As frequent visitors to our blog will be aware, we don’t just provide top-drawer bands for hire in London, we celebrate music; new and old. With tomorrow (30th May) being Tom Morello’s 51st birthday, we thought we would celebrate the noise-modulating-guitar-yielder from Rage Against The Machine’s anniversary in true Morellian fashion; by having a look at some of the greatest protest songs since sliced inequality.
So, in no particular order, here are The Talent’s top protest songs:
The Specials – Ghost Town
Ghost Town documents a part of British history when riots were under way, describing the deindustrialisation prevalent at the time, and the violence witnessed in inner cities. In an interview in 2011, keyboardist and band leader Jerry Dammers explained how being party to all of the above led to him composing the number one single; “The overall sense I wanted to convey was impending doom.”
Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen
On the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign as monarch, the country was experiencing strikes and cutbacks, so the air of celebration surrounding the Silver Jubilee seemed ripe for satire, although the writing of the song occurred before the band were even aware of the Jubilee. Johnny Rotten claims the song wasn’t meant to mock Queen Elizabeth and that the line, “No future,” referred to the country’s youth. With the song reaching number two in Jubilee week, many questioned whether it was actually the highest selling single and was kept from charting at number one to prevent backlash; Top 20 Pops even displayed the song’s chart position with a blank line so as not to cause offence.
(There is something of an irony here in that we couldn’t actually find a version of the Sex Pistol’s track that could embed in this blog, due to copyright reasons; so here is the version the Queen would rather you enjoyed.)
John Lennon – Imagine
Imagine is a beautiful example of how positive thinking could lead to political change, encouraging the listener to envisage a world free from material possessions and the divisiveness of religions or nationalities. In a 1980 interview, Lennon described the concept for Imagine as, “The concept of positive prayer ... If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion - not without religion, but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing - then it can be true.”
Woodie Guthrie - This Land is Your Land
The melody for This Land is Your Land is based on an already existing song and was somewhat of a satirical response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, which Guthrie deemed to be a little too idealistic and unrealistic than he felt represented America. While Guthrie praises the natural beauty of his country, he contrasts it with poverty and exclusion which were widespread at the time.
Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up
With the direct message of “stand up for your rights” echoed throughout the reggae classic, the song was written whilst Marley was on tour in Haiti, and displayed how moved he was by the poverty around him. Never a man to shy away from discussing the evils of Babylon, a metaphor for capitalism based on the rich Babylonians in The Bible, Get Up, Stand Up remains one of Marley’s most famous protest songs.
Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi
Big Yellow Taxi was penned on a trip to Hawaii in which Mitchell drew back her curtains to see beautiful mountains in the distance, before looking down and seeing “parking lot as far as the eye could see.” The famous line of, “They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum,” refers to the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, which is a living museum of endangered and rare tropical plants.
The Nightwatchman – Marching on Ferguson
Finally, I think it would be fair to say we could craft a whole list of the greatest protest songs from Morello’s most famous project, Rage Against The Machine, although our emails may become flooded with complaints due to Zack De La Rocha’s use of ‘naughty’ language; so to honour the great riff conjurer, here’s the debut live performance of a non-sweary, suitable for all ages, version of Morello’s, “Marching on Ferguson”, which was inspired by the shooting of an unarmed teenager.
We could list on and on with more of our favourite protest songs from the likes of NOFX, Public Enemy, Edwin Starr and 2Pac, but that’s probably enough angst for one blog. It’s been our pleasure to pay homage to Mr. Morello, but our business is helping you party. So if you are looking for the perfect band to be the soundtrack to your event, contact us on 0845 094 1162 and speak to one of our helpful and friendly staff.