Given the behaviour of the thugs who’ve been intimidating politicians and journalists on the streets of London, I thought it might be a good moment to look back at a more civilised form of political protest: six songs about Margaret Thatcher – none flattering.
1. Black Boys On Mopeds (Sinéad O’Connor)
From I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990, remastered 2009)
The condemnation of Thatcher is clear from the reference to Tiananmen Square at the outset:
Margaret Thatcher on TV
Shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing
It seems strange that she should be offended
The same orders are given by her…
Yet even so, this is more a song about the state-of-the-nation than an anti-Thatcher tirade. The reference in the title is to Nicholas Bramble – a 21 year-old man who was killed in 1989 whilst being pursued by police who’d (wrongly) assumed that he was riding a stolen moped.
2. Thatcherites (Billy Brag)
This recording from Bloke on Bloke (1997)
Just one of several anti-Thatcher songs that Bragg – a political activist if ever there was one – built his career on.
You Thatcherites by name, your faults, I will proclaim…
Too much anger? Perhaps. Then again, as this piece in The Brooklyn Rail points out
“It was a time before blogging, tweeting, and social networking when, if you were angry and wanted to speak to your own generation or your parents’, the way you would do it was by writing songs.”
3. Tramp The Dirt Down (Elvis Costello)
From Spike (1989)
Let’s let Costello speak for himself…
The song’s not a party political broadcast, there’s no manifesto. It just says, ‘I’ll only be happy when this woman’s dead.’
And some people no doubt might find that extreme. But it’s meant to be. I make no apology for that song. It’s an honest emotional response to events, and writing it was like casting out demons or something.
Read more here.
4. More Tea, Margaret (Robb Johnson)
This recording from Margaret Thatcher: My Part In Her Downfall (2000)
Johnson was part of the 1980s agitprop trio, Ministry of Humour, and although his politics is clear, his songs have their own brand of a caustic charm…
More tea, Margaret?
And would you like one lump of six?
With your conviction politics
You’d probably want the whole bowl…
…and so on.
5. Shipbuilding (Robert Wyatt)
From EPs (1982, remastered 1998)
Written by Clive Langer, with lyrics by Elvis Costello, Shipbuilding was released in the aftermath of the Falklands War. As Robert Sandall writes in this article in the Daily Telegraph…
Shipbuilding offered an uncomfortable reminder to a country still celebrating victory in the South Atlantic that things at home were not looking good for the communities whose young men had done most of the fighting.
A haunting, melancholic song.
6. My Way (Frank Sinatra)
From the album My Way (1969)
This is a red herring, of course. In fact, I don’t suppose Sinatra had heard of the Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher MP when he recorded My Way back in the late 1960s. What’s it doing on this list, then? Well, it wasn’t supposed to be here at all. You see, I’d planned to slip Morrissey’s Margaret On The Guillotine into this slot. But I’m afraid as much as I admire Morrissey’s edginess, the song isn’t the most uplifting note to end a blog post on.
Much better to lighten the tone. And so here’s Margaret singing My Way (with a little help from Steve Nallon).