Monday, June 09, 2008

Music and the new politics...

Music has for many decades been intertwined with politics and in 2008, given the rather different and yet complementary situations in the UK and the USA, I reckon it looks like being a splendid year.
We know in rough terms what Gordon Brown and David Cameron like, in music at least, because they have said as much in radio interviews. We know that Tony Blair played guitar and that Bill Clinton played saxophone, but as far as I know we know little about the music preferences of either John McCain or Barack Obama.

Music is very unlikely to directly influence national politics, but it is not to be disregarded. The opposite assertion is not however quite so obvious. Political change, or even a sense of disaffection, can easily do that. One could argue that the rise of punk, at least in the UK, was equally symptom and phenomenon. The payback came a few years later, with a rising resentment at having our lives dictated by government, which is somehow becoming resonant once again. I don't smoke, I never have, and I don't like being in a smoke filled space. I'm not given to playing card games either. If I lack one vice it is gambling - not for reasons of morality but simply because it holds no appeal for me. That doesn't mean I'm averse to making predictions and I can fully appreciate the sentiment that was captured on this album cover in 1980.

Sometimes rebellion is important...

The sentiment reappeared, with a different focus, some years later in northwestern America and Canada, but also elsewhere and certainly not least in Britain. When it comes to it these days few acts have the vision, but then they never did, and fewer still are able to take the risk even in a democracy, when it comes to setting themselves against the political establishment. Here are two that, despite some tough times, have done America proud.

They were no longer angry young men, rather seasoned veterans, and in 2004 this album was to prove a defining moment, not only for Green Day, but also for north American music.

In fact the reverberations went back further than that.

In 2005 they played two concerts in Milton Keynes Bowl, England, on successive nights and the 72000 tickets for each show all sold within two hours; these remain the fastest selling UK single-artist concerts to date.
A little earlier, in 2003, another rather different act was to court controversy, while touring in the UK, and with alarming results back home.

They were starting a live gig in London when Natalie Maines suddenly made that infamous announcement, just after the beginning of the second Iraq war. It was the start of troubled times but, once the tide had changed, they returned triumphant with the utterly uncompromising and unrepentant album 'Taking The Long Way'. That they wiped the floor at the 2007 Grammy Awards, winning five, and in doing so were also the first act to win 'Best Album' and 'Best Country Album' simultaneously, says a great deal.

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