I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I liked The Beatles. They entertain me, which I suppose is as much as you can ask from any band.
But, as I think about it, they’re a league apart from the music that really makes me tick. I remember discovering Bob Marley when I was 18, unfortunately he’d already died. But he sang very politically-charged songs. The injustice of this, the unfairness of that. Quite rapidly, I got everything he’d ever released – on Island anyway. I mean, he saw a problem of black vs. white, whereas I’ve concluded that the problem is more rich vs. poor, an economic one, but then I’ve seen more of life than he did, and he lived in a very different world to the one I do. I mean, it helped that I took to the reggae music he sang – that led me to several black English bands like Aswad, who were quite happy to sing about the injustices they felt in the London ghettos, at least in their early days. Even anti-apartheid stuff (yes, apartheid was very much alive and kicking in those days!) from UB40 and Eddy Grant, although with these it was very much individual songs rather than following everything the band produced. So, there was a distinct “political” link.
Very different music, but the same political link, I listened to an album by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band this morning, and I’m a silly old sod these days so it brought a tear to my eye. To me, and probably anyone older, brass band music just evokes the coal mines, and of course the Miners’ Strike of 1984, how an industry was destroyed by a few politicians to make a point. And, of course, the desolation that subsequently followed in pit areas. A brass band is a real working-man’s thing. Tony Benn used to say that his favourite film was “Brassed Off”, a fictionalised story based, I think, on Grimethorpe Colliery Band. And I can see why, it evokes all those things that are good abour the labour movement. It is one of my regrets that I never got to one of the miners’ galas up north. We have an annual festival not too far from here, commemorating the Tolpuddle Martyrs. I’ve cycled out to Tolpuddle but it is unreachable these days. Another regret. But I do think it is important to have these galas, and to keep the link there to remind us all of the struggle we still face.