The Blues Muse works his way through Punk in Ireland with rebellion and the troubles.
If ever Punk had been invented for a reason then Ireland was surely it. The ‘Troubles’ had been rumbling on since the turn of the century, had their roots back with Cromwell and even before with William of Orange and then way back to 1609 with the imposition of Protestant Scots into Ireland. In the seventies it had reached the height with bombings, knee-cappings, killings and an insurmountable war waged between the IRA, who wanted a united Ireland under Irish rule, and the British government who wanted British rule for Ulster and the protestant North. As an outsider I looked at it with amazement. It seemed incredible to me that Ireland was suffering such sectarian violence when the people were always so nice and friendly. But then I wasn’t Irish.
I walked through Belfast and it was scary with its barbed wire, bricked off roads, brutal grey despair only brightened by political slogans and defiant gaudy murals celebrating victories, hunger strikes and militia. It looked and felt like a war-zone.
But this was the environment that the kids had grown up in. Segregated, threatened, strip-searched, frisked and with the constant threat of violence and death from all sides.
It was fertile soil for a Punk Band and Ireland had a rich musical history. The wonder is that only two bands really emerged. While the Undertones were good and produced that brilliant ‘Teenage Kicks’ which was one of John Peel’s favourites, they never really dealt with the politics. They left that up to the other of Peelies favourites – Stiff Little Fingers.
I could only imagine the bravery of those young lads as they bellowed their fury at both sides and hit out at the stupid violence, repression and threats that they were subjected to. They made no distinction. Nobody has put it better.
It took guts to stand up to the IRA and tell them they had a suspect device, to harangue the British Army for their disrespect and disdain and to ignore the very real threats and warnings. They literally took their life in their hands for their music and held out for a vision of a better future.
Where the Sex Pistols talked of ‘No Future’ they sang about an ‘Alternative Ulster’. Instead of joining in with the politics of separation and hatred they sang about ‘Barbed Wire Love’ and hit out at racism in ‘White Noise’. This was my kind of music. It hit the heart, head and glands. It had substance, balls and quality. Punk didn’t come much better.
I watched them play in Belfast. They had ignored threats from the IRA, talk of a bust by the Brits and carried on through a bomb threat. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They were young kids but they played their hearts out and Jake’s voice was hoarse and in ribbons by the end, the young kids in the hall packed it out and threw themselves around with gusto. Stiff Little Fingers were putting all their frustrations and anger into words and power chords. Nobody did it better.
This was what Rock music had always been about – rebellion!
If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:
In the UK:
In the US:
For all other countries please check out your local Amazon outlet.