LONDON CALLING - 2011
CONCEPT: EXPLORE A MUSIC PHENOMENON THROUGH THE LENS OF SOCIAL HISTORY.
When Winston Churchill proclaimed to the people of Britain “This is your victory…” at the end of the Second World War (1945) it was a moment of triumph that had been elusive since 1939. In that time Britain had been battered down to within a thread of her life. The great task of rebuilding the great city of London was put into motion. Social programs such as the National Health Service, Public Housing Plan and the expansion of the National Insurance, became the strategy behind building a “new” England. With the instatement of the US Marshall Plan (1948), American GI’s poured into England bringing their music with them.
The British Invasion
A large proportion of these US Soldiers were African Americans and they brought the sound of “The Blues” (Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Leadbelly, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters) into the newly reconstructed suburbs. Not having the racial divide in music that was ever present in the US, this music was quickly digested by artists like John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Roger Daltry, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, to name a few. They created what is now referred to as “British Blues”.
In 1964 the British Blues made it’s way across the Atlantic to the undamaged and thriving USA. Four boys from Liverpool (The Beatles) appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Mainstream music would never be the same again. In time other bands followed; English boys with unruly hair, imperfect smiles, and somewhat effeminate clothing – The Small Faces, The Zombies, Them, The Kinks, finally leading up to the absolute shocking behaviour of Mick Jagger, who shoved both politics and sexuality down our throats.
In the 1950’s Harry Truman (US President) unexpectedly cut off all further aid to Great Britain. Adding insult to injury, America then demanded that the UK pay back all the money “loaned” to them over the war years and during England’s reconstruction. Not only did this mean Britain would have to fend for herself, but she was left owing 3 ½ billion pounds to the US and other countries. This tragic fact would have profound repercussions many years later.
In 1979, Margaret “Maggie” Thatcher was elected Prime Minister. She found herself faced with an almost bankrupt Britain. Her solution was to reduce spending on “the welfare state”, sell off State owned companies and de-regulate markets. Despite Margaret Thatcher’s efforts, the economy worsened and unemployment abounded hitting an all-time high in 1982 of over 3 million. In Northern Ireland 20% of the population was out of work. In Scotland 16%. Young people with no future to look forward to, rioted and revolted. Thus the “punk” movement was born bringing with it the modern musical poets, Joe Strummer, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Paul Weller. Again, the music made it’s way across the Atlantic to a once-again economically thriving US. The music was a shock to the system. Indeed, it was “London Calling”.
- Margaret O’Hanlon, Writer/Director, August 2011
Photos by Dan Childs Photography