Late 80s Political Pop - the Red Wedge

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Jun 14 2009, 17h31

I recently purchased The Singular Adventures Of The Style Council. I own several Style Council records on vinyl, but that means that I haven't listened to them for a while. This CD was in the bargain bin, and definitely worth it to hear - in some cases the songs are 12" versions that I hadn't heard before. It was nice to revisit the music of Paul Weller's post-The Jam musical project

Anyway, listening to songs like Walls Come Tumbling Down with lyrics "Are you gonna realize/
The class war's real and not mythologized/
And like Jericho - you see walls can come tumbling down!" it made me think about how the late 80s period of The Style Council there was quite a bit of political pop. In fact, there was an organized movement in the UK - The Red Wedge, with the goal of politicizing youth and unseating Margaret Thatcher in the 1987 elections. Along with the Style Council, Billy Bragg was one of the instigators - nobody could miss the left politics in his music. And Jimmy Somerville of The Communards who definitely had a leftist outlook as reflected in their name was also a participant.

The Special A.K.A. was another musical group of the period that wore their politics on their sleeves with their best-known song being (Free) Nelson Mandela. Jerry Dammers of that group, which he formed after the splintering of The Specials, was also a participant in Red Wedge. I really like the Special A.K.A. and the way their music mixes songs about nightlife and politics, in a similar way to the subversively political lounge-pop of The Style Council.

The Style Council CD I bought has a copyright date of 1989 and has a notice "This recording is not for sale in South Africa." Nelson Mandela wasn't released from prison until 1990 and Apartheid wasn't formally ended until the multi-racial democratic elections of 1994. It's hard to believe it was so recent, yet so long ago.
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