There's an interview with The Levellers in today's Guardian. If you don't know them, they were (are) a punk-folk band who were hugely popular in the early-to-mid nineties, following in the paths of bands like Mega City 4, New Model Army and the Dogs D'Amour, adding a heady dose of genuinely counter-cultural traveller anarchism. I always distrusted them politically - lyrics like 'there's only one way of life, and that's your own' could easily slip into intolerance - but they did represent a period in which music was tribal and hugely politicised.
The Tory government spent years trying to smash up the travellers (legally by banning festivals with 'repetitive beats' and literally on occasions such as the Battle of the Beanfield police riot). The Levellers (named after some of my favourite lefties from the Civil War period) were the guitars and violins side of the free rave culture that was massive then, before music became even more corporate.
I was always more into the Welsh indie-psych bands like Gorky's and Super Furries, and pre-Britpop bands like Boo Radleys, Ride and the Stone Roses, pioneers like Stereolab and romantic oddities like Tindersticks, but the fierceness of the crusties was admirable. Despite my utter, utter hatred of didgeridoos played by public-school kids called Tarquin, there was a pride in a genuinely alternative way of life. I saw the Levellers because I was made to escort one of my sisters to a gig - I was much more impressed by Credit to the Nation, tiny teenage rapper from the Black Country. In my first year at university I saw hippy psychedelic electronic pioneers Ozric Tentacles (top ten album in 1993!), anarchists Chumbawamba before they signed to a major label and lost it massively, and Crusty/Fraggle band Back to the Planet. On all occasions, I was drunk and gullible enough to buy their cassette tapes (!). A sober morning's playback taught me the error of my ways, and they've remained unplayed.
I do still admire their stances. Shame about the music though…
Lots of names are flooding back. Galliano. Senser. Senseless Things. Urge Overkill. Gallon Drunk. Carter USM, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, The Mock Turtles, The Soup Dragons, The Bridewell Taxis, Catchers (swoon), Dubh Chapter, The Chameleons, … the unfashionable, loveable wing of indie. I hardly ever listen to them, but love the fact they existed at all. Right now I've got Sebadoh playing.
Here's a taste of the crusty/fraggle lot. I'll save the others for another day.