Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It’s those 80s again!

Never thought that much of the Style Council in general, certainly when compared to the Jam in their prime, but this one tune is a stonking nugget of Northern Soul revivalism. And with that lopsided proto-emo haircut Weller was well ahead of his time (or was it just watered-down Phil Oakey?). More than that though, the video, shot in the shadow of the reviled Palace of Culture in Warsaw (Stalin’s gift to his Polish serfs) back during the time of the mid-80s miners’ strike in Britain, is a poignant reminder of what can happen when East meets West, particularly back in those heady days. The blank looks on the kids’ faces say it all. Did any of them have a clue what the band were singing about? What would they have thought if they had?

“The class war’s real, not mythologized”

…. pardon?

“Walls come tumbling down”.

Ah yes, the Berlin wall, indeed it shall, how prophetic. We long to join you in the West!

“Unity is powerful”.

Yes! Solidarity will free us from this terrible socialism!

Hmm, difficult to imagine that a revolution led by a Roman Catholic, anti-communist trade union was quite what Weller had in mind when he wrote those lyrics. Brave souls, though, for trying to reach out and bridge the East-West divide. It could even be argued, since Poland was supplying the British government with coal at the time and thus helping to break the miners’ strike, essentially the last, heroically doomed stand of the working class in Thatcher’s very real, very vicious class war, that we all faced a common enemy, that the Polish communists and British Tories were basically “on the same side”. But can anyone, beyond a few desperate Trotskyite apologists still shielding their ears from the deafening roar of the fat lady singing for the demise of socialism since way back before Thatcher was even elected, really theorise themselves into this position, let alone believe it? Try getting that message through to these kids. Granted, I may have noted what I perceive to be similarities between Klaus and the commies recently in terms of character, but in terms of their ideology and actual programme? Give me a break.

I bet the Style Council had some interesting chats with the locals over in Warsaw back then.

“We very like your disco music and your black people, they are very smiling and have nice rhythm, not like our horrible gypsies”.


“We love you British, your country has much wealth and freedom, and your Iron Lady is the best, no?”


“It is my big dream to one day go to England and meet Lady Di, she is very kind, very beautiful woman”.

Waiter! Vodka!

“Ah, you like Polish vodka, you my friend, I love you!”

Call me a flippant smartarse if you like, but based on some of the conversations I had out here in the 90s, and therefore quite a few years after the fact, the above is not too much of an exaggeration. I don’t claim that my responses were any more articulate either, after all how does one respond to such cultural chasms?

To be fair to Weller and co. (and to all us lefties, dammit), back in 84 there was probably little to choose between Orgreave and Warsaw. The 80s – sour times indeed.


Anonymous jitka said...

Why did Poland supply Britain with coal during the miners' strike? It doesn't make much sense - wouldn't the Poles support the miners rather than the government? Actually, the miners' strike was in the papers all the time back then and I suppose lots of Czechs thought it was just propaganda. I think I only realized what it was all about when I watched Billy Elliot.

11:34 AM  
Blogger ASHDAV said...

Good question, wish I had a good answer. My guess is that by that late stage in the game the Polish government simply needed the money and they didn't care whose. So they were all capitalists after all.

12:39 PM  
Blogger TONA said...

“We very like your disco music and your black people, they are very smiling and have nice rhythm, not like our horrible gypsies”.


7:09 AM  
Blogger ASHDAV said...

Did you notice the bloke with the mullet completely ignoring them and eating his tea during the performance? Left or right, food on the table will always be priority no. 1!

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“We very like your disco music and your black people, they are very smiling and have nice rhythm, not like our horrible gypsies”.

you are such an idiot, an ignorant idiot! am amazed that you even know who paul weller is, if you are still seeing the world only through such stereotypes.

perhaps it was your ignorance of the world beyond heavily spin-doctored pop of uk et al that prevented you from understanding what they were on about.

8:06 AM  
Blogger ASHDAV said...

Maybe I really am stupid anonymous, because I'm having trouble understanding the nature of your complaint. I'm also rather bewildered at how you managed to chance upon the post so many months after I wrote it. Are you suggesting that it's inconceivable that anyone out in Eastern Europe might have come out with a comment like that, ludicrously offensive as it is? Because if you are I can assure you from bitter experience that it is not. Or is it simply the case that you didn't read the post at all and simply jumped on what I would have thought was a pretty obvious parody of a racist remark?

11:12 AM  

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