Punk Comics 4

Blah blah detournment detourned, innit. The only interesting thing about this artwork is whether or not the record label got copyright clearance for the use of Batman.

Perhaps Sham’s recent appearance at the Labour Party conference wasn’t so surprising after all. I mean, it was only last year or so that “If the kids…” was used by McDonalds in a TV advert, so it’s hardly a quantum leap from that to the mcpolitics of nu-labour.

As Martin has pointed out, perhaps we have to look elsewhere for our punk fix now.

That tune, though… it gets hold of you…

This 7″ came out in mysterious circumstances in 1995. One side has a totally white label, the other side has a totally black label.

The “white” side starts off with this fantastic interview with Atari Teenage Riot conducted for the “Raw Soup” tv show:

Alec Empire: “There are so many things are wrong with the system… that’s enough.”

Interviewer: “Enough to cause a riot?”

Alec Empire: “We need a change.”

Interviewer: “And finally, how do you relax after a hard day’s rioting?”

Hanin Elias: “I don’t relax. Ever.”

The record then cuts into a brutal live Digital Hardcore version of “Kids United” which used the Sham refrain but adds lyrics such as…

“You know that violence is a disease
It’s going to be a part of our lives and our future if we don’t do something against it!
But if we put our energies together it could be a very powerful era!
Riot sound effects can produce riots
Play them in a riot situation and the police will come you’ll see!”

…which owe as much to Burroughs circa The Job as they do to punk.

The Blaggers ITA are one of the best bands ever and “Emergency”, the last track on this classic album, is one of their best tracks ever. Why?

Well, it kicks off with Madonna saying “You can dance – for inspiration” before bringing in some excellent horns, drums, bass and guitar whilst Matty Blag sings about the cops:

“999 on the telephone / 999 coming in my home”

Matty continues for a few verses, before the bridge to end all bridges, a mosh section, a HUGE horns and bass and drums section and then Christie comes in with some top geordie toasting business:

“Shout down the road and we’re all gonna come,
found all the nazis and we’re gonna make ’em run,
we’re all tooled up for a knuckles-to-the-ground,
there ain’t no place for a nazi in this town.”

Christie’s verses end with an impassioned dedication:

“This is for all the prisoners in jail,
all the people who’ve been jailed for being anti-fascists,
this is for David, Mark and Tony,
serving time for fighting against fascists,
fighting the right fight,
fighting the just fight,
fighting against them scum!”

The Blaggers were not fucking about with politics like most pop groups – their involvement with the militant “physical force” Anti-Fascist Action meant that they’d almost certainly had personal dealings with people who had been sent down for confronting nazi boneheads on the streets. The song then launches itself into a raucous terrace chant version of “If the Kids Are United”…

I’ll take that over Tony and Gordon any day of the week…


  1. a very much maligned band, Blaggers. i know it ended shabbily – and tragically – but in their prime – on the United Colors album – they were phenomenal. and yes, they weren’t armchair activists but really were right in it. saw them on the day of a big demo (i forget which) and half the band weren’t there, they’d been nicked..

  2. The Blaggers never got the credit they deserved – they’d literally been one of the only groups to advocate physically confronting right wing idiots, and the moment they signed to EMI, they were suddenly ‘pathetic poseurs’, slammed by fanzines with print runs of 50, written by dour anarcho-purists who were more interested in homebrew than direct action. Seeing them live in the early 90s was memorable, the atmosphere was always really charged and upbeat and it was inspiring to meet so many likeminded other young people with similar attitudes – especially as, at the time, there was quite a hefty BNP presence in Luton and particularly Dunstable and the boneheads weren’t slow in trying to intimidate anybody who looked remotely ‘red’ or ‘non-white’ (albeit always when they had 2 or 3 others to back them up, the cowards…) Blaggers ITA, Oppressed and Oi Polloi (even though I wasn’t really into that lot so much) are the only 3 groups I can recall who really encouraged militant fightback against the fash (as opposed to standing behind police lines and being stewarded by the SWP) and I’m grateful they were around.

  3. The Official Reassessment starts here! 🙂

    What I find remarkable is that they had good politics, put them into practice, weren’t afraid to make sensible compromises to further their cause AND sounded fantastic.

    It’s unfortunate that they lost a lot of anarcho-purist respect by signing to a major, but I guess they were aiming for a bigger audience. Getting full pages ads in the music press about anti-fascism is pretty damn good.

    The press never really liked them because of their attitude, I think. I recall some singles reviewer going on about how there were only a dozen nazi skinheads etc left in Britain and this made the Blaggers irrelevant. A fortnight later Derek Beakcon was elected the first BNP councillor on the Isle of Dogs.

    I think thie music press were looking for an excuse to squeeze them out, really, and when Matty thumped a journalist who’d been nagging him all night about being “as bad as the fascists” or whatever it was, I guess they found the stick to beat them with. If you compare that incident to countless others (didn’t the Stranglers kidnap a journalist and tie him to the Eiffel Tower or something!?) it’s a drop in the ocean. But the Blaggers ended up getting dropped of the bill at the Reading Festival because of pressure from Melody Maker and I’m sure all sorts of other stuff was going on behind the scenes.

    Despite their loutish image, the members of the band that I’ve met have been sound people.

  4. Yeah, I think the journo had latched onto the fact that Matty had been involved with the NF (or a similar gaggle of goose-steppers) when he was a teenager, as if that made his anti-fascist stance irrelevant. And yes, I remember the utter hypocrisy from the music press – fascism wasn’t big enough to bother with until AFTER the Beackon election, funnily enough, when it was then deemed important enough for the NME to run a retro RAR cover and to big up…er…the Senseless Things. Who’d said racism was bad, or something equally daring.

    There’s a valid anti-EMI argument, but life’s not black and white and sometimes it’s better to opt for the lesser of 2 evils. If ‘United Colors..’ had been distributed by a major it could have had a massive impact. What made me sick was folk hippies Chumbawamba slagging them off as sell-outs – didn’t stop them from taking the same route a few years later (and not even to say something worthwhile – some fucking toss about ‘cider drinks’..)

  5. Martin eats hitmen for breakfast, so that’s fine. I tried to search for chumba quotes around that time which were sensible but couldn’t find any. Which is a shame because they clearly became much more pragmatic afterwards.

    However this: https://www.uncarved.org/music/apunk/wpob.html comes up as number two in a google search for “chumbawamaba blaggers emi” so I am clearly cornering the market in anarchopunk analytical angst or something.

  6. they simply extended Martin’s point about seeking a wider audience. they always knew their window fame would be a small one, so rather than playing to the same crowd forever, they decided to bite the bullet and go for it. i’ve seen the footage of Alice talking about anarchy on a US network talkshow. This wouldn’t have happened without Tubthumping and EMI (by then, nothing to do with arms dealers etc by the way)….

  7. I am afraid Dudversion is taking out of his jaxy. How can anyone compare Blaggers with that group of Leeds based hippies? One was a working class anti fascist band and the other life style liberals with a student market.

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