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Virtual Trouser says coal not dole

By culture editor DJ NRG Raver

Posted June 03, 2013
anti-thatcher music
Thatcher's bloody Britain: Remember the 1981 Brixton Riots? We do. (Check bottom for credit)

You might not have liked Thatcher much but her monetarist policies certainly got the country's musicians off their arses.

Welcome again to Virtual Trouser, the functioning offshoot of Naked Trouser, the once-legendary, now-mythical Poznań alternative music night.

Thanks to this column and websites such as YouTube, you can now listen to the tunes associated with a typical Trouser night in the comfort of your very own mansion, town house or dilapidated squat.

And to mark the recent passing of Margaret Thatcher, we look at her unique musical legacy as manifested in the work of hundreds of groups spanning the full range of genres who united to denounce her government and policies.

Of course, to many people the Iron Lady was a saviour and the UK's greatest peacetime Prime Minister.

But, as the Clash sang in Clampdown, "anger can be power", so naturally it was the 'glass-half-empty' types who had the louder voice.

Punks like Crass (Sheep Farming in the Falklands, Gotcha and How Does It Feel to Be the Mother of a Thousand Dead), Anti-Pasti (No Government) and the Exploited (Maggie You C--t) were always going to be critical, whilst the displeasure of ska/reggae bands, such as the Beat (Stand Down Margaret), the Specials (Ghost Town) and UB40 (One in Ten) was also predictable.

What was special about Thatcher, though, was the way she attracted the ire of most of the mainstream pop and rock groups as well, thereby arguably shaping the whole sound of the 1980s.

Everyone from Heaven 17 (We Don't Need This Fascist Grove Thang) to Frankie Goes to Hollywood (Two Tribes) to Simply Red (She'll Have to Go) to Scritti Politti (I can't remember any protest songs but I always liked The Word Girl) had something to say.

And that's without getting into any of the more credible acts, like Elvis Costello (Tramp the Dirt Down'), the Smiths/Morrissey (Margaret on the Guillotine) or Billy Bragg (anything really, including Thatcherites and Between the Wars).

UK miners' strike of 1984–85
Scabs and pickets: And who could possibly forget the 1984-5 miners' strike, eh? (Check bottom for credits)

However, to really get the feel of mid-Maggie anger-pop, listen to Our Favourite Shop, the second album by Bragg's anti-Thatcher Red Wedge co-founders, the Style Council.

Formed by Paul Weller after the break-up of the Jam (check out Eton Rifles, Happy Together and That's Entertainment), with Mick Talbot of Dexy's Midnight Runners on Hammond organ, the Council packaged their hard-nosed politics with light, optimistic melodies and classic 80s groove-work.

The opening tracks Homebreakers and All Gone Away discuss the 'on yer bike' solution to the then rampant unemployment espoused by hardcase minister Norman Tebbit, a "semi house-trained pole cat" endearingly known to one and all as 'the Chingford Skinhead'.

Come to Milton Keynes, on the other hand, attacks Conservative middle-England as typified by the Buckinghamshire new town famous for its Concrete Cows.

After the reflective A Stone's Throw Away and Bernard Manning 'tribute' The Stand Up Comic's Instructions (with Lenny Henry on vocals), come such leftie favourites as The Lodgers (She Was Only a Shopkeeper's Daughter) and With Everything to Lose.

After the funky instrumental title-track, penned by the band's gifted drummer Steve White, the album climaxes (depending on what release version you bought with your meagre dole money) with the rousing hit single Shout to the Top and the proletarian anthem Walls Come Tumbling Down, complete with video shot behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, the grim capital of then still communist Poland.

So it's on with the donkey jacket, out with the megaphone and down with the North-South Divide.

All together now: "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie....."

And now for your particular pleasure, embedded from the VEVO DailyMotion channel (their YouTube one won't let us play it), here's the aforementioned video for Walls Come Tumbling Down.

But the anti-Thatch toe tapping doesn't stop there because now, thanks to Punkforbrains' YouTube channel, here's the Exploited. Be warned, though, because the following song does contain the occassional smidgen of strong language. Yeah, man. Unlike the Wicked Witch, punk's not dead!

See also Maggie Thatcher snuffs it, posted 8/4/13, and Virtual Trouser gets rutted, posted 18/1/13.

The original version of this article first appeared in Point Blank Poznan. Cheers, Steg. There's a load of orange peel and bacon rind going spare if you want it.

Picture credits

Top: A scene during a lull in the 1981 Brixton Riots by Kim Aldis.

Bottom and thumb: Illustration by Ignatius Rake using original images by Simon Speed; Williams; Nick from Bristol, UK; and

For licensing information click the above links.

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