10 Great Political Rock Songs

Good art doesn’t have to be political, and good politics doesn’t have to be art, but when the two come together well then they can be very powerful. Here are my 10 favourite political rock songs. You may well complain that some favourites of yours aren’t on here, but that is the fun thing about these lists, isn’t it. Feel free to leave a comment.

One criterion does need mentioning however: there is no wishy-washy earnest folk acoustic stuff here. These tracks are not just good politics, they rock. I present them in rough (but not exact) chronological order. I don’t claim to be a great music critic, so feel free to ignore my comments if you want: but I have linked to versions of every track and the best thing to do with these songs is not just put them on, but listen to them…. so please do.

The old get old, and the young get stronger. May take a week, but it may take longer. They’ve got the guns, but we’ve got the numbers. Gonna win… yeah, we’re taking over… Come on!
The Doors may have strayed into some psychedelic whimsy now and again, and by all accounts Jim Morrison was often narcissistic and self-indulgent, but goddammit when he and his band set their minds to it they produced some powerful stuff. This is as radical as they ever got.



Kent State massacre

Kent State massacre, 4th May 1970.

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming. We’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming… Four dead in Ohio.
On April 30th 1970 Richard Nixon announced on US TV that the Vietnam war would be extended into Cambodia. During a subsequent protest at Kent State University in Ohio, the National Guard opened fire on unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine. A subsequent enquiry, the Scranton commission, concluded that the shootings were unjustified, but charges against the Guardsmen were dismissed in 1974. David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young recorded the song almost immediately after the shootings and Atlantic records rushed it into the charts. (Crosby, Stills and Nash’s ‘Long Time Gone’ is also well worth a listen.)

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
Hard to resist this one, in all its 8-minute glory, with the brilliant — and never matched — organ sound that opens the track, remains as an undertone throughout, and then eases its way up again towards the end before Keith Moon’s drumming and Daltrey’s scream burst the band back in. The Who were a very political band — listen also to ‘The Dirty Jobs’ off the Quadrophenia album. ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ remains highly relevant — and should be given heavy circulation before just about any election, anywhere. Alas, it’s central message also remains very true.


The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions… The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner. The revolution will not be televised, brother.
Who knows whether his prediction is still true? But it doesn’t matter. Christ, this is a powerful track, one I never heard until quite recently, but it’s got to get in this top 10. This kind of thing will send white conservatives into paroxysms: talk about radical.


Jamie Reid poster

Jamie Reid’s poster for ‘God Save the Queen’

God Save the Queen, her fascist regime. They made you a moron, potential H-bomb. God Save the Queen, she ain’t no human being. There is no future in England’s dreaming.
There’s rarely been a more subversive song than this, and John Lydon wrote it when he was 20 years old, for heaven’s sake. For a song with lyrics like this to get released at all by a record company was incredibly brave, and I would bet it would never get out today. Not only is it anti-monarchist, but it then segues into the ‘No future…. No future… for you’ ending, totally defining the punk spirit. In the present day, when a woman with no job can have a baby and receive millions from the taxpayer just because she married someone who was a member of an accidentally rich family…. we need this song. You need it. (‘Anarchy in the UK’ is brilliant too, but this is better.)


This town…. is coming like a ghost town. Why must the youth fight against themselves? Government leaving their jobs on the shelves. This place… is coming like a ghost town… No jobs to found in this country… Can’t go on no more. People getting angry.
I’ve heard this described as the UK’s best ever number 1 single… and I would agree with that. From that mournful brass at the beginning, it’s a complete work of art, invoking the despair of an urban environment in which there’s nothing to do and nothing to become. Remember, it’s about Coventry. But it could be many places. Maybe you live in one.

Ghost Town sleeve

‘Ghost Town’ single sleeve


What are you being put to death for today? Is your family here? What was your last meal? Any last words for the fans? The longer you cling to life…. the more prizes for your friends!
Jello Biafra was lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, who have done a bunch of tracks of their own that could have got on here (see ‘Police Truck’, ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, ‘California Über Alles’, to name but three). Lard was his collaboration with Paul Barker and Al Jourgensen of Ministry. Both the DKs and Ministry are excellent bands in their own right — together, they were, quite simply, awesome. In my opinion their Pure Chewing Satisfaction is the best album ever recorded, by anyone. If there’s one song on this list you  haven’t heard of, it’s probably this one, so give it a go. It’s a stunning prose poem set to a driving beat, an indictment of American attitudes to killing their criminals and sensationalism, as JB fantasises about a game show with ‘executions… on live TV!’ Five minutes and forty-two seconds of genius.


Free Nelson Mandela

Special AKA perform ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ on Top of the Pops in 1984

21 years in captivity… shoes to small to fit his feet… his body abused but his mind is still free… are you so blind that you cannot see? I said… Free Nelson Mandela!  
This and number 9 are the most exuberant songs on here. It deserves to get on if only because it annoyed the Tory Party so much at the time. Let us never forget that David Cameron was a prime mover in the anti-Mandela movement. The Special AKA were one of the two remnants when the Specials split, which makes them the only band to get on here twice, and Jerry Dammers, writer of both these tracks, king of the political rock song. I challenge you to hear this and not feel like dancing at the sheer joy of it.


Our muscle is our labour, and we flex it when we go on strike… Fight back, unionize…. If we fail to organise we’ll waste our lives on protest songs. A life worth living is waiting to be won…
This is the most blatantly leftist track on here, but is worth including just for that reason. A paean to Marxist politics, and it’s got fucking great drums on it as well. Like the last one, it’s political and it makes you want to dance your arse off.(I think the version done on a John Peel session is the best, but that’s really hard to find. I have it though 🙂 )


Elimination policy… A military-industrial illusion of democracy….
OK, I’m getting on a bit these days, and tend to think that most great rock ended at some point in the 1980s, but then again the lack of many newer songs on here is also a factor that rock music has just got a lot less political lately. Record companies are just too scared, too corporate these days. But perhaps you have your own favourites from the last couple of decades. Still, there’s always Primal Scream, who unlike many of their contemporaries have not yet given up and become their own tribute band — they still turn out great music, including this year’s More Light album, with its own political moments in the tracks ‘2013’ and ‘Culturecide’ to name two. But I’ll go with this track from 2000’s Xtrmntr album, thanks to its title’s allusion to a famous punk poster of the Queen (see also #4 above) and for a really kicking bass line.



British Conservative accuses Cameron in journalist’s partner arrest scandal

Dear Kitty. Some blog

This video from Britain is called Greenwald‘s partner David Miranda on his detention under terror laws.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Cameron ‘approved Miranda detention’

Tuesday 20 August 2013

A former minister escalated the furore over the detention of the partner of a journalist at the centre of a whistle-blowing scandal today after accusing the government of approving the operation.

David Miranda, partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained at Heathrow airport under draconian anti-terror laws as he changed planes on a journey from Berlin to his home in Brazil on Sunday.

Mr Miranda was held and interrogated for nine hours before being released without charge. Agents confiscated his laptop, memory sticks and a mobile phone.

Mr Greenwald has written a series of stories revealing the National Security Agency‘s electronic surveillance programmes, based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The newspaper also published…

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Although I think that, like many articles, this outlines an agenda for action without necessarily taking account of the obstacles and barriers (which are largely political and organisational) in the way of its agenda – it is nevertheless a useful summary statement of how things have changed, and what the difference is between ‘information overload’ (a negative metaphor) and the more positive ‘information abundance’.

User Generated Education


As I read through the social media networks, the concept of information overload is continually being discussed.

Information overload is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock. It refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information. Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.  

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own researchand are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites. Users are now classified as active…

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