Daniel Rachel wrote his first song when he was sixteen and was the lead-singer in Rachels Basement. Daniel is the author of Isle of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters – a Guardian and NME Book of the Year and a regular guest contributor on BBC Radio 5.
His latest book Walls Come Tumbling Down: the music and politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge was described by Billy Bragg as ‘…an amazing oral history of a time when pop culture fought against the forces of darkness.'
Read an extract fro the book below:
MAKE WAY FOR THE HOMO SUPERIOR
Eric Clapton. Black Britain. David Bowie
DAVID ‘RED’ SAUNDERS Everything begins with the letter. It was 1976. There were one and a half million on the dole, belts tightened, cuts biting, prices soaring, wages frozen, the government looking for someone to blame and the loony fascists cashing in by stirring up hate. Three Asians killed in London. Notting Hill Carnival attacked by the police. The right-wing activist Robert Relf doing his house for sale – ‘to an English family only’ – bit. Enoch Powell ranting about ‘alien wedges’ in our culture and predicting a racial war in Britain. It was in this climate that I read a review in Sounds about an Eric Clapton gig in Birmingham on 5 August:
...he shambled on stage and began warning us all about ‘foreigners’ and the need to vote for Enoch Powell whom Eric described as ‘a prophet’ and the danger of the country ‘being a colony within ten years’ and of how Eric was thinking of retiring to become an MP...
DAVE WAKELING I was at the gig. Here’s this bloke singing Bob Marley songs telling everybody to get the ‘wogs out’. It seemed like he had had a few, so some of the speech was more gargling than pontificating but the thrust of it was ‘Enoch was right’ and that ‘we should all vote for him’ and that ‘England was a white country’ and then a lot of saying ‘wogs’ and ‘get ’em out.’
DAVID CORIO I was fifteen or sixteen at the time and I remember him coming on stage and being obviously drunk and saying something about how there were so many Pakis in Birmingham. He sounded like some bad, old racist stand-up comedian.
DAVE WAKELING And then there was a bit about Arabs annoying him in Harrods and that’s what piqued our interest: ‘Oh, hang on a minute. He’s just an aggrieved toff. He doesn’t give a sod about Birmingham.’ It was like, ‘Come on. We gave you the steam engine. Isn’t that enough?’ It didn’t seem to us that he had any particular knowledge of our city other than that he knew the Enoch Powell ‘Birmingham speech’, as we called it, had been made over the road. I don’t remember it all happening in one go. There were two or three episodes of it and he had a bit of a recap towards the end. But from the first rant there was a conversation going on in our area, down on the floor, and all you could hear was, ‘What a bleeding nerve’. And that carried on as we came out in the foyer.
RED SAUNDERS This was when David Bowie was prattling on about Hitler being ‘the first superstar’ and Rod Stewart decided Britain was too overcrowded for him. It just made me sick with disappointment, but then fucking pissed off. I was an activist on the left and I’d been involved in Vietnam solidarity and street demonstrations but I wasn’t a great believer in writing letters. So it was a letter of anger. It wasn’t difficult to write. I whacked it off quite quickly. I was in a theatre rehearsal and we all signed it because I wanted it to be a group of people. The next day I phoned round friends and said, ‘I’ve written this thing.’
ROGER HUDDLE Red phoned me up and said, ‘I’ve composed a letter about Eric Clapton to send to all the music papers.’ He read it to me over the phone and said, ‘Would you sign it?’
When I read about Eric Clapton’s Birmingham concert when he urged support for Enoch Powell, we nearly puked. What’s going on, Eric? You’ve got a touch of brain damage. So you’re going to stand for MP and you think we’re being colonized by black people. Come on . . . you’ve been taking too much of that Daily Express stuff, you know you can’t handle it. Own up, half your music is black. You’re rock music’s biggest colonist. You’re a good musician but where would you be without the blues and R&B? You’ve got to fight the racist poison, otherwise you degenerate into the sewer with the rats and all the money men who ripped off rock culture with their chequebooks and plastic crap. Rock was and still can be a real progressive culture, not a package mail-order stick-on nightmare of mediocre garbage. We want to organize a rank-and-file movement against the racist poison in rock music – we urge support – all those interested please write to: ROCK AGAINST RACISM, Box M, 8 Cotton Gardens, London E2 8DN PS. ‘Who shot the sheriff,’ Eric? It sure as hell wasn’t you! Signed: Peter Bruno, Angela Follett, Red Saunders, Jo Wreford, Dave Courts, Roger Huddle, Mike Stadler, et
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