Margaret Thatcher, Milk-Snatcher, You Gonna Bomb Me Now Because I’m Stomping on Your Grave?

Politics and Terrorism in Punk/Post-Punk Music until . . . uh . . . until things no longer suck?

By John Stiller

At 2:54 am on October 12, 1984, the British Government was almost decapitated. The Irish Republican Army, in the midst of the Troubles, attempted to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and her entire cabinet, by detonating a bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England. The bomb was set the previous month before on a long-timer delay. Five people were killed, but, the target, Margaret Thatcher, survived.

The IRA chose their target in retaliation for the way Mrs. Thatcher handled the demands in 1981 of captured IRA members in prison. They argued they were not common criminals, but soldiers captured in the midst of a legitimate war and should be treated by such. To make their point, ten IRA prisoners went on a hunger strike and died. Bobby Sands was the leader and the first of the gang to die. He was immortalized and despised around the world, remembered with the phrase, “Who killed Bobby Sands?”

But back to 1984 (sic) and the bombing. While most of the world condemned the attack, a few throughout the U.K. were disappointed. One of them was Steven Patrick Morrissey, then lead singer of the Smiths. His opinion was that for once the IRA had chosen a good target, and he lamented the fact that they hadn’t succeeded.

Morrissey later got in trouble on his first solo album (Viva Hate) for the closing song, a sweet ballad entitled “Margaret on the Guillotine.” The song contains lyrics such as “People like you make me feel so tired” and the simple interrogative statement “When will you die?” The song ends with the final clang of the device made famous by Robespierre. We are left to imagine what happened, but rest assured, Morrissey has done his job. The image of the Iron Lady’s head rolling to the ground in indelible.

The song was so powerful that Special Branch questioned Morrissey to determine whether or not he posed threat to Maggie T. I don’t know if they questioned him again when he was voted the second most important English citizen alive in a recent survey.

Morrissey wasn’t the only one who was pissed off during that time about how royally fucked England was. Here are some random songs from that time:

Sex Pistols – “Anarchy in the U.K.”

Warsaw, later Joy Division – “Leaders of Men”

The Clash – “Charlie Don’t Surf”

The Anti-Nowhere League – “Streets of London”

The Exploited – “Let’s Start a War . . . Said Maggie One Day”

The Smiths – “The Queen is Dead”

Angelic Upstarts – “Brighton Bombing”

 

The first song to exist here is by the Sex Pistols, the biggest middle finger to all of polite society in the history of loud noises aimed at repression, law, and order. Here are some random lyrics from the Pistols. Discuss:

“I am an Anti-Christ, I am an Anarchist.

Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it,

I want to destroy, possibly . . .”

and

“Anarchy for the U.K., it’s coming someday, a maybe,

You give a wrong time, stop a traffic light,

your future dream is a shopping spree.”

 

Next up, Warsaw, later Joy Division:

“Made a promise for a new life . . .

A nightmare situation . . .”

And

“ . . . to crush out thoughts of masturbation.”

 

Well, I know you’re starving for more lyrics about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the cerebral cortex, so let’s listen to the Anti-Nowhere League in their song, “Streets of London”:

“Did you see the old man . . . outside the Seaman’s mission . . .

He’s just another hero from this land that doesn’t care.”

And

“So how can you tell me you’re lonely,

And don’t you say to me, your sun don’t shine.

Well, let me take you by the hand,

And drag you through the Streets of London.

I’ll show you something, that’ll make you really sick.”

 

Now on to the Exploited. You’re probably sick of lyrics at this point. So I’ll just quote lead singer Wattie, when he introduced “Let’s Start a War . . .” to the audience on the Live at the Whitehouse album (the first punk album I ever got. It was a cassette I bought at Wal-Mart in Oklahoma. At time, I’d never heard of them, but something appealed to my raging middle-school riddled hormonally disabled brain, particularly the track titled “I Hate You.”)

Okay. Here’s how Wattie introduces the song and the entire set:

“Hello. Okay. This song is dedicated to Argentina . . . It’s called Let’s Start a War!”

(Wattie then screams like an intoxicated horse in heat, as he does when he introduces each song on the set list.)

 

Here’s the Clash’s “Charlie Don’t Surf,” from their album Sandinista! (a word that Maggie Thatch wanted to ban because it gave such credibility to her perceived foes. Hence, the decision by the Clash to name the album that said offensive word.)

“Charlie don’t surf for his hamburger momma

Charlie’s gonna be a napalm star.”

And

“Soon the rock will roll over,

Africa is choking on their Coca-Cola.”

 

And now, here’s more Morrissey, when he was still the lead singer of the Smiths.

The song again, is entitled “The Queen is Dead”

“I said Charles don’t you ever crave?

To appear on the front of the daily mail . . .

Dressed in your mother’s bridal veil.”

 

And now to come full circle, back to the attempting bombing against M. Thatcher and her cabinet in 1984. It’s from the song “Brighton Bombing” by the Angelic Upstarts.

“Killers unite, killers with the right.

Do you hold the pistol or cut by the knife.

So cry to me of cowards, and countries

With the right

The right to take up a fight.”

And, finally:

“There’s a killer on the street, a killer on the trigger.

There’s a bomb gone off in Brighton, a bomb gone off to kill.”

 

So what can we learn from all this? Well, there must have been some bad shite going on in the United Kingdom during that time to make people that pissed off. How many songs can you write about how you wish Maggie Thatcher was dead and burning in hell until you make your point?

The bomber of the Brighton Hotel was IRA member Patrick Magee. He was caught a year later and sentenced to something like eight life sentences. But he was eventually freed from prison as part of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which put an end to (most) of the violence in Northern Ireland/Ulster (though in the middle of writing this, I just found out the Gerry Adams was arrested a few weeks ago for an unsolved murder the IRA was probably involved with in 1972.)

This brings up an interesting question with regard to war and terrorism. The Brighton Bombing by the IRA was a disgusting crime that killed innocent people, and they did it just to make a point. There is no justification for it.

But from the perspective of the IRA, they felt that they were at war with Britain. And in a state of war, almost anything goes.

How does Britain know this? Look at their past. They’re one of the biggest terrorist states in the history of the world. Ever heard the phrase “The sun never sets on the British Empire”? Guess how they pulled that off? They weren’t holding hands with anybody they conquered, or giving out friendship bracelets or Double Decker candy bars to starving children in the countries they showed up to liberate.

So whose lives were made better by the Brighton Bomb? None. But from the IRA perspective, they made a violent statement to the British government about how dangerous they were. Did they save any Catholics by this assassination attempt? Did one Catholic in Ulster/Northern Ireland have a better life after that? Probably not.

But how many Argentinians lives did Prime Minister Maggie T. take in order to make her point about how dangerous Britain was to anyone who would screw with her? What about the sinking of the Belgrano “during” (there is controversy about this incident) the Malvinas/Falklands War. The war was pretty much over and the Brits sunk the Belgrano, an Argentine battleship, killing almost 300 Argentinian soldiers. (I’m aware of the circumstances of the war, and I still think that justifies sinking the Belgrano.{

Who deserves more life sentences? Patrick Magee? Or Maggie Thatcher? The former killed five people in one attack. The latter killed almost 300 in one attack.

What’s the point? Let me quote Chuck Connors from Airplane II:

“Point? I have no point.”

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