I was tempted to post the lyrics and call this done.
The economic devastation brought about by the policies of those in power in the 1980s may not have been anything new, but the scale of the damage and the long preceding period without such widespread pain created a new dynamic in the us vs. them storytelling that feeds most politics and all power grabs.
The intersection of punk and reggae now seems inevitable- two musical styles inspired by pain, anger, and deprivation. In some ways, punk is derived from looking inward and reggae from looking outward, which may explain the discomfort engendered by punk performers and the rhapsody created by reggae artists. Nevertheless, the music of both was born of personal experience.
Moreover, the major waves of musical styles which have taken over popular music have all arisen from the disenfranchised. Others have discussed the desire of the enfranchised to co-opt the art of the less fortunate, but I have never entirely accepted the notion that marketers in board rooms are so much sitting around looking around for some suffering cultural group that can be ripped off. I do think they are probably looking for whatever might have reached a critical mass as well as appear ready-made for corporate packaging and mass marketers care not from whence it comes.
And yes, this is ska, not reggae. All right, to be specific, this is 2 Tone. I bring this up because that’s how we circle back around to marketing. All definitions applied to art are marketing. Musicians talk in rhythm, feel, key and such when they want to talk about how they are going to play a piece of music. When they are talking about blues or soul, that’s for the consumer’s benefit. The Dadaists had a manifesto and even applied the term to themselves, but the coinage has more value in the auction house nowadays than as a working term among practicing artists. For that matter, a quick glance at the manifesto and you might think the signatories saw the term as a marketing gimmick.
Why all this focus here on co-opting art and marketing? Because it is very hard to rise above the morass and make a political statement once you achieve success. While any artist runs the danger of having their intended message being completely misunderstood, far more controversial statements are buried by the desire not to offend. Consider that any statement must make it past the artist’s self-censorship, the discouraging statements with a direct influence on the creation of the art, and the powers that control the communication channels for that art.
Somehow, The Beat, on a recording sold through major sales outlets, still managed to call for the resignation of the Prime Minister of their country. Sure, people say all kinds of things on social media these days, but people were less publicly vocal (or maybe they just spouted while driving as yelling inside cars seems like the best analog to social media). The truth is things were a lot worse. Unemployment is currently more than a percentage point lower. Violent crime has dropped by a third since 1980. Today, we spout bile from perches of privilege and ignorance while coalescing around like-minded thinkers who have been packaged and preened for our easy digestion.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 236 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.