In this listicle, Fraser Medvedik-Horn writes about songs about revolution
In dark times like these, all over the anglosphere, with Mueller’s report into collusion raising important questions and with Brexit continuing to cause hassle in British politics , it is valuable to consider revolution as a potential option. With this in mind, here are five songs about revolution and what they say.
The Revolution Starts Now by Steve Earle (2004)
Top lad is Steve Earle, one of my dad’s favourites (and my dad’s actually pretty cool with music), and a perfectly good place to start. From his album of the same name, The Revolution Starts Now starts off a collection of political protest songs about Iraq. It’s the perfect tune for something kicking off but is a bit vague about what Revolution entails. I suppose that’s what the rest of the album is for.
I was walkin’ down the street
In the town where I was born
I was movin’ to a beat
That I’d never felt before
So I opened up my eyes
And I took a look around
I saw it written ‘cross the sky
The revolution starts now
Yeah, the revolution starts now
So get out into the street, start singing a protest song and make revolution.
Bloody Revolutions by Crass (1980)
Crass’ Bloody Revolutions is a brilliant song for anyone interested in having an actual revolution as it goes into the way it works. The central thesis is that violence begets violence and the society that evolved from a violent revolution would itself be violent.
You talk of overthrowing power with violence as your tool
You speak of liberation and when the people rule
Well ain’t it people rule right now, what difference would there be?
Just another set of bigots with their rifle-sights on me
It’s a great song because it effectively combs La Marseillaise into the guitar.
In general, it’s be careful what you wish for. A revolution seems like it could answer certain issues and there are a lot of people prepared to use violence for make it happen but that replaces the powerful with another set of powerful people.
It would be nice if we could just push a revolution button and it happened but instead it’s a lot of long, boring work about deconstructing power.
The Revolution Will Not be Televised by Gil-Scott Heron (1970)
On the surface it feels like this poem set to music is irrelevant. Of course the revolution will not be the televised, who watches TV these days, anyway? We’re in the digital world now. Social media. The revolution will be on Twitter. More likely, it’ll be made of Instagram stories, since those get watched.
You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and drop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip
Skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televised
On the other hand, it’s more relevant than ever. The whole point was that the revolution is not just about content and media, the revolution is about actually making stuff happen. In a world of keyboard warriors, trolls, various antisemites, and racists noisying up Twitter 24 hours a day, nothing tangible is achieved. If a revolution is to happen it needs to be a mass communal action which is actually out there instead of just online.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live
Revolution by Chumbawamba (1985)
Best known as the “I get knocked down/ But I get up again” band, Chumbawamba were so much more, working for 30 years to put anarchist ideas into their music and get the message out there. They’re great because it’s so easy to listen to their songs for hours at a time.
The history books from every age
Have the same words written on every page
Always starting with ‘Revolution’
And ending with ‘Capitulation’
Always silenced by the truncheon
Or bought out with concessions
Repetition… repetition… repetition…
Even lyrics like this, which is quite a depressing take on our ability to change anything, have a really strong rhythmic appeal.
Revolution by The Beatles (1968)
Ahh, The Beatles, they were great, weren’t they? Probably the balance between McCartney and Lennon led them to making music that was awesome, with heart but also a bit of edge. Revolution is kind of like an early take on the punks as it says how revolution can’t just be some random violent event because to support it you need to know what it is and what it’s about.
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
It’s probably why everyone is so tense at the minute because there are no revolutionary movements with plans being circulated (unless it hasn’t reached me yet) and the establishment also seems to lack any concrete plan.
But let’s not despair. There’s probably an idea for what to do next out there, but as Heron said it won’t be televised so the trick is to get involved and make it happen. If nothing else, join some community group and try make your own corner of the world a little more pleasant.
The writer of this piece was thinking of revolting but has talked himself out of it until he can think of what should happen next. He’ll let you know in time, stay involved!