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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to: Angelic Upstarts October 29, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

A while back I mentioned the Business and their timeless classic Harry May. But that’s far from the limits of my interest in Oi. For a band which would swim closer to the shores of the interests of the CLR how about the Angelic Upstarts, formed in 1977, led by the staunchly left wing and anti-fascist Mensi. Their debut single ‘The Murder of Liddle Towers’ is a powerful statement of intent both in musical and ideological terms, and it’s this mixture that’s so fascinating about their career, a sort of eclectic mix and match of themes and sounds.

Check out 42nd Street which at 1.48 minutes goes… oddly post punk. And it’s those little bits and pieces that sort of make them intriguing and certainly significantly different to most of their peers. This album, Reason Why? was released in 1983 after they broke with EMI and in a way it’s a blend of harder edged and more melodic material, to good effect. Check out their fascinating pro-Polish Solidarity song entitled… er… Solidarity!

Then there’s the anti-Thatcher title track, whose central conceit I’ve never been entirely comfortable with. Not so much the anti-Thatcherism which is fine but the idea of a ‘women in disguise’ which doesn’t quite scan for me, though perhaps I’m reading too much into it. The aforementioned 42nd Street is brilliant and the title track is sung by guest vocalist Terry Sharpe from Starjets/Adventures and is strongly reggae inflected.

Fado fado, okay, it was quite a while back I remember their name scrawled on school bags and the odd fan of them around Kilbarrack. And then, well nothing much, despite the fact they continued to gig throughout the 80s and 1990s and still are if I recall correctly. But well worth a listen particularly as indicative of a strand of politically aware punk and post-punk [though that political awareness could take them odd places, Lonely Man of Spandau being a case in point from their second album].

And there you have it, a short sharp post to cover a short sharp band. A mate of mine was in Bristol recently and discovered they were playing the night after he left. It’ll never end. 🙂


Woman in Disguise

42nd Street

Nobody Was Saved

Reason Why/Don’t Stop



1. Phil - October 29, 2011

The Hess thing is interesting. There was a Nottingham-based punk band called Some Chicken who did a song about Hess called Number Seven (his cell number in Spandau); they were accused of being fascists on the back of it & started doing RAR benefits to prove they were OK. The sentiments weren’t political, just human sympathy with someone in a pretty horrible situation – doing a whole-life sentence in an otherwise empty prison – but you can see how people might have thought it was a bit dodgy to choose that particular prisoner to sympathise with. I didn’t know the Upstarts did one too; wonder what triggered it off.


EamonnCork - October 30, 2011

Now this is a surprising one. I have I’m An Upstart on the MP3 and always thought the Liddell Towers song was great. The Liddell Towers death. along with those of Blair Peach and Kevin Gately, I’ve always found fascinating,symptomatic of that moment when the police across the water came very close to going completely South American. We had something similar here during the same period, I suppose Peter Matthews is our Liddell Towers. That unquestioned rough copper culture is why I cringe when I read fawning stuff about Life on Mars. A lot of Oi was pretty repellent but then again so was the punk obsession with Nazi imagery, Belsen Was A Gas, the Banshees Too Many Jews line etc. Punk gets a free pass for that shite because it was more succesful I suppose.


WorldbyStorm - November 1, 2011

It’s an interesting one. IIRC Joy Division name checked Hess too or at least his prison number and it seems to me to be a mixture of what Phil points to a genuine humanitarian inclination and a bit if shitbstirring, the Upstarts lyric goes something along the lines if let him go he doesn’t have long to go now… Which seems somewhat less than wholeheartedly pro Hess as Hess. But I also think you’re right oi got hammered a lot of the time when punk didn’t to the same extent and even if it was artifice it can leave a bad taste.


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