So, Pete Seeger's died on the day I'm heading out to a picket line (though we've been on strike so often recently that the odds were in his favour) which seems appropriate. I've always liked Pete's music. He acquired a reputation for being a bit reactionary because his devotion to folk music purism left him marooned when Dylan went electric: some people say he tried to cut Dylan's guitar lead with an axe, he says that he only wanted to. Amazing, looking back, that such distinctions caused bitterness.
However: one moment of stuffiness against a career of devotion to music, to the working people of the United States and elsewhere, and in which he endured state persecution and critical mockery? Seeger's on the side of the angels, and sometimes sang like one too. Here's one of his, good for a strike day:
Here's one for the UKIP crowd: Seeger's vicious lampooning of Senator Bilbo, also governor of Mississippi, one of the foremost white supremacists of his day, after one of his anti-immigration campaigns.
Lisa Simpson's 'Union Strike Folk Song' is an affectionate parody of Seeger and Guthrie:
Funnily enough, after our strike, we're hosting a talk by Rhian Jones about her book Clampdown: Pop-cultural Wars on Class And Gender. In it, she points out that my entire musical youth (1993-99) was a period of reactionary misogyny and class hatred in which all the good, spiky, autonomous female and working class bands (Kenickie, Elastica, Shampoo, Pulp, Lady Sovereign etc.) were marginalised by the posh, the manufactured arrogance of the Spice Girls and by cartoonish, reductive versions of working-class femininity and masculinity, helped along by the promotion of 'chav'. It's a bit weird, having your youth consigned to History, but it's a bracing and brilliant read. We'll be playing a bit of music and asking what happened to protest music, or just music made by and for its audience rather than dropped from a great height by record labels with little regard for real lives.
Here are some of the gems you may have missed, buried under the Indie Landfill:
PJ Harvey: Sheela-Na-Gig
The Period Pains: Spice Girls
Suede - Animal Nitrate
One of my favourite Pulp singles: My Legendary Girlfriend
Helen Love and Joey Ramone: Punk Boy
Ash - Uncle Pat:
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's lovely Gewn Ni Gorffen
I could go on… and will. But not now. Teaching awaits.