Sunday, 29 September 2013


I love finding a bargain. We have so many charity shops in our town as well as a market, you never know what you might find. On Tuesday and Saturday the market is mostly fruit and vegetables (and is the cheapest place to get your 5-a-day) but Fridays are given over to antiques and flea market junk. It is fun to potter around and see what’s out there. I have a friend who sometimes has a stall on the Friday Market so I went out to see if I could find Peter, but instead I found a bargain.

I had a nosy around the CD stall and I found something I hadn’t thought of in years. The Clash--Combat Rock on CD for £3. I have a long history with the Clash. In 1982 for my thirteenth birthday Brad K bought me the 45 single record of Rock the Casbah.  Does anyone these days even know what I mean when I say vinyl record album and turntable?

I adored the song--the catchy chorus, the slightly unintelligible lyrics, the video (remember this was the early days of MTV back when they actually showed music videos) where an Arab and an Hasidic Jew bonded over rock music whist being inexplicably followed by an armadillo. I loved the way it pushed my Mum’s buttons--she believed that any band that said the word Rock in that tone of voice was probably saying F*ck. Good times.

Later that year I saved up my pocket money and bought Combat Rock on the latest musical innovation--the cassette tape. Man those were great--they were portable--you could record on them and play them back! You could put your tape player next to the radio and wait until they played the song you had requested (in my case Luka by Suzanne Vega) and then press play and get a badly recorded version of poor sound quality with a DJ talking over the music. But you had a copy and were sticking it to the man--you didn’t have to buy the music! Good times. My boyfriend Tim and I used to record music to share (this is how I was introduced to Pink Floyd) on one side of the cassette and then talk on the other in some rambling monologue about things like undying love and Elf Quest. This was before SKYPE people, you did what you had to.  

I recall really being moved by the lyrics of the first song Know Your Rights. I had grown up with social- conscience-political lyrics from the 1960’s but these were the first social-conscience-political lyrics of my generation that I had ever heard. Probably the second one I recall being moved politically by was Beds Are Burning by Midnight Oil. Maybe these song were the beginning of activism for me.

Upon re-listening, I was moved all over again by the lyrics and shocked by how contemporary they still are. Particularly with the recent press coverage about the police cover up during the Hillsborough Distaster. Read about it here: Plus with all the cutback on benefits and welfare the amount of people having to rely on food banks has risen by something like 2000%. There are suddenly a huge number of people being made homeless and going hungry whist our bankers lives in luxury with £1,000,000,000 bonuses-- the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Our Meeting house has worked with other churches to set up a food bank in our town as previously they would have had to travel to Letchworth because  who can afford bus fare or petrol if you can’t buy food?

Here are the lyrics--do you agree that they still feel relevant today?

This is a public service announcement
With guitar
Know your rights all three of them

Number 1
You have the right not to be killed
Murder is a CRIME!
Unless it was done by a
Policeman or aristocrat
Know your rights

And Number 2
You have the right to food money
Providing of course you
Don't mind a little
Investigation, humiliation
And if you cross your fingers

Know your rights
These are your rights

Know these rights

Number 3
You have the right to free
Speech as long as you're not
Dumb enough to actually try it.

Know your rights
These are your rights
All three of 'em
It has been suggested
In some quarters that this is not enough!

Get off the streets
Get off the streets
You don't have a home to go to

Finally then I will read you your rights

You have the right to remain silent
You are warned that anything you say
Can and will be taken down
And used as evidence against you

Listen to this

So maybe the message of the Clash is a good one.

Clash with authority if they lack compassion.

Clash with the system if there is injustice.

Speak up for those who cannot speak.

Speak your truth.

Make some noise.

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