Who can say how much [the Bomb] changed all of us … our music … our art? Crass
Marking a sober (though perhaps also positive) anniversary, 75 years since the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, here are some links to mostly open access (ie, free) copies of some of my research over the past 20-25 years on the broad field of cultures of peace, and specifically anti-nuclear culture and activism. It has always been a key area of my writing. Do please just click to read. Peace.
‘Rethinking the cultural politics of punk: anti-nuclear and anti-war (post-)punk popular music in 1980s Britain.’ Chapter forthcoming in McKay and Arnold, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock (Oxford UP).
This chapter is a reconsideration of the contribution punk rock made to anti-nuclear and anti-war expression and campaigning in the 1980s in Britain. Much has been written about the avant-garde, underground, independent, DIY and grassroots (counter)cultural politics of punk and post-punk, but the argument here is that such scholarship has often been at the expense of considering the music’s hit and even chart-topping singles. The chapter has three aims: first, to trace the relations between punk and cultures of war and peace; second, to reframe punk’s protest within a mainstream pop music context via analysis of its anti-war hit singles in two key years, 1980 and 1984; third, more broadly, to further our understanding of (musical) cultures of peace. Punk was a pop phenomenon, but so was political punk: the vast majority of the many pop hit songs and headline acts with anti-war and anti-nuclear messages in the military dread years of the early 1980s were a lot, or a bit, punky. This chapter argues that a wider and at the time significantly higher profile social resonance of punk has been overlooked in the subsequent critical narratives. In doing so it seeks to revise punk history, and retheorise punk’s social contribution, as a remarkable music of truly popular protest.
‘”Just a closer walk with thee”: New Orleans-style jazz and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1950s Britain.’ Popular Music 22(3) (2003).
This article looks at a particular moment in the relation between popular music and social protest, focusing on the traditional (trad) jazz scene of the 1950s in Britain. The research has a number of aims. One is to reconsider a cultural form dismissed, even despised by critics. Another is to contribute to the political project of cultural studies, via the uncomplicated strategy of focusing on music that accompanies political activism. Here the article employs material from a number of personal interviews with activists, musicians, fans from the time, focusing on the political development of the New Orleans-style parade band in Britain, which is presented as a leftist marching music of the streets. The article also seeks to shift the balance slightly in the study of a social movement organisation (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CND), from considering it in terms of its ‘official’ history towards its cultural contribution, even innovation. Finally, the article looks at neglected questions around Americanisation and jazz music, with particular reference to power and the past.
Glastonbury: A Very English Fair. Victor Gollancz, 2000. Chapter 6. A Green Field Far Away: The Politics of Peace and Ecology at the Festival.
… The main political focus for funds at Glastonbury started as the peace movement, and later embraced environmental campaigning more widely. In this context, the long-term relationships have been with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1981-1990), Greenpeace (1992 onwards), and Oxfam (because of its campaigning against the arms trade), as well as the establishment of the Green Fields as a regular and expanding eco-feature of the festival (from 1984 on). The radical peace movement and the rise of the greens in Britain are interwoven at Glastonbury. The festival has offered these campaigns and groups space on-site to publicise and disseminate their ideas, and it has ploughed large sums of money from the festival profits into them, as well as other causes….