Saturday, August 27, 2011

Layer 480 . . . Summer Was Cancelled, The Arab Spring, Libya, A People's Army, Comedy, Music, Intelligence, Musical Genres

The rain lashes down; there are shouts and squeals from the children who are out playing peacefully in a nearby garden. Barely ten minutes ago I was contemplating sitting outside to read the newspaper. Then the rain hammered down in a sudden, heavy discharge - out of the blue, you could say. This is the way it's gone this summer, and with my son's birthday and the late Bank Holiday looming up I suddenly realise summer is over - before it ever started.

We had a perfect winter followed by three months of perfect Spring followed by three months of absolutely crap so-called summer. Can we now assume we're about to have a perfect autumn?


This has been the year of the 'Arab Spring'. Revolutions have rolled back and forth across most of North Africa. Tripoli is for the most part now in the hands of the revolutionaries (the so-called 'rebels') - Libya currently has no government, and Gaddhafi has gone into hiding. It seems like only a matter of time before the mad colonel is captured and a new government is formed.

The revolutionary army in Libya has been something to behold - guerillas in everyday clothing moving fast in improvised vehicles - cheap pickup trucks cheaply converted into carriers of heavy weapons - powerful multi-barrel anti-aircraft guns used to devastating effect on regular army tanks, artillery and fortified positions. There's no way the regime and its regular forces could have anticipated being up against such an effective armed uprising.

The Tunisian and Egyptian non-violent revolutions must remain the models for all future uprisings of citizens against despots and their corrupt regimes, but the events in Libya must surely give food for thought to any current despots who think they can put down legitimate demands for change through the use of armed force.

Of course NATO air power made a huge difference to the speed with which the revolutionaries in Libya were able to move, but there are those who claim that the revolution would have taken place and would have been successful in Libya without the support of NATO, sooner or later.

It'll be interesting to see what level of support the citizens of other countries - such as Yemen and Syria - get from the Libyan revolutionaries - if and when it's required. Once the people of Libya have control over their own financial resources and oil revenues it'll be interesting to see how they use those billions - for their own benefit and also for the benefit of their Arab brothers and sisters.


"Most good comics are obsessed with music." So said Mark Steele on Chain Reaction (Radio 4) this week. Interesting observation. Good comics (and humourists, such as Ian Hislop) are highly intelligent, witty people. But why should intelligence correlate with a love of music? This brings to mind a previous blog about Einstein and his obsession with music, which he played as a means of expression for emotional and spiritual release.

Oxzen has also previously noted that most of the desperately dull, self-obsessed celebrities who wander on to Desert Island Discs clearly care nothing at all for music, and have no musical taste.

Personal observation also tells me that the people I enjoy spending time with all have good or great collections of music, and they need to listen to (and sometimes play) music every day of their lives.

At the top of the pyramid of self-actualised people are lovers of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, John Lee Hooker and BB King. You don't get to be seventy years of age and still play massive concerts that sell out all over the world and also achieve critical acclaim unless you have some special quality and something important to communicate. Intelligent lovers of good music recognise this, and respond to it.

Of course the likes of Cliff Richard are also still performing and making records - but that's another story.

Have a look at the previous programme featuring John Cooper Clarke here -


Michaelangelo Matos is a name to conjure with. Mr Matos this week has a whole page in the Guardian's music and film supplement to tell us about musical genres - "an exhaustive catalogue of music's phrasemakers and trendsetters". And a right load of anoraky rubbish it turns out to be. There's a fair bit of stuff in it I didn't actually know - but then again, I didn't want to know it and have already forgotten it. I've spent years avoiding musical 'trends'.

There's also stuff in the article that's just plain wrong. The only interest was in finding out that, according to Matos, Rhythm & Blues "came to be" in 1947 "when Jerry Wexler began using it to denote the kind of postwar black pop that he went on to pioneer with Atlantic Records."

In the first place, the output of Atlantic was rhythm & blues and soul music - not 'black pop'. But the more important point is that rhythm & blues was being played way back before WW2 - by the likes of the sublime Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, T-Bone Walker  and Slim Gaillard.

According to Wikipedia

Although Jordan began his career in big band swing jazz in the 1930s, he became famous as one of the leading practitioners, innovators and popularizers of "jump blues", a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie. Typically performed by smaller bands consisting of five or six players, jump music featured shouted, highly syncopated vocals and earthy, comedic lyrics on contemporary urban themes. It strongly emphasized the rhythm section of piano, bass and drums; after the mid-1940s, this mix was often augmented by electric guitar. Jordan's band also pioneered the use of electric organ.
With his dynamic Tympany Five bands, Jordan mapped out the main parameters of the classic R&B, urban blues and early rock'n'roll genres with a series of hugely influential 78 rpm discs for the Decca label. These recordings presaged many of the styles of black popular music in the 1950s and 1960s, and exerted a huge influence on many leading performers in these genres. Many of his records were produced by Milt Gabler, who went on to refine and develop the qualities of Jordan's recordings in his later production work with Bill Haley, including "Rock Around The Clock".

As for T-Bone Walker, Wikipedia says

By 1942, with his second album release, Walker's new-found musical maturity and ability had advanced to the point that Rolling Stone claimed that he "shocked everyone" with his newly developed distinctive song upon the release of his first single "Mean Old World", on the Capitol Records label. Much of his output was recorded from 1946–1948 on Black & White Records, including his most famous song, 1947's "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)".

On the origins of rock n roll Matos says this -

Radio plays a big role in the history of the term rock'n'roll itself – though it had been used in blues records dating back to 1922 (Trixie Smith's My Man Rocks Me with a Steady Roll, for example) and, as Preston Lauterbach's superb new book The Chitlin' Circuit makes clear, was basically everyday talk in postwar R&B: Roy Brown's 1947 Good Rockin' Tonight (later cut by Wynonie Harris and, on his second single, Elvis Presley); Wild Bill Moore's We're Gonna Rock, We're Gonna Roll (1947); the Dominoes' Sixty Minute Man (1950) ("I'll rock 'em, roll 'em all night long").

The late 1940's may have seen the birth of electric rock n roll, delivered by Gibsons and Fenders, but it had a very long gestation period, thanks to all those brilliant pre-war jazzers and blues people.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Layer 479 . . . Towns, Cities, Communities, Big Lunches, Urban Riots, Gandhi, Hazare, Tim Smit, Heligan, Totnes and Naomi Klein

There's been an interesting series of programmes on BBC TV this summer on the subject of towns. As something of an amateur geographer it was compulsory viewing for me, in spite of the irritating presenter - his false bonhomie & chumminess, and his ridiculous shortie double breasted macintosh that he'd insisted on wearing throughout the series and had about nine pockets and two epaulettes too many.

Previous programmes have focused on towns such as Ludlow and Scarborough - last night's was on Totnes, which is becoming well known as the first of the 'transition towns' in Britain. The key idea in these programmes is that it's possible to live more on a human scale in a town, which is less of an anthill than a city, but has more to offer than a village.

This final programme, however, floated the idea that people need to rediscover a sense of community within cities, or within particular communities within cities. A typical London borough, therefore, such as Hackney or Islington or Tottenham, can have its own sense of community, and within those boroughs there are specific areas that can generate their own sense of community - Stoke Newington, Clapton, Dalston, Canonbury, Barnsbury, Angel, etc.

We can even take it down to street level - and I've written in the past about brilliant street parties that have taken place in my own locality - in response to the brilliant Tim Smit's idea of a "Big Lunch".

In a typical street of Victorian terraced houses there as so many people and so many families it's possible to generate an amazing sense of community if people live there long enough. There are many wonderful streets where people love living and do indeed stick around for many years.

Tim Smit was also featured on TV this week in a superb documentary - beautifully filmed and edited - about the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It was Tim who discovered the abandoned estate in Cornwall, and who brought it back to life - which he subsequently wrote a book about. It was also Mr Smit who raised the money for and built the Eden Project.  He's quite a guy.


The last time I went to see Naomi Klein speak at a public meeting was a few months ago  in Totnes. She was there to study the Transition Town concept. Unfortunately the meeting was spoiled by a few typical locals who insisted on turning the meeting into something resembling a hall full of small discussion groups so that they could listen to themselves talking rather than pay attention to what the sublime Ms Klein had to say. Ordinarily I wouldn't have cared particularly - and if the 'workshops' and the 'brainstorming' had turned out to be dull then I'd gladly have gone down to the nearest pub and left them to it. Unfortunately, when the guest speaker lives in Canada and rarely gets to England, let alone Totnes, then it just seemed like a missed opportunity. What a pity there were no civic leaders present who had the presence of mind to stand up and say to the gathering that they really could listen to one another at any old time, whereas Naomi Klein was in town just for the day . . .

Naomi wrote a brilliant piece this week on the subject of England's urban riots:

Looting with the lights on

We keep hearing England's riots weren't political – but looters know that their elites have been committing daylight robbery

Argentina's mass looting was called el saqueo – the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country's elites had done by selling off the country's national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatisation deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centres would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.

England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn't theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behaviour.

This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G8 and G20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuition fees, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatisations of public assets and decreasing pensions – mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these "entitlements"? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.

This is the global saqueo, a time of great taking. Fuelled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94% of millionaires were afraid of "violence in the streets". This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.

Of course London's riots weren't a political protest. But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered – a union job, a good affordable education – being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.

Cameron's response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.

At last year's G20 "austerity summit" in Toronto, the protests turned into riots and multiple cop cars burned. It was nothing by London 2011 standards, but it was still shocking to us Canadians. The big controversy then was that the government had spent $675m on summit "security" (yet they still couldn't seem to put out those fires). At the time, many of us pointed out that the pricey new arsenal that the police had acquired – water cannons, sound cannons, teargas and rubber bullets – wasn't just meant for the protesters in the streets. Its long-term use would be to discipline the poor, who in the new era of austerity would have dangerously little to lose.

This is what Cameron got wrong: you can't cut police budgets at the same time as you cut everything else. Because when you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance – whether organised protests or spontaneous looting. And that's not politics. It's physics.


The correct response to the political situation, as I've said so many times, is peaceful, non-violent protest and demonstration - walk like an Egyptian. Talk like Tahrir, or Tiananmen.

Gandhi was the first to use non-violent mass protest as a means of making political demands. There's a new movement happening in India based on Gandhi's ideas and example. And a man called Anna.

Indian corruption: Gandhi's mantle

Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement is posing an increasingly serious challenge to the Indian government


The practical and sometimes dirty business of power-seeking and deal-making has in the past been countered in Indian politics by periodic impulses to transform society root and branch. This dualism was famously embodied in the divide between Nehru and Gandhi, partners but also rivals in the Indian independence movement.

The two men had profoundly different ideas on the direction in which India ought to go, Nehru seeing a future India as a great industrial and military power, while Gandhi wanted a society which would keep the worst aspects of modernity at bay while transcending caste, class and religious differences.

Anna Hazare, the 74-year-old former soldier whose anti-corruption movement is posing an increasingly serious challenge to the Indian government, has certainly borrowed both style and technique from the Mahatma. He wears plain white clothes, if not the actual homespun on which Gandhi insisted. Like Gandhi, he fasts. Like Gandhi, he goes to prison – and sometimes refuses to come out. Like Gandhi, he has a model village, in his case in his home state of Maharashtra. Like Gandhi, he is against tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Like Gandhi he has mobilised large numbers of Indians, many thousands of whom have been demonstrating in New Delhi and other cities after Manmohan Singh's government made the mistake of arresting him two days ago. Anger at corruption, of both the grand and the petty kind, has never been so intense.

The basic issue is simple. Mr Hazare and his followers want a powerful anti-corruption agency established, something that various governments had promised in the past. The prime minister pushed legislation to create such an agency, but without giving it powers to investigate the senior judiciary and the prime minister's office, or to pursue the lower- level officials who make life an expensive hell for Indians seeking driving licences, passports and other documents. Mr Hazare will not accept this, while Mr Singh says democracy is being subverted.

Mr Hazare does not have, or aspire to, anything like Gandhi's stature. He does not confront, as Gandhi did, his followers' complicity in social evils, an aspect of his career underlined by the subtitle – His Struggle With India – of a recent book on Gandhi. But Mr Hazare has found an issue – and is exerting a leverage which on balance must be good for India.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Layer 478 . . . The Bigger Picture, Global Financial Crisis, Economic Policies and Will Hutton

Last night the riots kicked off in Manchester, and continued in Birmingham and the West Midlands. The rest of the world looks on in amazement.

There's so much happening here that it would be easy to miss the bigger picture - the global financial crisis and the failure of economic policies. It's worth repeating - if we intend to create a better and more prosperous society it's crucial that we all pay attention to and understand the essentials of economics.

Thank heavens then for Will Hutton, who's been the wisest and most consistent voice on economics and finance since the start of the 1990s, at least. Anyone who wants to stay informed really needs to read his weekly pieces in the Observer. The latest column is one of the best-ever:

Our financial system has become a madhouse. We need radical change

As a new global crisis looms, and political paralysis worsens, genuinely bold solutions are required to overcome the malaise

The financial system has become a madhouse – a mechanism to maximise volatility, fear and uncertainty. There is nobody at the wheel. Adult supervision is conspicuous by its absence.

What is required is a paradigm shift in the way we think and act. The idea transfixing the west is that governments get in the way of otherwise perfectly functioning markets and that the best capitalism – and financial system – is that best left to its own devices. Governments must balance their books, guarantee price stability and otherwise do nothing.

This is the international common sense, but has been proved wrong in both theory and in practice. Financial markets need governments to provide adult supervision. Good capitalism needs to be fashioned and designed. Financial orthodoxy can sometimes, especially after credit crunches, be entirely wrong. Once that Rubicon has been crossed, a new policy agenda opens up. The markets need the prospect of sustainable growth, along with sustainable private and public debt.

As the IMF's chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, has suggested, if the options are public and private default, continuing bank weakness, economic stagnation (perhaps depression), or inflation, then the least bad option is to accept inflation, but to manage it within bounds.

Since inflation will happen anyway as governments seek the least bad way out, the choice in reality is whether to accept and manage it or not. Once debt is at a sustainable level and growth has resumed, then the world's financial system can be redesigned to avoid a repeat, and price stability restored.

This is the truth that cannot speak its name: as a senior financial policy official told me, even to raise it at home or abroad merely as an issue for debate is to invite universal disapproval. But truth must be faced. Britain should provide a lead – both for its own economic fortunes and to set the new international standard. As a minimum it should announce a new programme of quantitative easing, in effect printing money; insist the Bank of England uses the money it prints to buy the broadest range of private debt; and immediately replace the 2% inflation target with a target for the growth of money GDP – so getting Britain off the hook of its unpayable private debts.

The markets have issued a stark warning. The old common sense is killing the western economy and Britain's with it. We must now act to save ourselves.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Layer 477 . . . Riots, Anarchy, Societal Breakdown, Justice and Beyond


"Good evening! We're expecting disturbances in many parts of the UK this week."

So said Richard the Met Office weatherman, at 1.00am this morning. Tongue in cheek? Surely not.

Thank you Richard. You're not wrong either.

But as Bob Dylan said, back in the Sixties - you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

All evening and all night long there's been chaos and violence on the streets of London. Yesterday it was Enfield. The night before Tottenham. Last night there was anarchy in Hackney, Camden, Southwark, Lewisham, Clapham, Brixton, Woolwich, Ealing . . . and Croydon. Yes, Croydon. Several shops and other premises ablaze.

Buildings set alight, barricades erected, mobs roaming the streets - looting shops and attacking inadequate deployments of riot police.

Many of us expected this to happen last summer, and when it didn't we began to wonder just what it would take to provoke public anger and riots in this country. MPs stealing public money? Bankers' salaries and bonuses? Unemployment? Falling incomes? Rising prices? Student fees? Deep cuts to public services? Hacking scandals? Police corruption?

Well now we know. A squad of armed police surrounded a suspect and blew his brains out with handguns. The police claimed the guy had shot at them. A police officer apparently claimed that the radio clipped to his chest had saved his life by deflecting a bullet. A day later it turned out that the bullet in question was of a type that's used by the police . . .

On Saturday the family and friends of the dead man organised a peaceful protest and a demonstration outside Tottenham police station. It took four hours for the police to see them. (Were they invisible?) Somehow the demo turned into a riot . . .

On Sunday morning Nick Cohen's column in the Observer had this headline -

No Riots in Britian. Just quiet, ever-deeper anxiety.

What we are witnessing in this recession is not abrupt catastrophe but the slow erosion of the hopes and aspirations of so many

'When will there be riots?" eager journalists ask thinktanks, sociologists and anyone else who monitors Britain's unravelling social fabric. "When are the British going to imitate the Greeks and the Spanish and snap?"

On the face of it, their questions are reasonable. Contrary to the predictions of nearly every expert, inflation roared ahead of wage increases after the crash of 2008, squeezing the living standards of all but the most fortunate harder than at any time since the 1920s. The asinine George Osborne tightened the vice further by raising VAT in the middle of an outbreak of stagflation. Meanwhile his coalition's austerity programme is ensuring that public services will begin a long slow decline into shabby inefficiency, as public-sector workers start to lose their jobs en masse. Working- and middle-class families have already lost tax credits. The poor have already lost benefits.

To cap it all, the distribution of the pain is so monumentally unjust it cries to high heaven for a reaction. The banking crisis and the flooding of the market with easy credit were the City's follies.

But it is not London and the south-east which are suffering but the Britain north and west of the line from Severn to the Wash. [????] While the state bailed out the City so the bars could carry on heaving and the banks could carry on delivering fantastic rewards to their "stars", it has allowed the provinces to sink.

So complete has been the capture of the coalition by the moneyed interest that Osborne says in all seriousness that the one fiscal measure he simply must have at any price is not the relief of poverty or an easing of the burden on middle England, but a tax cut for the wealthiest 1% of earners.

These arrant insults ought to push the most mild-mannered people into revolt. Yet in Britain they provoke only students to riot. The wider public remains resigned rather than enraged; indifferent rather than incandescent.

[Not any more. Oh no, not any more.]

If insecurity continues to grow, our old assumptions will have to change. Imagine that Margaret Thatcher had died before the crash. Even her toughest critics would have had to accept that many of her reforms had succeeded and she had allowed the private sector to flourish. Now the world she left us has fallen apart, and her deregulation of finance in particular seems like a ruinous blunder. . . Now that the financial system Labour relied on to provide the tax revenues for social reform has crashed, the centre-left's old maps are useless as well.

Thatcher's Enterprise Society and Blair's Cool Britannia are lost worlds The promises both parties offered to those who "worked hard and played by the rules" of rising living standards, a secure retirement and a better life for their children sound empty. Millions are living thwarted lives of quiet desperation, and cannot see a way to escape them.


This morning John McDonnell MP said this -

Reaping what has been sown over 3 decades of creating grotesquely unequal society,with alienated young copying ethos of looting bankers.

Many people will question his rhetoric - since it was all quite legal for the bankers to do what they did. But the point is that morally and ethically the bankers behaved, and are still being allowed to behave, like fucking gangsters. Their so-called financial 'products' were always designed to be toxic - to the poor sods who became victims of mis-selling, and the rest of us who still suffer from the consequences of the derivatives, the mis-selling, the sub-prime mortgages, etc.

Imagine if the law was changed to make it legal to go out and carry out smash and grab raids, loot shops, break into homes and torch businesses. Well that's what happened when banking and finance was "deregulated" by Thatcher. We used to have laws that prevented banks and financiers from doing what they've done to individuals, communities and the economy in general. Those laws were abolished. We live with the consequences - and what's happening on the streets is one of the consequences. Either you believe that or you don't. Make up your minds time. There's no grey area in this argument. No walls to sit on. Not any more.

We await Cameron's next statement, now that he's back from his holiday, now that he's back in charge, with great interest.

It was interesting to see Clegg on TV yesterday - our Acting Prime Minister! Now there's a young man who had completely lost his bottle, as well as the plot. Not that he ever had a plot, or any bottle.

It's worth having a look at John McConnell's Twitter this morning:!/johnmcdonnellMP . He's a proper politician who's been consistent in his approach to political and financial issues. Compare him with the publicity-crazed Dianne Abbot, whose wisdom extends to popping up on Sky and BBC 24 to demand curfews. What next Dianne - call in the army?

What we actually need is people on the streets showing the way with peaceful protests - following the example of people in Cairo - reclaiming their city from the political thugs and their followers, reclaiming it from the rioters, determined to have non-violent change and a better, fairer, more democratic society.


What's intriguing me is what will happen next - since I'm old enough to remember the Watts riots in Los Angeles, and the fact that everything just went back to 'normal' after the fires had burned out and the politicians simply condemned the whole thing as mere criminality.

The difference this time around is the Internet - citizen journalism, chat rooms, blogging, twittering, discussion forums and so on - none of them under the direct control of the mainstream media, business, politicians, etc. This time there's the opportunity to take things a step further and higher - to reflect online, to analyse, to reason, to exchange opinions with non-establshment thinkers and reporters. This is not a time for bullshit, complacency, or going backwards.

And it's not a time for simply increasing the power of the police state. This is what was established in Cairo. There ARE limits to state power. There ARE limits to people's tolerance, inertia, fear, indifference and unwillingness to protest and demand justice.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Layer 476 . . . World Markets, States of Emergency, Turmoil, Panic, Infidels and Union Sundown

"World Markets In Turmoil" screams today's main headline atop the Guardian. And we're not talking here about fruit and veg. No friends, we're talking about the big one here - the next great meltdown of our wonderful globalised capitalist system. Wonder what's going to happen this time to protect the wealthy and the powerful? - what more can the wretched of the earth possibly suffer in order to protect the wealthy and the powerful? Wonder . . . and be afraid. Be very afraid.

Market turmoil carries echoes of August 2007

There was the stench of panic in the air again on Thursday. Are we heading for Meltdown 2?

Someone on Newsnight last night was talking about the inevitable collapse of the Eurozone - but not till after the dollar collapses, which will be any moment now.

Financial markets: State of emergency

In 2007 the world financial system suffered a near death experience. You could have been forgiven for thinking that it was happening all over again


For some reason, today felt like a day to listen to Dylan's "Infidels" album.

"An infidel (literally "one without faith") is one who has no religious beliefs, or who doubts or rejects the central tenets of a particular religion - especially in reference to Christianity or Islam."

How about belief in capitalism? Faith in 'the markets'? -

"Beginning with Infidels, Dylan ceased to preach a specific religion, revealing little about his personal religious beliefs in his lyrics. In 1997, after recovering from a serious heart condition, Dylan said in an interview for Newsweek, "Here's the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don't find it anywhere else...I don't adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I've learned more from the songs than I've learned from any of this kind of entity."

This is a truly great album, containing many great songs - Jokerman, License To Kill, I and I,  Sweetheart Like You, Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight - all of which are fabulously beautiful and inventive musically and melodically, as well as lyrically. There are two tracks that are regular bluesy rockers as far as the music goes - Man of Peace and Neighbourhood Bully - but also have outstanding lyrics.

And then there's Union Sundown -

Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore
My flashlight’s from Taiwan
My tablecloth’s from Malaysia
My belt buckle’s from the Amazon
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy makin’ thirty cents a day

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, this silk dress is from Hong Kong
And the pearls are from Japan
Well, the dog collar’s from India
And the flower pot’s from Pakistan
All the furniture, it says “Made in Brazil”
Where a woman, she slaved for sure
Bringin’ home thirty cents a day to a family of twelve
You know, that’s a lot of money to her

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, you know, lots of people complainin’ that there is no work
I say, “Why you say that for
When nothin’ you got is U.S.–made?”
They don’t make nothin’ here no more
You know, capitalism is above the law
It say, “It don’t count ’less it sells”
When it costs too much to build it at home
You just build it cheaper someplace else

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, the job that you used to have
They gave it to somebody down in El Salvador
The unions are big business, friend
And they’re goin’ out like a dinosaur
They used to grow food in Kansas
Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw
I can see the day coming when even your home garden
Is gonna be against the law

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that’s better left unsaid
From Broadway to the Milky Way
That’s a lot of territory indeed
And a man’s gonna do what he has to do
When he’s got a hungry mouth to feed

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Copyright © 1983 by Special Rider Music

Nearly 30 years old, and as relevant today as it was back then. Only more so.

The sun's taken longer to go down than Bob may have imagined when he wrote this song - thanks to the development of computers and the Internet, thanks to the chicanery of the bankers, thanks to Reaganomics and the consolidation of wealth in the hands of the already wealthy, thanks to the growth of China, India, Brazil, etc. But going down - it most certainly is.

It's not dark yet . . .

. . . but it's getting there.