Monday, 18 June 2012

VIDEO: "United Kingdom" of Austerity?

Sometimes the most powerful words are those set to music. And occasionally they come from the most unexpected of places.

ABC were a Sheffield-based 1980's music group who had a string of hits such as "The Look of Love", "All of my Heart" and "When Smokey Sings". Lead singer Martin Fry was well-known for his lame suits and powerful voice, and the songs were moving but optimistic, in spite of the atmosphere of the times, but they were by no means vacuously devoid of meaning or intent.

In their second album, "Beauty Stab" released in 1983, they evoked some haunting themes about society at the time. And to my mind the most powerful of these was the amazingly dark song "United Kingdom", which closed the album. Fry says he wrote it on returning to Sheffield from tours to the USA and after he was so struck by the devastation to the city from the closure of the steel industry and the general recession and austerity of Thatcher's Britain. I remember hearing "United Kingdom" at the time in my student days, his deep gravelly voice conveying the bleakness of the era, while a piano leads a slow melody that quickens only to emphasise the repressive nature of a state set against its own people. Even today, its resonance makes the hairs rise on my neck.

There's never been a video for this song, so I've set some more contemporary pictures to its evocative sounds and present it here. Its lyrics remain tellingly familiar. Maybe history moves in circles, maybe each wave will push us slowly towards some sea-change: but for now, just as 1980s music enjoys something of a revival, the politics of the 1980s seems very close again too...

NB, this video is not publicly listed on Youtube. Please share from this page.
(And thanks, I think, to Seany Mac for the cracking picture of George Osborne halfway through...)

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