I Don’t Know No Shame

Sinead O’Connor’s Mandinka arrived in my head at the start of the week, going round and round. It was a very welcome blast from 1987, Sinead’s voice up against those beefed up indie- rock guitars and crashing drums. She was going against the grain from the start, signed to a major label and shaving her head when they suggested she wear miniskirts and grow her hair long.

Mandinka

The follow up to 1987’s The Lion And The Cobra took her into the mainstream courtesy of the Prince cover that went to number one in every country it was released in and that video. There’s lots to love on I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got aside from Nothing Compares 2 U, an album that has contributions from ex- Ant Marco Pironi on guitars, Andy Rourke, Jah Wobble, Kurt Wallinger and Nellee Hooper. The culture clash of I Am Stretched On Your Grave, a 17th century Irish poem over the Funky Drummer. The anger and confession of The Emperor’s New Clothes, and what could be her mission statement in the summer of 1990, ‘I will live by my own policies/ I will sleep with a clear conscience’. The video for this one is memorable too…

At Glastonbury in 1990 Sinead played on the Saturday afternoon, either just before or just after De La Soul if memory serves, clad in leather biker jacket and a Viz Fat Slags t- shirt and the darkest sunglasses. The Emperor’s New Clothes was the one that caught fire that afternoon, crashing guitar chords, the rousing chorus and Marco Pironi’s windmilling.

Sinead saw politics as part of what music was for. The song Black Boys On Mopeds was a denunciation of the police and their treatment of young black men, specifically Colin Roach who died of a gunshot wound inside Stoke Newington police station in 1983 and Nicholas Bramble who died in May 1989 being chased by police who assumed the moped he was riding was stolen. It wasn’t, it was his. He crashed and died. The culture of policing in London in the 80s was one of stop and search, cover ups, institutional racism, wrongful arrest, police brutality and racial harassment. Sinead opens up pointing the finger at the very top…

‘Margaret Thatcher on TV’

Before delivering the sucker punch…

‘England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill black boys on mopeds’

And this one too….

‘These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to dig your own grave’

This appearance on The Late Show, BBC 2’s late night arts and culture show is stunning. Viva Sinead.

Not Numbed Out Anymore

In 2015 an enormous six disc Jah Wobble box was released into the world, more Jah than you can shake a bass at. One of the more intriguing tracks to my ears was a new version of his 1991 masterwork Visions Of You. The original, with its three Weatherall remixes, was an otherworldly adventure, an odyssey of groove, bass and music from around the world with Sinead O’Connor providing vocals. This version- and I’ve no idea when or where it was made or who the personel involved are- is subtly different, sharper and distinct. Not better, not worse, just version.

Visions Of You (New Version)

These Are Commercial Crusades

My week of protest songs finishes with a double header. First up, Ian Brown and his 2007 single Illegal Attacks, a blistering tirade against the US and British invasion of Iraq set to a hip hop beat and sweeping strings. The Stone Roses had form in lyrical revolution- Bye Bye Badman referenced the Paris ’68 events, Elizabeth My Dear fantasised about the death of Elizabeth II and they often mentioned politics in interviews during their ’89-90 heyday. That’s Sinead O’Connor on backing vocals.

At the other end of the scale from Mr Brown in terms of vocal ability and formation dancing is Beyonce. During last year’s Superbowl she ruffled feathers by turning up with her dancers dressed as Black Panthers.

Co-written by Kendrick Lamar Freedom, from last year’s Lemonade album (an album shot through with protest), is this slice of righteous psychedelic soul led by wheezy organ, shouting loud that Black Lives Matter.

Freedom

Seven Hours And Fifteen Days

The death of Prince was shocking. Growing up in the 80s he was inescapable and while I was never a huge fan I liked some of his singles/songs- you couldn’t not like at least some of them. I saw him play in Manchester two years ago, a friend had a spare and it seemed like a good opportunity to see a legend. Over the two hours he blew the audience at Manchester’s indoor arena away, song after song after song. The thing that really struck me was the crowd. I’m used to going to gigs that are attended by roughly 60%-80% middle aged men, many either in leather jackets or cagoules depending on the band. Prince’s audience ranged from younger teenagers to people in their 60s, racially mixed, glammed up twenty-something couples, gangs of forty-something women, obsessive men on their own, gay and straight- the most socially diverse gig crowd I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve since grown to love some of his songs that previously were just part of my musical wallpaper. The energy he put into the show, dancing, playing guitar, singing was immense- partly why it is so shocking that he’s died less than two years later aged just 57.

I have always liked this one.

Alphabet Street

There is a Jesus And Mary Chain cover version of Alphabet Street which, trust me, you don’t want to hear right now. It doesn’t do anyone any favours.

If you were around in 1990 this Prince penned song was inescapable too.