Not long after last months playlist appeared on Spotify and Sharemyplaylist, Holly got a comment on her blog post complimenting her on her taste and asking for some Billie Holiday next time. Being an obliging sort of person, I made a mental note of this as I was drifting in a jazz sort of direction musically at that point, and had just begun to start thinking about this months playlist.
(For the Sharemyplaylists link, please click here)
I’d taken the Specials Ghost Town as my starting point for the playlist as I intended to use it to mark the 30th Anniversary of the 1981 UK Riots, little knowing that a brand new series of riots were about to kick off.
Less than a week after July’s playlist made its debut, and mere days after the request for a Billie Holiday track, Amy Winehouse died. That Winehouse was oft compared to Holiday in regard to her singing technique and, alas, her drug and drink habits has been mentioned so often it has become a cliché, so bearing this in mind I’ve strived to keep Holiday and Winehouse apart as much as possible because it felt simply maudlin to place them next to each other.
I also feel very defensive about including Ghost Town in the light of recent events. Released in June 1981, Ghost Town was number one in the charts when Toxteth erupted that July. Whilst I don’t feel it’s fair to compare the riots of 1981 to the riots of 2011, in both cases 1 riot led to another, and in ’81 six weeks of rioting in Toxteth led to further riots in Moss Side, Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, Preston, Blackburn, Sheffield, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Stockport, Ellesmere Port, Chester, Wood Green, Woolwich, Stoke Newington, Lewisham, Balham, Fulham, and Brixton. Prior to Toxteth erupting Brixton had erupted in the April, and in April ’80 Bristol had erupted. Much as rap music has recently been accused of causing the August ’11 riots The Specials song was accused by politicians at the time of inflaming the situation, and of making things worse.
Moving back to 2011, it was a mere week before the Pendleton estate in Salford and Manchester city centre erupted when was announced that a 1981 commemorative event was to take place in Moss Side on August 14th as part of the Caribbean carnival, so I was clearly not the only person thinking about past civil disorders this month. I had intended to blog about this event but got somewhat sidetracked by recent events and other work which was a real shame because it sounded like it was going to be a really good event.
So, to sum up, this might seem a slightly odd playlist this month, and this probably seems like an equally odd blog post, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Incidentally, and I expect it’s common knowledge, but this month we are perhaps in danger of forgetting that rap music today or Ghost Town in 1981 are far from the first musical genres or songs to ever be accused of glamorising lawlessness, violence, or both. Many radio stations in the US refused to play Link Ray’s instrumental Rumble when it was released in 1958 because the term rumble was slang for gang fight, and the track was seen to reflect that. Swing in the ’40s and earlier had links to youthful resistance of both a positive and destructive nature, and prior to that Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring prompted a riot upon its premiere in Paris in 1913. There are many more examples.
(Picture of midi hi-fi authors own)