I always like the word Revolution. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention and my ears prick up with the intent to be inspired. I also like protest and it always makes me hum “power to the people”. Yet modern revolution seems to be in vain, long gone are the days of the civil rights sit-ins and the gay pride marches both of which got results. I can’t help but wonder why? Modern protests aren’t really doing anything different so why is there no change? I think a recap of worldwide protests is in order, along with the music that helped inspire them. After all every great movement had an accompanied soundtrack.
The 1960’s were all about peace, free love, anti-war and expanding your mind. Fueled by the music of two of the most inspirational music artists ever to live, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Bob Dylan especially did a lot for the civil rights movement in America very often playing these pro civil rights gigs which being a very popular white act at the time brought white media and focus to the movement this along with many sit-ins, protests, demonstrations and courage from beautiful beings such as Rosa Parks who inspired the 1955 bus boycott made The Civil Rights acts of 1964 & 1968 happen, outlawing discrimination of people based on color or creed and allowing people from all walks of life to have equal opportunities (except the gays we’ll have to wait another 20 years and then some for that to get moving but we’ll get to that). All cogs in the civil rights machine, all of which had an equally important job to do.
Then on to the 70’s, which did not disappoint in the U.K. with the punk movement inspired by The Sex Pistols, The Clash and in America The Ramones and New York Dolls. Although I think that U.K. punk was more punk than American, America sort of glammed it up a bit and wasn’t as anti-establishment as its English counterpart. This was music that inspired a generation of people to say; “Fuck you government!” which can’t be a bad thing can it? And this all from a corporately put together band like The Sex Pistols that were seen as a money making band rather than a revolutionary.
To the 80’s and to the ultra camp, cross-dressing, make up wearing revolution that was all in the name of gay. Boy George with his long dreadlocked hair and colorful make up made the world sit up and take note. Gay was the thing to be in the 80’s music scene as well as Boy George’s Culture Club there was; Frankie Goes to Hollywood the leather wearing, moustache having gays who were very much the stereotype for gay men, David Bowie’s androgyny (even though he’s only half gay), Bronski Beat and their lead singer with the very high voice who if you were hearing it on the radio for the first time would swear it was a woman singing, as well as acts like Erasure and not forgetting the closeted George Michael from Wham! And Freddie Mercury of Queen. I believe that if aids hadn’t turned up to ruin the party that this would have lead to the legalization of gay marriage. Its almost as thought aids turned up on purpose to stop the gay revolution in its tracks, as though someone didn’t want this to happen and wanted to stamp it out. Best I don’t say anything more about this or men in black coats may appear at my door to take me away where I’d disappear off the face of the earth, kind of like that scene in V for Vendetta when Stephen Fry gets kidnapped by the mental right wing party in power.
The 80’s also saw the Brixton riots where people pissed off by the recession decided to protest, which with the arrival of the police turned ugly (as it always does) and there was “Panic on the streets of London”. This seems rather similar to the 2010 riots although the recession was an after thought in that instance but we’ll get to that.
1989 also saw student-lead protesting in China’s Tiananmen Square where they dealt with things calmly and rationally by running people over with tanks in a massacre that lead to 241–2,600 deaths and is still being covered up to this day (if you didn’t get that from the ambiguous numbers of the death toll).
The 90’s were interesting in America with cops kicking the shit out of Rodney King being seen by millions worldwide as though it was the first ever viral video. This lead to riots in L.A. mainly by African-Americans, who were outraged that the “protect and serve” police of the LAPD would brutally beat a man due to the color of his skin. N.W.A’s “Fuck tha police” was never more poignant and these events would inspire Body Count and their song Cop Killer. Yet these riots were somewhat futile as although they drew focus to the events not much has changed as still to this day cops worldwide get away with murder (sometimes literally).
In 1999 anti-globalization activists protested at the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle, Washington causign the conference to end early by taking direct action. Infact there’s was even a film about this made called Battle in Seattle, which I have been meaning to watch but have never got around to. On the music side of things we had Rage Against the Machine one of the most pollitically charged bands ever with songs like Take the power back and Sleep now in the fire.
In the 2000’s everything changed when in 2001 we all had a common enemy in the form of Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization that attacked the twin towers on September 11th. What an odd thing to bring everyone in the western world together until the war on terror took hold and the people protest both George Bush and Tony Blair for taking us to war with Afghanistan then Iraq. No more blood for oil was the chant on many American’s lips along with “Fuck Bush!” which I still am not sure as to whether this was a tongue in cheek pun or just a coincidental bit of innuendo. Bush would not be president for much longer as America seemed finally ready to have a black president and one with and Islamic middle name at that. Tony Blair stepped down as prime minister in England and let Gordon Brown a Scottish man who nobody voted for run the country for a bit, unsuccessfully but still he had a go before the next election when the British people in what can only be described as an act of naïve nostalgia decided to bring the 80’s back to Britain with a capitalist, right wing government who would run things into the ground even more. I’m getting ahead of myself a bit there so lets move swiftly on to the ten’s, the ten-ies, the worst decade we’ve had for giving an abbreviated shorthand nickname.
The 2010’s opened with The Arab Spring in 2010 a political movement that soared throughout the eastern hemisphere. The Arab Spring started as the people were pissed at their own governments. These protests were a triumph of the modern day revolution and by December 2013, rulers had been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt (twice),Libya, and Yemen as well as civil uprisings erupting in Bahrain and Syria; major protests had broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan; and minor protests had occurred in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and the Palestinian territories.
A year later in the west we had the Occupy movement which started as OWS (occupy wall street) in September 2011 but then spread through America and even the U.K. Very little was reported about why this movement started the media instead focused on the fact that there were people camping out on wall street. This was an anti-capitalist movement that used the term “we are the 99%” which referred to most of America’s wealth being held by 1% of the population. Unfortunately unlike the Arab Spring governments didn’t seem to take any notice of this movement, which is still going on as we speak. I find it odd that such a leftwing anti-capitalist movement such as these seems to have had no effect especially not here in the U.K. where things seem to be getting more and more radical rightwing due to immigration and failed attempts at benefit reform. To be honest I think it’s amazing that there was a movement at all due to awful musicians that stand for nothing but still some good ones such as Tom Morello from RATM inspired and joined the fight. Hell the next generation are fucked based on what they listen to Justin Bieber and One Direction, wouldn’t surprise if this shit was made with the intension of dumbing down a generation, making them melancholy and boring. I think we may have just hit something their folks, this shit music is a government funded fight back to insure a generation of stand for nothing brain-deads.
The reason I felt the need to right about any of this if I’m honest is due to the anti-austerity protests here in the U.K. on the 21st of June, which was in fact just last week. These protests took place in London where tens of thousands of people marched along with Russell Brand to show their anger at the austerity measures introduced by the government. 50,000 people were there none of which were the British media, who at the time were busy reporting Kate Middleton’s son walking at Wimbledon. That right there is real news folks some rich baby walking, good job BBC, ITV etc… you really know how to keep people informed about the real things that matter.
As much as I like Bob Dylan and everything he stood for I do not believe that “the times are a changing” at least not any time soon.