Far From Crazy Pavement

Sometimes you need a healthy does of bile and anger in your music and your art. The world is a fucked up, unpleasant place at the moment, not least the coverage of what is happening in the USA with the protests and riots following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The racism that blights the history of the USA never seems too far from the surface, a reminder that for all our pretence of 21st century modernity and sophistication attitudes formed over a few hundred years have very deep roots. You never have to dig very far to find racists and supremacists on social media. The absence of moral leadership at the top of US politics is obvious. Worse, the president encourages further, state sponsored violence by quoting racists in his Tweets. There is footage of policemen making white supremacist hand symbols to protesters. The president hides in the White House, issuing demands to State Governors to ‘dominate’ the protesters. In the past, even at moments of crisis- 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King or the Rodney King beating by the LA police- there was a sense that the President should act for the good of all Americans, provide some kind of re-assurance, attempt to unite. Trump does none of this. He separates, he divides, he incites, he fuels hatred. He should be removed.

Escaping through music that takes us away from this is the answer sometimes but it’s also essential to listen to music that reflects the other side of human nature, society, governments and the way that we have chosen to organise ourselves. Beasley Street was written by John Cooper Clarke in response to the poverty of 1970s Salford and Margaret Thatcher’s government and social polices but it’s themes and imagery are universal. Released on his 1980 album Snap, Crackle And Bop and produced by Martin Hannett, it’s a poem/ song with enough lines to ensure John immortality, not least ‘Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies/In a box on Beasley Street’. A contemporary equivalent could be Matt Hancock laughing his way through an interview where he was confronted with a UK death toll of 38, 000 people.

Beasley Street is a torrent of words, JCC painting pictures of squalor, decay and suffering, indelible images of dead men’s overcoats, riff joints, rats with rickets, broken teeth, shit stoppered drains, boys on the wagon and girls on the shelf, poison, lager turning to piss, ageing savages, yellow cats, the smell of cabbage, dead canaries and ‘the fecal dreams of Mr Freud’.

Beasley Street