“Ghost Town” by The Specials was released 30 years ago this week. In a few weeks time, it will be the 30th anniversary of the riots that punctuated the summer of 1981.
In my mind, the two go hand-in-hand.
Despite it being 30 years old, there is so much relevance to the song today.
Back in 1981 the song reflected the pessimism of the early Thatcher years. The band were the product of a changing Britain, of the reality of multiculturalism where black and white youth had grown up together. But multiculturalism was under attack and being criticised by the far-right National Front which was active and trying to find a political foothold.
Today we have the pessimism and antipathy shown towards the Cameron led Coalition. We have a rapidly changing Britain, where diversity is becoming more complex and if those such as Cameron are to be believed, multiculturalism had died. And we again have an increasingly active far-right where those such as the EDL march across our towns and cities in the hope of dividing people and communities.
Writing this, I am watching this year’s Glastonbury and realise just how apolitical our musicians are today. Today – as much as in 1981 – there is the need for someone or something to capture the mood, to capture the disillusionment and disaffection that ordinary people are feeling in contemporary Britain.Sadly, I can’t see that it will come from today’s musicians.
Unless of course this year’s X Factor winner covers it. And how tragic would that be…?
Watch the original video from 1981 by clicking here