Daniel Rachel

Author — London

Name, where are you from?
Daniel Rachel born in Birmingham, educated comprehensively, now living in North London.

Describe your style in three words.
Musician-turned-author

Why do you think music is such a tuneful force for political change?
Songs help to define you when you are forging your identity. Lyrics act as a call to arms: they educate, activate and inspire. Jerry Dammers wrote in ‘Racist Friend’ if you have a racist friend now is the time for friendship to end? That’s an incredibly powerful question.

Do you think it’s possible for music to be anti-establishment today?
Great music is defiant and challenging. Linton Kwesi Johnson articulated that on the album Forces of Victory. It criticised the state. It attacked the police. It challenged neo-fascism. When the incumbent government propagated those positions in the 1980’s music was forced to an anti-establishment position. Artists like Paul Weller and Billy Bragg offered hope in their music and crucially were given an outlet in the column inches of NME. Today, social media is the modern forum to operate outside of the mainstream where it is largely free from establishment censorship. But as Billy Bragg says, People won’t be going on tour in 30 years re-reading their tweeter feeds.

Do you see any similarities between what was happening musically in 1976 as a political protest with the music scene today?
Kate Tempest in many ways is comparable to Linton Kwesi Johnson. She openly speaks of the country being in a ‘state of emergency.’ She, similarly, uses cutting edge music as a backdrop to her poetry. Sleaford Mods very much have the spirit of punk and use music to address cultural poverty. Each generation finds their own form of revolution inspired by the past. The 70’s and 80’s demonstrated how great music can be both uplifting and have a social conscience.


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.'

What was the first song you played on repeat?
‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials. I was mesmerised by the trombone solo played by Jamaican legend, Rico Rodrigues. I met him in my twenties, and told him his playing inspired me to want to play the trumpet. These seems odd, but I was bored learning staid pieces like ‘Camptown Races’ and the theme from the Hovis advert. Rico told me, ‘Play ‘Ghost Town’ at half speed and then you’ll feel it!’

A song from your favourite album?
‘Clampdown’ from London Calling by the Clash. I’ve played that record so many times the grooves are paper thin. It’s a double album and the greatest demonstration of punk progressing and embracing a myriad of musical genres. A music journalist once compared my voice with Bob Dylan and Joe Strummer’s as a way to prove I couldn’t sing. It was the biggest compliment I ever had.

A song you wish you had written?
‘Between The Wars’ by Billy Bragg sweet moderation / heart of this nation / desert us not / we are between the wars. The day Billy was going to make his debut on Top of the Pops I was meant to be in the school play playing a butler in Pride and Prejudice. I persuaded the drama teacher to let me bring in a portable black and white TV and watch it before show time with the whole cast in the school gym.

A British music icon that has inspired you.
Paul Weller has been making great records for over 30 years: the Jam, the Style Council and as a solo artist. His spirit is always true. It’s passionate. And without pretension. I was a ‘mini’ Rude Boy in my early teens when there was a firm divide between liking 2 Tone and being a Mod. I secretly bought Jam records and danced to their records at youth club discos masked by clouds of thick dry ice.

What was the last piece of music you bought?
A bootleg live album of the Au Pairs and ‘Blues Run the Game’ a rare 7” single by Laura Marling which I’d been looking for, for years. 

Most meaningful lyrics to inspire change?
Are you gonna try to make this work
Or spend your days down in the dirt
You see things can change -
YES an' walls can come tumbling down!       
‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ The Style Council

Best song to bring people together?
Bob Marley had already written one good thing about music / when it hits you feel no pain but ‘Redemption Song’ clinches it won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom? / Cause all I ever have Redemption songs.

Name, where are you from?
Daniel Rachel born in Birmingham, educated comprehensively, now living in North London.

Describe your style in three words.
Musician-turned-author

Why do you think music is such a tuneful force for political change?
Songs help to define you when you are forging your identity. Lyrics act as a call to arms: they educate, activate and inspire. Jerry Dammers wrote in ‘Racist Friend’ if you have a racist friend now is the time for friendship to end? That’s an incredibly powerful question.

Do you think it’s possible for music to be anti-establishment today?
Great music is defiant and challenging. Linton Kwesi Johnson articulated that on the album Forces of Victory. It criticised the state. It attacked the police. It challenged neo-fascism. When the incumbent government propagated those positions in the 1980’s music was forced to an anti-establishment position. Artists like Paul Weller and Billy Bragg offered hope in their music and crucially were given an outlet in the column inches of NME. Today, social media is the modern forum to operate outside of the mainstream where it is largely free from establishment censorship. But as Billy Bragg says, People won’t be going on tour in 30 years re-reading their tweeter feeds.

Do you see any similarities between what was happening musically in 1976 as a political protest with the music scene today?
Kate Tempest in many ways is comparable to Linton Kwesi Johnson. She openly speaks of the country being in a ‘state of emergency.’ She, similarly, uses cutting edge music as a backdrop to her poetry. Sleaford Mods very much have the spirit of punk and use music to address cultural poverty. Each generation finds their own form of revolution inspired by the past. The 70’s and 80’s demonstrated how great music can be both uplifting and have a social conscience.


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.'

What was the first song you played on repeat?
‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials. I was mesmerised by the trombone solo played by Jamaican legend, Rico Rodrigues. I met him in my twenties, and told him his playing inspired me to want to play the trumpet. These seems odd, but I was bored learning staid pieces like ‘Camptown Races’ and the theme from the Hovis advert. Rico told me, ‘Play ‘Ghost Town’ at half speed and then you’ll feel it!’

A song from your favourite album?
‘Clampdown’ from London Calling by the Clash. I’ve played that record so many times the grooves are paper thin. It’s a double album and the greatest demonstration of punk progressing and embracing a myriad of musical genres. A music journalist once compared my voice with Bob Dylan and Joe Strummer’s as a way to prove I couldn’t sing. It was the biggest compliment I ever had.

A song you wish you had written?
‘Between The Wars’ by Billy Bragg sweet moderation / heart of this nation / desert us not / we are between the wars. The day Billy was going to make his debut on Top of the Pops I was meant to be in the school play playing a butler in Pride and Prejudice. I persuaded the drama teacher to let me bring in a portable black and white TV and watch it before show time with the whole cast in the school gym.

A British music icon that has inspired you.
Paul Weller has been making great records for over 30 years: the Jam, the Style Council and as a solo artist. His spirit is always true. It’s passionate. And without pretension. I was a ‘mini’ Rude Boy in my early teens when there was a firm divide between liking 2 Tone and being a Mod. I secretly bought Jam records and danced to their records at youth club discos masked by clouds of thick dry ice.

What was the last piece of music you bought?
A bootleg live album of the Au Pairs and ‘Blues Run the Game’ a rare 7” single by Laura Marling which I’d been looking for, for years. 

Most meaningful lyrics to inspire change?
Are you gonna try to make this work
Or spend your days down in the dirt
You see things can change -
YES an' walls can come tumbling down!       
‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ The Style Council

Best song to bring people together?
Bob Marley had already written one good thing about music / when it hits you feel no pain but ‘Redemption Song’ clinches it won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom? / Cause all I ever have Redemption songs.

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...

Daniel Rachel - 'Walls Come Tumbling Down'

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