:

Why didn’t they play Dirty Old Town?

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None more black

This weekend I had a mate up to stay, so he could sample the many and varied Rugby pubs, and so we could catch up after several months of only the odd chat over the net. He was dumped recently, and so it was also a means to get away from things after a period of stress.

Anyway, he’s far more of a committed metalhead than I am, and far more of a gamer (so he’s obsessed with Guitar Hero: Metallica and showed off how much more practice he’s had than I have). He told me about a forthcoming game that will be out on the xbox next month:

Brutal Legend (with an umlaut over the ‘u’!) sees you take on the role of a roadie to rock and metal bands who is transported into a weird dimension where he has to do battle with the forces of evil using the power of metal. Leading groups of headbanging fans, playing little solos, using amps and guitars to power weaponry…

Basically, it sounds about as metal as you can get. Can’t wait.

The first rule of Book Club

I’ve been curious about joining a book club or reading group for a while, but I wasn’t sure if they’d be too formal/pretentious/middle class/girlie for me. The Crawley branch of Ottakars (when there was one), had a book club that looked pretty interesting, but it met on the wrong night for me to get to, and I kind of let the idea drop.

When I went to the Labour Party meeting a couple of weeks ago, I was told that a few members had started up a group this summer and all were welcome. So, with my evenings spare, I went along to see what it was all about.

I hadn’t time to get hold of, let alone read, the last book: Alan Judd‘s The Kaiser’s Last Kiss. It had mixed reviews from those who had read it, but it’s a fairly short book and it’s about a quirky point in history (when the Nazis invade Holland and set up a guard around the old Kaiser). Over the next six weeks, I have to read two books (both now on order). Firstly the Booker nominated The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (not my usual cup of tea, but it’s set near Rugby and the whole point is to read something different, I guess). After that, it’s Mitch Albom‘s Tuesdays with Morrie, which is based on conversations between the author and his old teacher as they met many years later.

We also read some poetry. Well, the others read poetry. A bit of Keats, Carroll, Jenny Joseph, Burns… I don’t really read poetry – a lot of the time I just don’t get it. But what I do like is song lyrics, which are essentially in the form of poetry. So, I memorised these lines:

What do you mean, I don’t believe in God?
I talk to him every day.
What do you mean, I don’t support your system?
I go to court when I have to.
What do you mean, I can’t get to work on time?
I got nothing better to do
And, what do you mean, I don’t pay my bills?
Why do you think I’m broke?

Which is the opening verse to Peace Sells by Megadeth.

Rocking out

While I was away, it was my birthday. When I got back I was able to get my main present (thanks, Jas!) which was Guitar Hero – Metallica for the Xbox.


I love GH as a game, but this was great! The game starts striaght in with the old classic For Whom the Bell Tolls, and straight away I was pretending to be Kirk Hammett and wishing I still had the hair I cut off ten years ago.

As well as Metallica tracks, there are songs by a host of other bands, and one favourite is Albatross by Corrosion of Conformity. If they’d have put Vote With a Bullet on there it would have been perfect, but it’s not far off right there.

Yeah, I love metal from the 80s and early 90s – I don’t think you ever really lose the feeling for music you have at about 18-19, and those were the days of Alice In Chains, Warrior Soul, Love/Hate and a host of bands that no-one growing up now will have a clue about.

So now I’m a slighly porky bloke in my mid thirties with very short hair, I’d look a twat trying to relive my youth in Jilly’s Rockworld (a club in Manchester). With the curtains closed I can get the xbox out and get a nostalgia fest on though…

Love Music, Hate Fascism

Yesterday I went up to the Crawley Mela at the Hawth. The event has been running for many years, and brings people in from all over Crawley and the surrounding area, from all parts of the community. Primarily based on the South Asian festivals, there was lots of lovely spicy food, music and dancing from many cultures. I took a few pictures which (If I can figure out how to get them out of my phone) might get posted later.

Wealden Unite Against Fascism shared a stall with the long-established Crawley Campaign Against Racism and the local Interfaith Network. We gain some new members, but the main aim was to get the name out and to get exposure. One way to do this was to give out stickers to as many Mela-goers as possible. Most people were happy to wear the purple badges.

A few were less so. While most councillors who were there were happy to be associated with the UAF, including the Tory Leader of the council, Bob Lanzer, the Deputy Leader, Duncan Crow pointedly refused to keep one on.

[error corrected]

Warrior Soul – The Losers

This one’s for the beautiful people….

The artist is not there to be worshipped or adored. They’re there to be enjoyed. The audience is not there to be politely asked to buy the T-shirts, to be patted on the head and to go home. The audience is a part of the artist. They’re friends. Allies. A show is a rock’n’roll ritual. The bands are the witchdoctors, the medicine men, the wise men. The band entice, preach, encourage, unite, excite …

— vocalist Kory Clarke in Kerrang! magazine, 1991

(Hat tip: Blank Crisis)

Warrior Soul – The Wasteland

Saw Kory Clarke at Camden Underworld last week. He’s still got it, and he still hates Republicans.

Check out his new band, too: Dirty Rig

808 State vs MC Tunes – The Only Rhyme That Bites ’99

As I’m on a YouTube kick tonight, here’s a bit more. MC Tunes went on to form the Dust Junkys, who as far as I can tell only put one album out, but it was a winner.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any DJ videos, so you’ll have to put up with 808 State.

Meanwhile, check out MC Tunes’ site: Nicky Lockett