Between the Buttons

Growing up with Thatcher: A Pop Music Perspective

British pop music and British governments go hand in glove, that is up to 1990, when both sides became as vacuous as the other.

In 1964 Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson bestowed upon the Beatles the MBE (Member of the British Empire) for exports sales, and won an election on the back of it. Wilson was probably our luckiest leader, leaving us not so much a country festooned with “white heat technology”, as he promised, but certainly red hot in pop tunes.
Conservative leader Edward Heath ran the country from 1970 -74 under a cloud of Prog Rock, middle of the road smultz and Rod Stewart. Ironic, as Heath was a musician.

Heath gave way to Wilson, back again, and then Jim Callaghan. At this point the seeds of dystopia had been sown as Punk and Ska came flooding in, mocking the country and bemoaning the state of unjust social engineering and unemployment. They targeted both sides of the political fence without naming names, although the magnificent Sex Pistol’s song, “God Save the Queen” with the line ‘And her Fascist regime’ was the closest anyone got.
However, things changed when Margaret Thatcher arrived. While she forced us to look at our miserable apathetic selves, the country’s tunesmiths went into hyper-drive. Bands like The Beat (Stand Down Margaret), The Specials (Ghost Town), The Jam (A Town Called Malice), Billy Bragg (Between the Wars) and The Smiths (pick a song), along with so many, many more singers, flooded the airwaves with pulsating sounds, visions, and lyrics and all slagging off Thatcher and her policies. A coalition of top bands formed ‘The Red Wedge’ and toured the country in 1986 spreading the anti-Thatcher message via gigs and press conferences.

It was a heady time for vitriolic cocktails and Thatcher snarling.

So now she’s gone and her legacy of dividing a nation still lives on. Last week she was voted the most important British leader above Winston Churchill, while at the same time her opponents led a campaign to propel the Wizard of Oz song, ‘Ding-Dong The Witch is Dead’ to No. 2 in the British charts. However, the pro-Thatcherites are fighting back, dusting off an independent single from 1979 by The Not Sensibles called ‘I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher.’ This presently stands at 35 in the British charts.

Whatever you may say about her, whatever you may think of her, the current spate of street parties celebrating her demise, the battle of the pop charts, could be somewhat of a tribute to our Thatcher, that after 23 years she still draws such raw emotions from people.
One Thatcher supporter was quoted recently, “she had done something in politics rather than just been someone in politics.” On this basis I take it we won’t be seeing a repeat showing then for past and present Brit leaders, John Majors, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or David Cameron when they kick the bucket. Maybe just the ‘Sounds of Silence.’