The Fascist Groove Thing: A History of Thatcher's Britian in 21 Mixtapes

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    Hugh Hodges

    Publisher: PM Press

    Year: 2022

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 384 pages

    ISBN: 9781629638843

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The Fascist Groove Thing had many names: Thatcherism, monetarism, neoliberalism, individualism, militarism, nationalism, racism, and anti-unionism for a start. Popular music in Britain responded to this monster either by pretending it didn't exist or by throwing every weapon it could muster at it. This book collects five hundred interesting songs that addressed one alarming feature of Thatcher's Britain or another: the notional mixtape "Whistling in the Dark," for example, consists of songs about Thatcher's war on the trade unions; "Shopkeepers Arise!" comprises songs about consumerism and the rise of so-called popular capitalism. The chapters that follow each mixtape reconstruct the arguments these songs were having with Thatcher's version of Britain (and, sometimes, with each other). The arguments are often polemical, frequently vitriolic, always riotous; they are an alternative account of the decade. This account mattered at the time because popular music said things that other media were unwilling or unable to say: when Thatcher dragged the country into a completely unnecessary war in the South Atlantic, for example, the TV news and the national newspapers dutifully cheered or kept quiet, so popular music provided a crucial national forum for critical dissent. These songs still matter today because they are a documentary record of that dissent. The Fascist Groove Thing's been running the show for forty years now, and we're forgetting that it wasn't inevitable that it should turn out this way.

What People Are Saying

“It’s not often that reading history books works best with a soundtrack playing simultaneously, but Hugh Hodges has succeeded in evoking both the noises and the feel of a tumultuous 1980s. Proving that pop music is the historian’s friend, he has here recovered those who help us best make sense of a scary, precarious, and exciting world.” Matthew Worley, author of No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth Culture, 1976–1984

“Those who think the 1980s were camp and fun clearly didn't live them. The Thatcher/Reagan era was grim as fuck. This tells the real story from the underground.” Ian Brennan, author of Muse-Sick and Silenced by Sound

“Written with verve, humour, and great passion for music, history and politics, The Fascist Groove Thing is a fast-paced, absorbing read. It will jog memories, entertain, and creatively engage those who survived the Thatcher years and those who weren’t yet around. Hodges not only reminds us how music can offer hope, express outrage, inspire action, or provide moments of escape in bleak, frightening times but also that some ’80s music was abysmal! Yet music can help bring people together, broaden horizons of the imagination and build solidarity and connection. And forty years later, the lyrics of Sheffield’s Heaven 17, with ‘evil men with racist views, spreading all across the land,’ seem just as relevant to ongoing struggles against today’s fascism and racism.” Aziz Choudry, McGill University

“Very interesting and timely indeed.” Anne Clark, spoken-word poet, The Smallest Act of Kindness

About the Contributors

Hugh Hodges (author) has written extensively on African and West Indian music, poetry, and fiction, including essays on Fela Kuti, Lord Kitchener, and Bob Marley. Linton Kwesi Johnson praised his book Soon Come as “extremely engaging and an important, original scholarly work.” He currently teaches at Trent University, Ontario, where his research focuses on cultural resistance in its many forms, and his band the Red Finks remains hopelessly obscure.

Dick Lucas (Preface) is a writer and visual artist, and the vocalist for three iconic punk bands: Subhumans, Citizen Fish, and Culture Shock. He is also the founder of independent punk label Bluurg Records.

Boff Whalley (Foreword) is a writer and musician, and a founding member of Chumbawamba. He is also an avid fell runner, the subject of his book Run Wild. His most recent musical project is Commoners Choir, a “strange yet open and inclusive choir that meets in Leeds.” The choir’s most recent release is Untied Kingdom.

Tags: cultural studies ....... Hugh Hodges ....... music ....... PM Press ....... UK .......