London’s Burning but this doesn’t deserve a Clash soundtrack

Hello again, thanks for stumbling through the smoke filled streets of London and finding your way back to The Clash Blog. Unless you live in a cave or don’t watch the news you’ve probably noticed that sporadic violence, arson and looting has consumed different parts of London at an accelerated rate for the last 3 days. I’ll be the first to say that from 5,000 miles away I’m not well positioned to know exactly what is going on. I do know this though, much of what is happening isn’t taking on the definition nor cause of urban rioting seen in the UK in the 1980′s. This seems to be far more opportunistic and based around looting, although the root causes might be caused by political decisions this isn’t protesting – growing from some organised statement against the government. Moreover stealing Wii consoles and new trainers doesn’t send a message to parliament. The media will leap all over the chaos and the ‘mob’ is already the catchphrase of the day but when the smoke (hopefully soon) clears the root causes won’t be examined – only how to react to what looks like it has been three days of fucking nightmarish conditions. So it goes. I do think there’s plenty that is wrong and to be angry about but I don’t see this as even the beginning stages of a solution.

I don’t wish to glorify some of the protests, marches and what turned into riots I myself attended 15-25 years ago but I feel I should, not because of me but because of the premise. I do know that there was some unity behind those causes and smashing into shops and stealing coupled with arson wasn’t on the agenda. Telling the government they were getting things wrong was at the heart of it. This is very different, but again just my opinion.

Is anyone genuinely surprised by any of this? The underlying facts are that we are in a very similar trough as we were in 1981 but the reaction is quite different in my opinion.

As for the arson, something needs to give tomorrow or else some poor sod living in a flat above a shop is surely going to die. That’s a grim but realistic expectation.

I’ve seen the word clash and the songs of The Clash quoted like mad around the broadcast media, social media and Facebook. I’ve even been guilty of it myself. I’m questioning the logic though, I think these events were entirely predictable with the austerity measures that have been taken. ‘I Predict a Riot’ wasn’t exactly a bold statement. The risk of such violence since the recent changes in the UK were well documented. Whether it’s about opportunism or greed from the reduced lack of ability to ‘have’ I just can’t be sure. I don’t think it relates to the boredom of 1976 nor the riots in Notting Hill at the carnival that summer.

riot london nike special brew 700x453 Londons Burning but this doesnt deserve a Clash soundtrack

This isn't your Don Letts moment mate...

 

Does it make the music and lyrics of The Clash suddenly more relevant again then? No more so than a month ago I’d argue. The issues faced by Londoners and millions elsewhere haven’t really changed but the reactions certainly seemed to have done so. Will this be the first of many bad nights in different European cities, to suggest as much ignores Athens. Then again even to overplay it is to ignore what has been happening in Syria over the last week. More than 2,000 have died in those exchanges. Makes London look like kids playing at arson and window smashers to some extent.

I’d be heartened if I felt these were genuinely political statements such as the student protests. A statement was made, even if the desired changes weren’t resultant. I think that relates far more to the ethos of The Clash than the last three days. I could be wrong of course, this could be the continued implosion many expect for the systems that are in place. In reality though it looks to be mostly about grabbing trainers and laptops for free. Consumer culture gone mad with instant gratification being at the top of the agenda.

While many will continue to use The Clash as the backing track to these images I think the lyrics rather than just the titles should definitely be considered. Joe Strummer wasn’t saying go and steal some mobile phones and when you’re done torch the shop. Whilst it’s convenient to borrow London’s Burning and White Riot as titles I think a certain song by The Sex Pistols might be more apt. Though it’s more like isolated anarchy.

I love London, I miss it deeply and I hate seeing many neighbourhoods where I used to live or frequent being destroyed when the result will be quite the opposite of what many would like to see. These won’t drive change, not good change anyway.

Who knows if I’m right and please feel free to disagree but I think London’s Burning is about as appropriate to this as the misuse of Rock The Casbah during the Gulf War. Strangely I ranted last week about things coming to a head and a change being needed, by which I didn’t mean drilling a nail through your own foot – are you listening Tottenham, Peckham, Enfield, Ealing(?), Camden Town, Croydon and so on. If you really want to get involved improve your neighbourhood and vote out those who don’t share your concerns.

I had planned to write about B.A.D. in Minneapolis last night this evening but this got in the way. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong however, I’ve had very mixed feelings the last few days. I don’t think it’s extremely punk to smash up The Body Shop (although Starbucks gets nearer to the mark). Punk Rock is opening a club for the disaffected youth to come and hang out and create something. I just don’t think the bloke pictured above is the new Don Letts. Tim

0 Londons Burning but this doesnt deserve a Clash soundtrack

Now this song on the other hand is about riots

 

 

pixel Londons Burning but this doesnt deserve a Clash soundtrack
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31 Responses to “London’s Burning but this doesn’t deserve a Clash soundtrack”

  1. Agree this isn't a political anarchy for betterment of the common people's. This is mindless vandalism against people's lives.

  2. Pete Stevens says:

    London riots…Sure takes your mind off global economic meltdown though Tim, doesn't it ? The 'rioters' have no cause other than their own. Yes, they may have 'had it tough'. They are totally unpoliticised and their solution to the perceived problem is to help themselves to the fruits of the 'free market'. This will be fine until someone dies.

  3. Yusuke Ohgami via Fa says:

    me too!

  4. totally agree! this is just vandalism without a cause…

  5. Tracey Blanchard says:

    Total mindless nihilism. Trouble is they're also giving the Government and the Police an excuse to crack down on any form of protest no matter how peaceful. Thanks for nothing Guys!

  6. Luis Carlos says:

    Reality is bigger than fiction,or in this case,much bigger than a song…

  7. Andy Kypri via Faceb says:

    In fairness 60' HD Plasma TVs ain't cheap, so I can understand the frustrations…

  8. Yusuke Ohgami via Fa says:

    yes rebel without a cause… Joe does not want it!

  9. Beibhinn Moore via F says:

    "…But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It could be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must saytonight that a riot is the language of the unheard." Martin Luther King

  10. Nice quote, but don't remember MLK suggesting grabbing trainers. How many protest signs did you see?

  11. Hutsville UK says:

    In my opinion this has nothing at all to do with political protest. Selfishness, greed and the 'look at me' attention seeking that blights the UK seem to be the motivators to me. Someone once said people have become 'dehumanised' by greed. He was right.

  12. cha says:

    I am sure there is a lumpin element involved with the riots . The reality is that the police force and the political class in the UK has in the last few weeks been shown to be completley rotten given head to murdoch so where are the youth to go or what can they do. The ruling class have savaged the working class to pay the bonuses of the bankers. There is nowhere for the youth to go as yosser said give us a job

  13. Lily Lazer via Faceb says:

    I agree. As far as I can see, it really is just opportunistic, disgusting greed. They spoke to a girl on the news earlier and she said that the young people involved were doing it because they were angry that they weren't respected. She said "when you respect us, then we'll respect you." This is about as far away as you can get from earning respect.

  14. Blitzenfest says:

    Interesting post. I came across this blog because I was searching about Don Letts and that famous picture used for the White Riot album, because I was struck by how much the images coming out of Britain remind me of the black n white images of 1976 and the 1981 Brixton riots. I'm surprised that so many people I know are simply dismissing these riots as pure thuggery and criminality. Certainly there is that of it and I don't condone it, but surely there is more to it than just that. Seems to me there is a racial and class aspect to it as well. You don't get riots spreading to multiple cities so spontaneously (I think its up to 6 now) because of sheer oppurtunism, there is some serious discontent brewing in these places. During the Brixton riots Brixton got torn to pieces, but that doesn't diminish that those people felt there were fighting against disenfranchisement, vilification by society and police mistreatment.

    These two blokes commentary on the situation totally reminded me of that Don Letts picture…not just cause look like Letts with the dreadlocks/rastafari appearance

  15. Blitzenfest says:

    i mean the super black market clash album! oops

  16. radioradio says:

    Maybe there's one song that applies: They've all been lost in the supermarket. Which is why they're rioting.

    Don't get me wrong, I do not support the nonsense. But if you were to ask a rioter why they were doing it, it would probably line up somewhat with that song.

  17. Pete Stevens says:

    @Tim I don't think the use of 'London's Burning' is quite as inappropriate as using 'Rock The Casbah' during the Gulf War(s) I was actually driving down the Westway on Saturday (Friday night having been seated underneath it at Portobello Road, watching 'Westway To The World' in a 'pop-up' cinema) and certainly the line "London's burning with boredom now, London's burning dial 9-9-999…" is highly appropriate.

    We both know and live/have lived in London and could probably have predicted what has happened over the last few nights. Rioting IS fun, especially if you're seventeen and if you have no political cause then lining your pockets with iPhones or stealing Nike trainers is good enough if you feel you've really got nothing to lose.

    The big problem we have is that there is a complete lack of understanding from our short-sited and short-term minded politicians. Last night while rioting was happening in Salford I had to endure it's MP Hazel Blears, live on BBC News, condemning the 'criminals'…. They were looting Nike trainers, but last year she was guilty of claiming for three properties in a single year at taxpayers' expense and avoiding Capital Gains Tax……What's that about pots, kettles and black ?

    The arrogance of our political system and the deeply underhanded, deceitful political class that preside over it are spending billions on imposing ‘democracy’ and waging war in various places in the world while imposing draconian sanctions on a nation that cannot find any more logic to understand why the lost generation have decided to now help themselves.

    You cannot bombard the disenfranchised of our society with advertising for the products of our (currently collapsing) free market economy, then deprive them of the education, skills, training and employment to be able partake in a meaningful way. The easy options are to join similar, like minded people and become involved eventually in serious criminal activity.

    The most telling interview was not with the Prime Minister, or even with the robust Boris (Johnson, the Mayor) but with Eric Pickles MP who was too arrogant to even acknowledge that "Hey, there could be a very serious societal problem underlying what we've been witnessing live on TV for the last few nights"…

    Today, I even heard an interviewee on BBC London, a 'so-called' expert, state that we should bring back corporal punishment whilst dismissively referring to Tottenham as a 'so-called' deprived area. No matter, our Prime Minister, who has finally managed to drag himself back from Tuscany, has decided that the police can now use rubber bullets and water cannon on them as well. I'm sure that will calm things down.

    I do NOT condone violence from any quarter and abhor the perpetrators of much of this crime, the looting, theft and wanton vandalism, but for goodness sake let's look a little deeper. Don't waste your hugely expensive Eton educations on further grinding the poorest in society further into the dirt. As a population we have allowed these things to happen and the buck has to stop with those we elect to represent us. We need to bring them properly to account and force every single damn one of them to face up to their responsibility for everyone in the United Kingdom.

    • Tim at The Clash Blo says:

      Pete and so many others -- many many great and valid points. A few days deeper into this you start wondering where the solutions come from. Totally concur that so many are seeing their 'leaders' showing no honesty and integrity so the break down is almost quietly endorsed.

      I do believe in protest and I do believe in engagement -- but I think you don't have to look to far down the road to see the risk of a more restrictive society as a result of looting and arson. Curfews would never work but heavier policing and money spent on anything other than the communities is inevitable under this government. We'll have a better idea come Sunday evening. London won't have 16,000 police on the streets every night.

  18. Pete Stevens says:

    No….I know. Every time I looked out of the window last night there were one or two police officers WALKING past The Worlds End (I know you know it in Stroud Green Road) which was boarded up all night 'just in case'…highly unusual in 'normal times'….

    I make no excuses for the 768 (current) tally of arrests for violence/looting, but at some point the people who govern must address the issues which concern a sizeable proportion of those who they govern.

    Currently, I believe we will end up passing further draconian measures against society in general, including me.

  19. Tim at The Clash Blo says:

    @blitzenfest -- thanks for your comments and the video which I just saw. It goes to show that heavier policing results in choices that impact innocent people going about their normal daily business. I don't live in London any longer -- I'd like to think racial issues with the police aren't what they once were when I was a kid (and yeah they were bloody awful and very apparent) but I'm sure it still goes on. The media also keep saying it's minorities when the videos I've seen show that the 'rioters' tend to do no more than reflect the population of the local communities. Plenty of white faces acting like arseholes as well.

  20. [...] dice el blog de The Clash, estos disturbios difícilmente mercen una banda sonora de esta legendaria banda (como [...]

  21. [...] dice el blog de The Clash, estos disturbios difícilmente merecen una banda sonora de esta legendaria banda (como London [...]

  22. "A riot is the language of the unheard." -- MLK

    Let's all remember that the media loves showing people looting… When Katrina hit New Orleans it was the same thing… Endless pictures of people looting… It's in the interest of the corporate media to focus on the looting and the burning but not focus on the rage and the anger and the frustration that has been building up behind the fact that the police in London (like police everywhere) are not here to protect us but to protect wealth and property… If you're poor then you and the little you've got don't deserve protection from the police…

    If you're poor you get stopped and frisked and questioned and cuffed and brought in and arrested and fined and convicted… You don't get protection or respect or compassion or thoughtfulness… You'd think you'd get those things from someone that we essentially pay to keep the peace… But instead it's getting shot in the street for reasons only the police can justify…

    i'm not ready to dismiss the events as apolitical just yet… i also think that if the police are only there to protect those who have things, those who are rich (this is not a foreign concept to anyone) then maybe some looting of 60" LED TV's is the way to say fuck you now i have something and now maybe the police will protect me and treat me with the same respect that rich people get from the police…

    i'll let Bob tell it…

    This morning I woke up in a curfew;
    O God, I was a prisoner, too -- yeah!
    Could not recognize the faces standing over me;
    They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality. Eh!

    How many rivers do we have to cross,
    Before we can talk to the boss? Eh!
    All that we got, it seems we have lost;
    We must have really paid the cost.

    (That's why we gonna be)
    Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
    (Say we gonna burn and loot)
    Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
    (One more thing)
    Burnin' all pollution tonight;
    (Oh, yeah, yeah)
    Burnin' all illusion tonight.

    Oh, stop them!

    Give me the food and let me grow;
    Let the Roots Man take a blow.
    All them drugs gonna make you slow now;
    It's not the music of the ghetto. Eh!

    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight;
    (Who can stop the tears?)
    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight;
    (We've been suffering these long, long-a years!)
    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight
    (Will you say cheer?)
    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight
    (But where?)

    Give me the food and let me grow;
    Let the Roots Man take a blow.
    I must say: all them -- all them drugs gonna make you slow;
    It's not the music of the ghetto.

    We gonna be burning and a-looting tonight;
    (To survive, yeah!)
    Burning and a-looting tonight;
    (Save your baby lives)
    Burning all pollution tonight;
    (Pollution, yeah, yeah!)
    Burning all illusion tonight
    (Lord-a, Lord-a, Lord-a, Lord!)

    Burning and a-looting tonight;
    Burning and a-looting tonight;
    Burning all pollution tonight…
    "Burning & Looting" by Bob Marley

  23. vagabond says:

    "A riot is the language of the unheard." -- MLK

    Let's all remember that the media loves showing people looting… When Katrina hit New Orleans it was the same thing… Endless pictures of people looting… It's in the interest of the corporate media to focus on the looting and the burning but not focus on the rage and the anger and the frustration that has been building up behind the fact that the police in London (like police everywhere) are not here to protect us but to protect wealth and property… If you're poor then you and the little you've got don't deserve protection from the police…

    If you're poor you get stopped and frisked and questioned and cuffed and brought in and arrested and fined and convicted… You don't get protection or respect or compassion or thoughtfulness… You'd think you'd get those things from someone that we essentially pay to keep the peace… But instead it's getting shot in the street for reasons only the police can justify…

    i'm not ready to dismiss the events as apolitical just yet… i also think that if the police are only there to protect those who have things, those who are rich (this is not a foreign concept to anyone) then maybe some looting of 60" LED TV's is the way to say fuck you now i have something and now maybe the police will protect me and treat me with the same respect that rich people get from the police…

    i'll let Bob tell it…

    This morning I woke up in a curfew;

    O God, I was a prisoner, too -- yeah!

    Could not recognize the faces standing over me;

    They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality. Eh!

    How many rivers do we have to cross,

    Before we can talk to the boss? Eh!

    All that we got, it seems we have lost;

    We must have really paid the cost.

    (That's why we gonna be)

    Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;

    (Say we gonna burn and loot)

    Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;

    (One more thing)

    Burnin' all pollution tonight;

    (Oh, yeah, yeah)

    Burnin' all illusion tonight.

    Oh, stop them!

    Give me the food and let me grow;

    Let the Roots Man take a blow.

    All them drugs gonna make you slow now;

    It's not the music of the ghetto. Eh!

    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight;

    (Who can stop the tears?)

    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight;

    (We've been suffering these long, long-a years!)

    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight

    (Will you say cheer?)

    Weeping and a-wailin' tonight

    (But where?)

    Give me the food and let me grow;

    Let the Roots Man take a blow.

    I must say: all them -- all them drugs gonna make you slow;

    It's not the music of the ghetto.

    We gonna be burning and a-looting tonight;

    (To survive, yeah!)

    Burning and a-looting tonight;

    (Save your baby lives)

    Burning all pollution tonight;

    (Pollution, yeah, yeah!)

    Burning all illusion tonight

    (Lord-a, Lord-a, Lord-a, Lord!)

    Burning and a-looting tonight;

    Burning and a-looting tonight;

    Burning all pollution tonight…

    "Burning & Looting" by Bob Marley

  24. [...] dice el blog de The Clash, estos disturbios difícilmente merecen una banda sonora de esta legendaria banda (como London [...]

  25. [...] dice el blog de The Clash, estos disturbios difícilmente merecen una banda sonora de esta legendaria banda (como London [...]

  26. luiz paulo says:

    I think it's stupid to put a song by The Clash as supportive of Chaos who settled in London, we recall some episodes involving music let us quote for example: Helter Shelter, Sympatia OF DEVIL both songs were said to be gearing for crimes hideous and everyone knows that a true and lies used by the tabloid media

  27. pablo says:

    I am Uruguayan and live in Uruguay, but apparently in London there are police and thieves in the street, scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition.

  28. Justin says:

    Opportunistic takers are not change makers! Thanks for post, been thinking about this all week -- wondering what Joe would have thought / done. Seems clear he would not have linked this in any way to the early 80's strife. Peace.

  29. [...] ‘London’s Burning but this doesn’t deserve a Clash soundtrack’ (Aug 8th) [...]

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