How Margaret Thatcher changed pop culture for ever!


For someone whose favourite song is apparently and, rather bizarrely, ‘How Much Is That Doggy In the Window’ Margaret Thatcher’s influence on music was pretty big.

Can there ever have been a British politican that inspiredso many people! The right wing tyrant who believed that there no such thing as society Margaret Thatcher was, for many artists, a muse and an inspirational force in the mideighties music scene.

   Many musicians were up in arms by the swing to theright, some even organised a movement to try and influence ‘the kids’ into voting against her and whilst Red Wedge was, on paper, a great idea- in practise it sent morepeople scurrying away from the ballot box than even theLabour leadership’s disastrous fumbling attempts tocombat the Tory Reich.

   Far more effective were the never ending series of songs from many of the punk and post punk generation who now really had something to sing about.   

  In the late seventies the 2-Tone movement combined skaand punk with a celebration of left wing idealogy that culminated in The Beat’s ‘Stand Down Margaret’, a song that was hilariously misunderstood by top Tory Ed Vaizey who could not believe that anyone would diss his idol

Maggie and presumed the song must be about PrincessMargaret- and these people want to run our country!

   Whilst the mainstream popstars ponced around on yachts or in their new romantic finery in videos the underground seethed to the vehement anti Thatcher anger of Crass or the Angelic Upstarts, the poetry of Linten Kwesi Johnson, Half Man Half Biscuit’s sardonic wit, the ‘coal not dole’ miners benefits that we all played in the mid eighties,  The Specials cover of Dylan’s  ‘Maggie’s Farm’ which twisted the song with a new updated meaning, Heaven 17’s ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing’  touched on the same sort ofdissatisfaction and as if to show the international venomreserved for the dislikeable leader was just as strong there was Welsh language band Daffyd Iwan a’r Band song ‘Magi Thatcher.’

And the songs have kept coming with  ‘Thatcher F*cked the Kids’  from Frank Turner, and the Forlorn Hope’s rather mean  ‘Gonna Laugh When Margaret Thatcher Dies’. 

   There was also bigger names like Billy Bragg, the Redskins, Elvis Costello, the Housemartins bringing their lyrical pop politics to the charts. Meanwhile Richard Thompson was agitating along with a whole bunch of English folk singers adding to a huge list of songs that mention Margaret Thatcher from the last quarter of a century including Terry Edward’s ‘Margaret Thatcher, We Still Hate Her’, Robert Wyatt’s classic ‘Shipbuilding’, the sardonic Hard Skin’s recent  ‘Still Fighting Thatcher’ and an endless list of names including the angriest band ever, Conflict, loveable indie duo Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, poet and troubadour Attila the Stockbroker and of courseMorrissey’s succinct  ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’

  Finally how could we forget the Not Sensibles sneering and hilarious ‘I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher’ a DIY punk classic of the early eighties thatplayed dumb whilst making its sarcastic, singalong point.

  Whilst many doubt the effectiveness of all this pop polemic- especially in the light of David Cameron’s much mooted love of the Smiths and the Jam’s ‘Eton Rifles’- a love that somehow made an astonishing oversight on the lyrical front proving how easy it is to avoid the social commentary if you want to.

  Whilst Thatcher and her cronies danced around her handbag the eighties agit pop crews tapped into the very strong feeling of the UK streets and were celebrated as a rearguard reaction by the non Tory rump in those bleak times.

One Response to How Margaret Thatcher changed pop culture for ever!

  1. And although all of those have stayed with me, it’s a couple of lines from Costello’s “Tramp The Dirt Down” that I turn to when trying to sum up the viciousness under discussion. It’s about a photo op with a child whose pain she is oblivious to:

    “Can you imagine all that greed and avarice/coming down on that child’s lips?”

    The idea of the least and most helpless of us being turned to political purpose (cf. Sarah Palin) by way of their trust nauseates something deep and profound in us and neatly frames the moral bankruptcy of conservatism.

    I am disappointed, however, not to see a mention of the ode to Breakfast that the wife and I frequently sang during this period, “Eatin’ Waffles.”

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