Music and British Identity: Music of The Troubles


Primary bands: Gang of Four, Au Pairs, The Cranberries, U2, Sham 69, Stiff Little Fingers, Simple Minds, The Pogues
Songs for study:

 

Au Pairs, "Armagh" - from Playing with a Different Sex (1981)

Note: Armagh Prison was the main prison for female Irish Republican (IRA) prisoners. Some of these prisoners took part in the 1981 Hunger Strike staged by IRA prisoners, mainly staged in the "Maze" (Long Kesh Prison, for IRA male prisoners).

We don’t torture, we’re a civilized nation
We’re avoiding any confrontation
We don’t torture
We don’t torture
We don’t torture
We don’t torture

American hostages in Iran
Heard daily on the news
Forget about Vietnam
You can ignore the 32

There are 32 women in Armagh jail
Political prisoners here at home
The British state’s got nothing to lose
It’s a subject better left alone

We don’t torture, we’re a civilized nation
We’re avoiding any confrontation
We don’t torture, we don’t torture

Alleged crimes withheld information
We don’t torture, we’re a civilized nation
She gets no sanitation
We’re avoiding any confrontation
Dries her shit on her cell wall
We don’t torture, we’re a civilized nation
Feeling cold and sick
We’re avoiding any confrontation
She gets a couple of valium

Now she’s relaxed for the next interrogation
Naked, spread-eagled on her back
It’s a better position for internal examination
It’s a better position for giving information

We don’t torture, we don’t torture

An armed guard squad and she gets a beating
Bleeding and wounded
She’s stopped eating
Has a baby gets nothing for pain
They came and took her baby away

We don’t torture, we’re a civilized nation
We don't torture!
We’re avoiding any confrontation
We don't torture!
We don’t torture, we don’t torture

(repeat)

 

"Sunday, Bloody Sunday" - from War (1983)
I can't believe the news today
I can't close my eyes and make it go away

How long, how long must we sing this song
How long, how long
Tonight we can be as one, tonight

Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across a dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday
And the battle's just begun
There's many lost, but tell me who has won
Trenches dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart

Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday

How long, how long must we sing this song
How long, how long
'Cause tonight we can be as one
Tonight, tonight
Sunday bloody Sunday
Tonight tonight
Sunday bloody Sunday
Tonight tonight

Wipe the tears from your eyes
Wipe your tears away
I wipe your tears away
I wipe your tears away
Sunday, bloody Sunday
Wipe your blood shot eyes

Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday

And it's true we are immune
When fact is fiction and T.V. reality
Sunday bloody Sunday
And today the millions cry
Sunday bloody Sunday
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die
Sunday bloody Sunday
The real battle just begun
Sunday bloody Sunday
To claim the victory Jesus won

On a Sunday bloody Sunday
Sunday bloody Sunday

 

"New Year's Day" - from War (1983)
All is quiet on New Year's Day
A world in white gets underway
And I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

Under a blood-red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few,
The newspapers say, say, say it's true
And we can break through,
Though torn in two, we can be one

I will begin again, I will begin again
Oh and maybe the time is right
Oh maybe tonight

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

And so we are told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's day

The Cranberries, "Zombie" - from No Need to Argue (1994)

Note: The song was written in 1993, around the same time that McLiam Wilson was writing Eureka Street and McDonagh was writing The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  The song was reportedly inspired by the death of two boys, who were killed in an IRA bombing in Warrington, Cheshire (North-West England), on 20 March 1993.

Another head hangs lowly, child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaken?
But you see it’s not me, it’s not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head they are crying

In your head, in your head,
Zombie, Zombie
In your head, what’s in your head
Zombie, Zombie, Zombie

Another mother’s breaking heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken
It’s the same old theme since 1916
In your head, in your head they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head they are dying

In your head, in your head,
Zombie, Zombie
In your head, what’s in your head
Zombie, Zombie, Zombie

 

The Cranberries, "Icicle Melts" - from No Need to Argue (1994)


When, when, when
When will the icicle melt,
The icicle, icicle?
And when, when, when
When will the picture show end,
The picture show, picture show?

I should not have read the paper today,
'Cause a child, child, child, child
He was taken away

There's a place for the baby that died,
And there's time for the mother who cried
And she will hold him in her arms sometime,
'Cause nine months is too long, too long, too long...

How, how, how
How could you hurt the child?
How could you hurt the child?
Now, now, now
Does this make you satisfied,
Satisfied, satisfied?

I don't know what's happening to people today,
When a child, child, child, child,
He was taken away

There's a place for the baby that died,
And there's time for the mother who cried
And she will hold him in her arms sometime,
'Cause nine months is too long, too long, too long...

There's a place for the baby that died,
And there's time for the mother who cried.
And you will hold him in your arms sometime,
'Cause nine months is too long, too long, too long,

Too long

 

Sham 69 , "Ulster" - from I Don't Wanna (1978)

Ulster boy

You know it's gonna last a few more years
So when you throw them bricks
Don't you cry no tears

And when you see those tanks go past
You hide your bomb and you run from the blast

Ulster
There ain't no winners

And now you're lyin' in your hospital bed
You can still hear the bullets rushing past your head

No more fun for you ain't no more
You've ended like the rest and now you're dead

 

Simple Minds, "Belfast Child" - from Street Fighting Years (1989)


Simple Minds's Jim Kerr on the song: "I first heard the melody [of 'She Moved Through The Fair'] a few days after the Enniskillen bombing [when a bomb planted by the IRA exploded during a Remembrance Day service at Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, killed 11 people and injured at least 63], and like everybody when you see the images I was sick. In the second part of the song, I'm trying to relate to people in Northern Ireland who lost loved ones. I'm trying to talk about the madness, the sadness and the emptiness. I'm not saying I have any pearls of wisdom, but I have a few questions to ask."

When my love said to me
Meet me down by the gallow tree
For it's sad news I bring
About this old town and all that it's offering
Some say troubles abound
Some day soon they're gonna pull the old town down
One day well return here,
When the belfast child sings again

Brothers, sisters where are you now?
As I look for you right through the crowd
All my life here I've spent
With my faith in God, the church,
and the government
But there's sadness abound
Some day soon they're gonna pull the old town down

One day well return here,
When the belfast child sings again
When the belfast child sings again

Some come back Billy, won't you come on home
Come back Mary, you've been away so long
The streets are empty, and your mothers gone
The girls are crying, it's been oh so long
And your fathers're calling, come on home
Won't you come on home, won't you come on home

Come back people, you've been gone a while
And the war is raging, in the emerald isle
That's flesh and blood man, that's flesh and blood
All the girls are crying but all's not lost

The streets are empty, the streets are cold
Won't you come on home, won't you come on home

The streets are empty
Life goes on

One day we'll return here
When the belfast child sings again
When the belfast child sings again

Nothin' for us in Belfast
The Pound so old it's a pity
OK, there's the Trident in Bangors
Then walk back to the city
We ain't got nothin' but they don't really care
They don't even know you know
They just want money
They can take it or leave it
What we need is

An Alternative Ulster
Grab it change it's yours
Get an Alternative Ulster
Ignore the bores, their laws
Get an Alternative Ulster
Be an anti-security force
Alter your native Ulster
Alter your native land

Take a look where you're livin'
You got the Army on the street
And the RUC dog of repression
Is barking at your feet
Is this the kind of place you wanna live?
Is this were you wanna be?
Is this the only life we're gonna have?
What we need is

An Alternative Ulster
Grab it change it's yours
Get an Alternative Ulster
Ignore the bores, their laws
Get an Alternative Ulster
Be an anti-security force
Alter your native Ulster
Alter your native land

They say they're a part of you
But that's not true you know
They say they've got control of you
And that's a lie you know
They say you will never be

Free free free

Alternative Ulster
Alternative Ulster
Alternative Ulster

Stiff Little Fingers, "Suspect Device" - from Inflammable Material (1979)


Inflammable material is planted in my head
It's a suspect device that has left 2000 dead
Their solutions are our problems
They put up the wall
On each side time and prime us
And make sure we get fuck all
They play their games of power
They mark and cut the pack
They deal us to the bottom
But what do they put back?

(Chorus)
Don't believe them
Don't believe them
Don't be bitten twice
You gotta suss, suss, suss, suss, suss out
Suss suspect device

They take away our freedom
In the name of liberty
Why don't they all just clear out
Why don't they let us be
They make us feel indebted
For saving us from hell
And then they put us through it
It's time the bastards fell

(Chorus)

Don't believe them
Don't believe them
Question everything you're told
Just take a look around you
At the bitterness and spite
Why can't we take over and try to put it right

Don't believe them
Don't believe them
Don't be bitten twice
You gotta suss, suss, suss, suss, suss out
Suss suspect device

We're a suspect device if we do what we are told
But a suspect device can score an own goal
I'm a suspect device the Army can't defuse
You're a suspect device they know they can't refuse
We're gonna blow up in their face

The Pogues, "Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six" - from If I Should Fall from Grace with God (1988)


Note on the song: "Streets of Sorrow" addresses the pain and sadness on the streets of Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. The second part of the song, "Birmingham Six," describes the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and the view that they were the victims of a miscarriage of justice and that their confessions had been extracted by torture at the hands of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad. The Birmingham Six refers to the 1974 Birmingham bombings by the IRA, and the aspects of the law refer to how London had introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allowed suspects to be held without charge for up to seven days. (The Birmingham bombings of 1974 were in retaliation for the British army's massacre at Bloody Sunday.)

Oh farewell you streets of sorrow
Oh farewell you streets of pain
I'll not return to feel more sorrow
Nor to see more young men slain
Through the last six years I've lived through terror
And in the darkened streets the pain
Oh how I long to find some solace
In my mind I curse the strain

So farewell you streets of sorrow
And farewell you streets of pain
No I'll not return to feel more sorrow
Nor to see more young men slain

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there's four
That were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law
And the filth got promotion
But they're still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time

In Ireland they'll put you away in the Maze
In England they'll keep you for several long days
God help you if ever you're caught on these shores
And the coppers need someone
And they walk through that door

You'll be counting years
First five, then ten
Growing old in a lonely hell
Round the yard and the stinking cell
From wall to wall, and back again

A curse on the judges, the coppers and screws
Who tortured the innocent, wrongly accused,
For the price of promotion
And justice to sell
May the judged be their judges when they rot down in hell

You'll be counting years
First five, then ten
Growing old in a lonely hell
Round the yard and lousy cell
From wall to wall, and back again

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head

You'll be counting years
First five, then ten
Growing old in a freezing hell
Round the yard and the lousy cell
From wall and back again

Counting years
First five, then ten
Growing old in a lonely hell
Round the yard and the lousy cell
From wall to wall and back again

GRAFFITI STUDY WALL: MUSIC & VIDEOS
SEX PISTOLS
KRAFTWERK
THE CLASH
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.
JOY DIVISION
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES
AU PAIRS
COCTEAU TWINS
ARTERY
HUMAN LEAGUE
HEAVEN 17
THE SPECIALS
CABARET VOLTAIRE
TEARS FOR FEARS
DEPECHE MODE
THE SOUND
THE GLOVE
STEEL PULSE
THE CURE
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN
A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
GANG OF FOUR
NEW ORDER
U2
THE POLICE
CRASS
NEW MODEL ARMY
ELVIS COSTELLO
SPLIT ENZ
THE THE
XTC
THE EXPLOITED
DISCHARGE
THE SMITHS
THE HOUSEMARTINS
RADIOHEAD
PORTISHEAD
PET SHOP BOYS
M Y BLOODY VALENTINE
SLOWDIVE
CRASH MUSIC
MUSIC OF THE TROUBLES

VIDEOS:

SEX PISTOLS
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES (LIVE)
THE CURE (LIVE)
COCTEAU TWINS (LIVE)
NEW ORDER (LIVE)
PORTISHEAD (LIVE)
JOY DIVISION MINI-DOCUMENTARY
NUCLEAR WAR PREPAREDNESS: PROTECT & SURVIVE MANUAL