Tuesday, 3 December 2013

My Top Ten Strike Songs

I've been on strike today for the first time in my life. I managed 41 years without ever going on strike; I've been a full time teacher just over a month and already I'm unionised and refusing to cross the picket line. Billy Bragg would be proud.... which probably gives away this week's Number One.

Special mention to the Flying Pickets... obviously.

10. Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger - Daddy, What Did You Do In The Strike?

Perhaps one day Sam will ask me this question. Perhaps I'll point him to this post.

The song itself... you won't hear a better chronicle of the darkest days of the 1980s.

9. Strike Anywhere - You're Fired!

Very loud but extremely apt.

Hopefully the name of the band won't lead me to the title of the song.

8. Elvis Costello - Clown Strike

I hate clowns, so they can stay on bloody strike for all I care. 

7. Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union

Perhaps not about that kind of union, but what it lacks in relevance it makes up for in passion. And any song that mixes Bruce Springsteen with Billy Bragg gets my vote every time...
No, I never wanted to change the world, but I'm looking for a new New Jersey
Because tramps like us, baby, we were born to die
6. Ry Cooder - Strike!

Lots of songs about striking miners... couldn't find any about striking teachers.

We've got it easy, to be honest.

5. Manic Street Preachers - A Design For Life

Growing up in Wales, the Manics were hit hard by the miners' strike. Their biggest hit was inspired by it... and they're still angry (referencing the Battle of Orgreave) on their excellent new album, Rewind The Film.

4. The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again

Yes, yes, this is also somewhat off-topic... but you didn't really think I was going to leave it out, did you?

3. Billy Joel - Allentown

Even the union can't help the inhabitants of Allentown. For anyone who dismisses Billy as a balladeer, here he's as angry at his country as Springsteen on Born In The USA. Great song.

2. Pulp - The Last Day Of The Miners' Strike

Coming from South Yorkshire, Jarvis will have seen the worst effects of the miner's strike firsthand too. Working in Barnsley, I'm reminded of it regularly. Those scars are still raw.
Well by 1985, I was as cold a cold could be
But no-one was underground to dig me out and set me free
'87 socialism gave way to socialising 

So put your hands up in the air once more
The north is rising
1. Billy Bragg - There Is Power In A Union

Sharing its title with a song written in 1913 by Joe Hill (presumably not Stephen King's son... unless time travel or supernatural naughtiness are involved), Billy's version sounded defiant against Thatcherism in the 80s... but is it a forlorn hope today?
Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws cannot defeat us
But who'll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackies out to cheat us?

Those were my striking anthems. Which one would cross your picket line?


  1. Lean On Me by The Redskins, or its b-side Unionize. That would do me.

  2. Duran Duran - The Union of the Snake. Although this is not to be read at all as a political comment. Much like Duran Duran's entire back catalogue.

    1. Was considered. Was also rejected. ;-)

  3. I'm racking my brains trying to remember a track that came out during the miners strike. It had a picture of malcom X on the sleeve and was called "Strike". Been scowlling the internet but cant find it. Cant rember the name of the band but it was early days of sampling and had a sample of Scargill saying: "When workers are on strike. You don't cross the picket line." over a kind of paul hardcastle n-n-n-nineteen beats

    1. No, doesn't ring any bells, I'm afraid, LL... but let me know if you track it down. Thanks for dropping by.


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