In the mid-1980’s the UK was pretty much where it is now. Strikes, a widely unpopular government in power and a country struggling to heal itself, but being divided at every turn. Billy Bragg set up Red Wedge, along with Paul Weller and Jimmy Somerville, ostensibly to encourage the younger generation to register to vote and get involved in the Labour political movement, with the ultimate goal of ousting Margaret Thatcher in the 1987 General Election.
Red Wedge organised a number of major tours. The first, in January and February 1986, featured Bragg, Weller’s band the Style Council, the Communards, Junior Giscombe, Lorna Gee and Jerry Dammers, with guest appearances by Madness, The The, Heaven 17, Bananarama, Prefab Sprout, Elvis Costello, Gary Kemp, Tom Robinson, Sade, The Beat, Lloyd Cole, the Blow Monkeys, Joolz and The Smiths. Not exactly a line up to rival Live Aid but it did encourage the younger generation to get involved. As a previously ambivalent 20 year old, it grabbed me hard!!
However, Red Wedge did not receive universal support from left-wing musicians, and some groups such as Paul Heaton’s Housemartins, Easterhouse and the Redskins rejected involvement and/or criticised the campaign. This didn’t stop the Redskins getting involved and they frequently played benefits under banners such as Coal Not Dole and Anti-Apartheid. In fact both Billy Bragg and Jerry Dammers (ex-Specials), had previously guested with them on their 1985 Kick Over Apartheid Tour, tracks from which make up the bulk of this double album.
London Records release the definitive live compilation of the UK’s most incendiary political band, Redskins. These Furious Flames! Redskins Live! 1985/86 is out on 8th December on double CD and Vinyl, with sleeve notes by Redskins’ bassist and founder Martin Hewes and poet Barnaby Ashton-Bullock.
Redskins may have taken the look of the early-’80s skinhead movement, but politically they were firmly on the left. Forged amid the streetwise intellectual post-punk frenzy of early-’80s Yorkshire, named after cadres of left-wing skinheads in Sheffield, the Redskins were members of the Anti-Nazi League and the Socialist Workers Party and married Marxist discipline with revolutionary populism. “Like The Fall meets The Four Tops!” they declared.
Their first single releases on the label CNT, inspired the band to believe they would ‘storm the barricades with records’, but the growing ferment of real-world political action in 1980s Britain would make the band’s live performances ever more vital. The Redskins’ mix of punk and soul saw them uniting the youth, alongside the likes Bragg, while fighting for Socialist ideals in Thatcher’s increasingly conservative Britain of the 1980s.
‘These Furious Flames!’ is a 25-track documentation of the energy, commitment and drive of the Redskins as that campaigning live act. Issued in 2xCD capacity wallet, double vinyl and digital editions, each format couples together a recording of the full set of the finale concert of their 1985 ‘Kick Over Apartheid!’ tour – including guest appearances from Jerry Dammers and Billy Bragg – with the BBC broadcast tracks from their 1986 concert at the Town And Country Club.
“It is important to recognise that those audiences of committed activists inspired the band’s performances and taught Redskins how to inspire others through live music. This was a reciprocal arrangement.” reflects Hewes, ”Both sides gave their energy and commitment to generate solidarity and support those at the sharp end.”
The band released just one album, 1986’s Neither Washington Nor Moscow, at the end of that year the Redskins didn’t so much split up as disperse: no long obituaries were written, and no monuments were erected. Its three members exited the field quietly, never to return. Those who had been there, who’d seen and heard and raised their hands remember, and this live compilation is an attempt to document that energy and commitment. That album is widely revered and numerous calls for the band to reform have fallen on deaf ears. Any reunion would instantly sell out but money wasn’t their driver. It’s a shame as the country has never needed them more in the current climate.
Redskins as political activists, delivered their electrifying and radical Socialist Workers Party missives and broadsides through the ministry of their music – a unique post-punk rock/soul hybrid that gained their lead singer, Chris Dean, the sobriquet ‘Tamla Motormouth’. The Redskins were taking a stand for the working man and by standing up, they stood out – and never so forcefully as in the live arena. With their stellar musicianship and crack brass section honed through a never-ending whorl of ‘fighting fund’ benefit gigs, they were the furious flames that kept the anti-Thatcher fires of dissent burning throughout those challenging years marked by her seeming unassailability.
The double CD edition comes with a 40-page booklet that compiles new commentary from Martin Hewes, with historic quotes from Chris Dean, Paul Hookham and Kevin Robertson, as well as thoughts by an array of associates and celebrity fans including poet Atilla The Stockbroker, Billy Bragg, Colin Revolting, their studio album producers Pat Foley & Chris Silagyi and DJ Gary Crowley. The booklet also contains gig reviews, photographs and a condensed digest of media quotes about the band.
The double vinyl LP format has printed inner bags replete with evocative archive photographs and a written introduction by Redskins founding member Martin Hewes, with whose co-operation and input this celebratory release has been curated.
On 13th December, Martin will be joined at Rough Trade East (London) in conversation with Barney Ashton-Bullock, poet and project consultant on the recent London Records reissues of both Neither Washington Nor Moscow and These Furious Flames!, and author Daniel Rachel – author of Walls Come Tumbling Down: the music & politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge (winner of the Penderyn Music Book prize) and Too Much Too Young: the Story of 2 Tone Records.
1. Lean On Me! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
2. Reds Strike The Blues! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
3. Hold On! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
4. Unionize! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
5. Kick Over The Statues! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
6. 99 And A Half (Won’t Do) (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
7. It Can Be Done! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
8. Turnin’ Loose (These Furious Flames) (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
9. Plateful Of Hateful (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
10. Bring It Down! (This Insane Thing) (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
11. Don’t Talk To Me About Whether (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
12. The Power Is Yours… (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
13. Take No Heroes! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
14. Let’s Make It Work! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
15. Tracks Of My Tears / People Get Ready (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’) with Billy Bragg & Jerry Dammers
16. Back In The USSR (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’) with Billy Bragg & Jerry Dammers
17. Skinhead Moonstomp (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’) with Jerry Dammers
18. Keep On Keepin’ On! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)
19. The Power is Yours… (Live At The Town And Country Club, 22nd Apr, 1986)
20. Kick Over the Statues! (Live At The Town And Country Club, 22nd Apr, 1986)
21. Hold On! (Live At The Town And Country Club, 22nd Apr, 1986)
22. The Crack (Live At The Town And Country Club, 22nd Apr, 1986)
23. 99 And A Half Won’t Do (Live At The Town And Country Club, 22nd Apr, 1986)
24. Let’s Make It Work! (Live At The Town And Country Club, 22nd Apr, 1986)
25. Keep On Keepin’ On! (Live in 1985 from the ‘Kick Over Apartheid Tour’)