Monday, May 10, 2021

UB40

 


It has been revealed that the British government spent years watching the activities of UB40 because it thought that they were involved in some sort of subversion.

By 1983, with the cold war in resurgence, agents of subterfuge began to develop more sophisticated means of plotting their dastardly schemes. Swapping code words behind newspapers on park benches had become too obvious; now they met in low-lit speakeasies, handed their contact a 50 pence piece and asked them to put a song on the jukebox. If they returned having chosen UB40‘s ‘Red Red Wine’ – one agent singing the title, his contact replying with an impassioned “stay close to me!” – they were safe to lay out their plans for the revolution.

At least – with apologies to the MI5 rock blog surveillance bots that are blowing fuses right now – that’s the sort of thing Thatcher’s government thought was happening in the 1980s. UB40 drummer Jimmy Brown revealed last week that “MI5 were tapping our phones, watching our houses”, a fact previously exposed by whistleblower David Shayler, who claimed in 1997 that MI5 spent much of the ‘80s monitoring UB40, believing they were communists plotting to bring down the government. When ‘Red Red Wine’ hit Number One, Thatcher must have been having soft-reggae nightmares of sabres at the gates. No doubt they also had Simply Red and The Comm(ie)unards in their sights, and trailed anyone buying Chris De Burgh’s blatant tribute to the Chinese Red Army’s only female general Zhang Qinqiu, ‘The Lady In Red’.

If you can wade through the bullshit, it would appear that the Thatcher government was absolutely paranoid about any sort of criticism or cultural uprising from the left side of the political spectrum. Thatcher repeatedly beat back the challenge from the left and had a firm grip on power almost until the end. She privatized England and ruined everything for everyone except the people who were born into wealth.

UB40 was a band made up of people who were smart enough to realize that they could entertain and inform and comment on things. They didn't subvert or damage anything or anyone except the sensibilities of everyone who couldn't stand their music. And while they have a solid place in musical history as a crossover reggae and pop act, what they don't have is the ability to properly sue the British government into oblivion for the obvious invasion of their privacy. How much damage was done I have no idea. In this country, the paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover was used to ruin and sabotage countless lives and reputations. Where does everyone go to get their rights back?

Right wing governments all over the world fear criticism and humiliation, mockery and satire. They fear the arts, they are terrified that beautiful and talented people will make fun of them and they are especially concerned that their rich backers will have to live in a country where taxes are used to take care of the poor and the sick. What's shocking is not that it happened but that it took this long to expose the stupidity of the bureaucrats who thought a band could overturn a government. Not even U2 could ever manage that.


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