19 Oct, 2008 “We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thaaang!”
“We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thaaang!”
I am artist. I compose, I sing, I write and someday soon enough I suspect will get round to painting, playing both harp and the Swiss style accordion.
I already speak Italian and I am learning Spanish. Americ needs to be conquered and then Hindi as I want to study the Bhagad Vita in its original language. Learning how to tango may have to wait a bit longer, but as sure as eggs is eggs that will happen. As will making a soufflé of the type no woman, even skinny ones with food issues, can resist!
Being an artist above all means I work with thoughts, images, dreams and inspiration. Some I conjure up, others seem to conjure themselves in me as I meditate for days on the brilliant music that Charlie Burchill and others slip my way.
Having published work since the very earliest days of Simple Minds means that I had to very quickly get used to dealing with the opinions of others, especially so when they were unfavourable or set out to damage either wilfully or through ignorance.
There were many of those occurrences but it is true to say that the abuse – when it was abuse, and not mere criticism – came from writers of whom 99% were no longer working in the industry only a few years later.
And did that early critical abuse hurt me? Too right it did! It was excruciating in those days when we were obviously too young to know how to cope. And when did it stop hurting then? The pain reduced dramatically as we stuck to our guns, hit the road and earned ourselves a live reputation and a fanatical following who seemingly cared not a jot for what the critics perceived. To this date that is how it works still with Simple Minds!
But then again that is the thing about having opinions and airing them. Evidently there is always the danger that someone who just does not see it the way in which you do, will misunderstand or take offence at worst. What is one to do then? Say nothing? If so what kind of art is that seeks to says nothing. And how do you, when working within a medium that relies on communicating, just say nothing?
Simple Minds have never been any good at saying nothing whether emotionally or lyrically. One look at our catalogue will find that we roam free and wide, hitting on themes from the fuzzy abstract to the downright deliberate. There was never any cast iron rule in our band, but there was one written large on my heart, and that was. ‘No mug from the outside will ever tell us what to do, say, or how to think.’ And that is still the way we think, particularly so if those mugs happens to be dedicated follower of fascism.
Twenty years ago, some said we should not write songs like Mandela Day and Belfast Child. They used the same logic that was used to ridicule great artists like John Lennon, and Bob Dylan, both were told years before us that musicians and songwriters should stick to their knitting and not get involved in anything that was considered up for grabs as political debate.
We ignored them, and released the songs that featured on our then new album. It went to No1 in countless countries around the world. That is not even remotely the point however. The point is, that we dared to sing about a still incarcerated Mandela being freed and the brutality of apartheid inevitably coming to an end in South Africa. We also sung about a lasting peace one day coming to Northern Ireland, when the scenes in Omagh even some ten years later told you that there was little evidence that would be so.
Nevertheless, should you visit these parts of the world today; I think you will find that we have been proven right within our then young hope and desires. Additionally, those songs of hope that we wrote have come to symbolise more than their original intention and are still sung with great gusto to this day by the fantastic audiences to which we play in every corner of the world.
I am both glad and proud that we had the balls to wear our big beating hearts on our sleeves, when we ignored the voices telling us not to, by letting our music mirror the sentiments reflected in our soul. I am delighted that we would not be silenced either by the record company boss who felt it not in the best commercial interests “to be sticking our heads up above the parapets,” as he put it. I am ecstatic above all that within our album ‘Street Fighting Years’ we used the inspiration that was to be found in the life and work of the Chilean artist and hero, Victor Jara.
A most gifted man who was brutally murdered by government death squads, because he refused to be silenced in his work. To this day I will remember the chill that went through me as I recall his wife Joan describing the fearful conditions under which liberal artists in Santiago were forced to live, and the saddest of all days when she heard that her husband was led away. Never to return!
Last week I wrote about others more recently forced to live under oppression and in fear of the types of persecution that barely makes their lives worth living. No one who knows me should be surprised that sympathetic thoughts live in me,
I come from a socialist background and I along with many others had a grandfather who like so many other young Scots, thought nothing of standing up to the challenge of fascism. On a more personal bent, for over twenty years we have worked with human rights organisations, and only a few months ago stood on stage with a great sense of honour in front of a 90 year old black man who spent most of his good years imprisoned, rather than accept institutionalised racism. He is a man who just like Mahatma Ghandi before him, never knew how to lie down or acknowledge the defeat of his principles or the freedom of his people.
Alternately last week I also wrote about the death of a right wing politician, famous for his views that in my opinion were cowardly and extremely dangerous, particularly in his attitude towards immigrants. While there is obviously nothing at all to be gained from a pointless road accident, the fact is that fascism and its bonkers followers are evidently on the increase and hardly a day passes now without a news story of immigrants being either attacked or killed in both the UK and in mainland Europe. Often the victims are women and children.
To that I ask. What kind is it that finds it appropriate to threaten and physically harm women and kids of immigrant families, illegal or otherwise? Cowards and cowards only, is the answer to that, or at least so in my opinion.
Should anyone and for any reason want to involve me in an argument about that, be guaranteed that you will find me in a mode best described as being doggedly determined and very, very, capable of fixing you straight, verbally or otherwise!