Thursday, August 11, 2011

London's Burning!

We've found ourselves playing some real classic songs as the soundtrack for our recent tours. It's amazing how appropriate lyrics written some 30 years ago are now. The Clash captured the disturbances and civil disobedience of the late 70s and early 80s on their first eponymous album; though the Nottinhghill area which saw the 70s violence was virtually unscathed this time as, thankfully, were all areas covered on our rock tours. Along with the descriptive 'London's Burning', Joe Strummer and his band cohorts also called for a 'White Riot, white riot, a riot of my own'. The classic 'Police and Thieves' (from the same album though originally written by Junior Murvin) contains the lines 'And all the crowd come in, day by day, no one stop it anyway' and this certainly described the early days of the disturbances when an over-whelmed and under-prepared police failed to meet the initial challenge. In truth, we could have done with a few more scenes such as grace the reverse picture from that Clash album; truncheon-weilding police, chasing rioters, ready and willing to dole out a bruising.

One tour client suggested the Stones 'Street Fighting Man' as an appropriate inclusion to our soundtrack. It's not; that was written in response to anti-Vietnam political riots and doesn't apply to the current looting mob. This was a cowardly lot who'd soon disappear if they were really faced with street fighting rather than the softly-softly and measured restraint approach shown by our London Met police.

The Jam's 'Town Called Malice' definitely makes the soundtrack cut though. As does Kaiser Chiefs 'I predict a riot'.

The Beatles inevitably have a comment; 'When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads'. Well, England's famed climate and 16,000 coppers on the streets seems to have dampened looter activity over the past few evenings.

Putting aside our flippancy, the real sadness is the damage and disruption caused, and the impact these events have and will have on so many innocent Londoners. And it could have a real impact on rock music. One event in the last few days was the burning down of Sony's Warehouse in the neighbourhood of Enfield. The fire reportedly destroyed the entire stock of CDs and vinyl of more than 100 small independent labels (including XL Recordings whose office we visit on our tours). Although some of the short-term problems of supplying product from the like of Artic Monkeys and Adele may be overcome, there's talk of the warehouse also having contained masters and and hard drives. If so, that may mean some recordings could be lost forever. It's also going to mean hard times for the indie labels themselves, along with their roster of artists and staff.

Whatever the causes of the misnamed 'riots' - social revolution, unemployed boredom, summertime blues, or simply mindless greed and hooliganism - most Londoners agreed with Lennon's sentiments, 'When you talk about destruction, don't you know you can just count me out'.

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