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Why we need Oliver Anthony Britain needs a cultural rebellion

Just a man, south of Richmond. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Just a man, south of Richmond. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)


September 2, 2023   9 mins

It can be a little bit embarrassing admitting that you are a Country music fan when you’re a middle-class journalist living in London. It carries a certain stigma: “Isn’t that just music for rednecks?” someone asked me recently, somewhat baffled. A similar prejudice has accompanied the explosive success of Oliver Anthony and his track “Rich Men North of Richmond”.

With its attacks on both the political elite and the idle poor, Anthony’s “Rich Men” has proved uniquely conflicting for today’s political class, both a provincial cry against the urban elite and a working-class rebel yell, raging against poverty wages. Despite its attacks on corporate exploitation, it has quickly been adopted as a conservative anthem, while many on the Left have found it difficult to support its attacks on welfare and less-than-subtle allusions to paedophile conspiracy theories.

And so we’re told we shouldn’t take Anthony seriously. To sympathise with his lament about modern life is little more than “liberal genuflecting to astroturf roots politics” the process by which Right-wing conservatives create the impression of a conservative grassroots fightback, when it is actually a carefully cultivated attempt to preserve the status quo. 

There is, of course, some truth in the Left’s criticism of “Rich Men” and, indeed, the general perception of country music itself. Oliver does indeed “punch down”, as Billy Bragg wrote in The Guardian, taking aim at what we might once have called the undeserving poor. But why shouldn’t he, if that’s his opinion — he’s certainly not the only one to hold it. Country music is a strange, conflicting and deeply American phenomenon, somehow both anti-elitist and conservative, backward and modern. For those of us here in Europe, it also manages to be both instantly understandable and completely foreign at the same time. 

And herein lies its appeal.  

Indeed, its very foreignness was what first got me into Country. My wife and I were at The Calgary Stampede, a mad jamboree of rodeo, fried food, fairground rides and live music when we first began to take note. While we didn’t really pay much attention to the music at the rodeo — a festival called Nashville North — as we headed out of the city on our way west to Vancouver, we found a “Country” playlist and began to listen. At first, we were doing so almost ironically, enjoying the songs for their corny Americana. This was redneck music and we were European city folk travelling towards the Pacific.

One of the first songs that came on in our playlist was “My Girl” by Dylan Scott. “Man, her eyes really drive me crazy,” he sings in his deep, country drawl.You should see her smile when she holds a baby.” My wife and I could not stop laughing every time we heard that line. Or to Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good: “I believe most people are good and most Mamas oughta qualify for sainthood.” Can you imagine Liam Gallagher singing that line? We played these songs on repeat as we climbed over the Rockies on the road west — like drinking ouzo in Mykonos, an affectation. 

And then something happened: we began discovering Country songs that were completely different; songs with hard, sad lyrics sung by raw, gravelly voices. Songs like “Rich Men”.

At first, these were still on the pop side: Morgan Wallen’s “Whiskey Glasses”, say. “Poor me… pour me another drink, cause I don’t wanna feel a thing.” Not quite so corny. Or Scotty McCreery’s “Five More Minutes”, pleading for a little more time with his grandfather. “At 86 my grandpa said, ‘There’s angels in the room’ / All the family gathered ’round, knew the time was comin’ soon; With so much left to say I prayed / Lord, I ain’t finished / Just give us five more minutes.” The words might be all-American, but the feeling is universal. In retrospect, though, these Country songs were just gateway drugs to the hard stuff.

In Ken Burns’s extraordinary documentary, Country Music, he talks of a “music about people who thought their stories were not being told”. The more I learned about the genre, the more this truth revealed itself — the connecting thread from Hank Williams to Oliver Anthony, the music of a down-at-heel people sharing their stories.

We are introduced to the early founders of the music, the hillbillies of Appalachia, before being taken through all of its various iterations along the way. A young Dolly Parton tells the story of a pregnant girl abandoned by her lover who kills herself on the bridge where they met; singing of another girl of her creation forced to endure a stillbirth alone, abandoned by her family. Or take Loretta Lynn’s 1975 declaration of female liberation in “The Pill”: “You wined me and dined me when I was your girl, promised if I’d be your wife, you’d show me the world / But all I’ve seen of this old world / Is a bed and a doctor bill / I’m tearin’ down your brooder house / ’Cause now I’ve got the pill.” These are not the songs of a simple band of reactionary rednecks looking to rebuild a lost world. They are the songs of ordinary Americans about ordinary American life, often shockingly modern and even progressive. As Lynn explains in the documentary: “The songs were just life.” 

From Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” to Reba McEntyres’s “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” and Bobby Gentry’s “Fancy”, Country music is tragic storytelling made raw — a kind of hillbilly opera in one act; a fully worked out story from start to finish. In “Fancy”, for example, Gentry tells the story of a young girl from “poor white trash” encouraged into prostitution by her dying mother to escape poverty. “We didn’t have money for food or rent / To say the least, we were hard pressed / Then Mama spent every last penny we had / To buy me a dancin’ dress.” Eventually Fancy escapes after meeting a “benevolent man”, who introduces her to “a king, a congressman and an occasional aristocrat”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the songs that move me today are those that connect with my new feelings as a middle-aged parent — Rodney Crowell’s reflection on mortality, “It Ain’t Over Yet”, or Tanya Tucker’s take on “The House That Built Me”, released in 2019, telling the story of an older woman who feels lost after her children leave home. There are plenty of odes to fatherhood, too, which similarly pull at the heartstrings: “A Father’s Love (The Only Way He Knew)”, by Bucky Covington; Reba McEntire’s “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”; or even “She’s In Love With The Boy”, by Trisha Yearwood.

Oliver Anthony, then, is not new. He fits easily into Country’s long history, singing about ordinary life and ordinary feelings. Take a look at Anthony’s other songs. “Now some people write songs on livin’ just right,” he sings in “I’ve Got to Get Sober. “But I write mine on just getting by.” This is what Country music has always been. In Tanya Tucker’s “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane, she sings: “There’s a baby crying and one more on the way / There’s a wolf at the door / With a big stack of bills they can’t pay.” Or take Anthony’s “I Want to go Home: “Seven generations farming the ground / Grandson sells it to a man from out of town / Two weeks later, the trees go down / Only got concrete growing around.” Again, this is both deep Americana and universal. It could be the lament of the Dutch Farmer Citizen Movement — or Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi: “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.” Anthony is singing about the things people always worry about, only in a contemporary manner: “an old soul in a new world”, as he puts it.

His success, then, is surely down to the way he so obviously reflects the real world — he is a mirror of the zeitgeist, not a creator of it. “I’ve been selling my soul, working all day,” he sings with evident emotion. “Overtime hours for bullshit pay.” In both the United States and Britain this is just plainly true. Since 1979, the top 1% in the US have seen their wages grow by 138%, while wages for the bottom 90% grew by just 15%. In Britain, living standards have been stagnant since 2007. Why shouldn’t people rage against these failing systems?

Like Country itself, Anthony is both à la mode and old-fashioned, conservative and anti-establishment, provincial and universal. He has very obviously grown out of the soil that gave us Trump and Brexit, and now RFK Jr. What makes his music doubly powerful is the fact that much of today’s Country is as corporate and safe as everything else, churning out endless cheesy songs about love and small-town life that often meld into pop and rock, only with twangier sounds and romantic deviations into faith and family. 

In early Country music, songwriters gazed deep into the heartbreaking reality of life as it was back then, singing about everything from dead babies to dead dogs. In Johnny Cash’s recording of “The Engineer’s Dying Child”, for example, he sings about a railwayman whose child is sick but he has to go to work. Before he sets off, he tells his wife: “Just hang a light when I pass tonight, Hang it so it can be seen / If the baby’s dead, then show the red / If it’s better, then show the green.”

Today, Country music is far more sanitised, in large part because life itself is more sanitised — or, in other words, better. Our lives today tend not to be touched by quite as much tragedy. Child mortality is rare, so too deadly disease. Even our pets live longer. Very few of us face such an unimaginable scene as the railway man in Cash’s song. And the result is that Country music has become more generic. “Modern country music speaks less of such desperate loss and has become shiny and rich and rather shallow as a result,” Cash’s daughter Rosanne reflects in her memoir, Composed. “The dead have all but disappeared, though they do occasionally surface. The family has likewise faded in country, as sexual heat has begun to obsess most singers and songwriters, just as it does in pop music.” 

And yet, there are more modern emotions than heartbreak and sexual attraction. Tragedy and pain and poverty still exist: drug abuse, family breakdown, death and disease. And so does the sense of political and economic powerlessness, as Anthony’s “Rich Men” proves. Country music is born to express this frustration: “Music about people who thought their stories were not being told,” as Burns put it.

To me, Anthony is proof of the continued vibrancy and diversity of American culture, something that seems lacking in Britain today. We have many of the same conditions as the US: regional poverty, terrible wages, cultural dislocation. Compared to America — and even those parts of America where Anthony lives — Britain is poorer with worse wages. We have millions of people living far from the capital who feel that their instincts and beliefs are ignored by those in positions of power. Where is the music that tells their story, that reflects their rage?

We have Oasis and Blur, Pulp and the Manic Street Preachers, each of whom touch on the ordinary lives of ordinary people in their stories, but not quite in the same way. In Oasis’s “Cigarettes and Alcohol”, there is a lament about modern life equivalent to Anthony’s: “Is it worth the aggravation / To find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for? / It’s a crazy situation / But all I need are cigarettes and alcohol.” In Jake Bugg’s “Trouble Town”, he’s stuck in his home town where “all you’ve got’s your benefits; And you’re barely scraping by”. There are plenty of songs which could be Country ballads: The Streets’ “Dry Your Eyes, even The Spice Girls’ “Mama”.

There is anger in modern British music too of course. Casting around for examples to disprove my lament about the lack of Oliver Anthony-style rage in Britain, alternatives were offered — from bands like IDLES and Sleaford Mods to Stormzy. In each case it’s reasonable to argue that they meet Burns’s definition of Country music, telling the stories of those who do not otherwise get their stories told. And yet, taken together, they still do not amount to a genre of their own. The rage in modern British music is more diverse and scattered — and often metropolitan. Grime, for example, is still a predominantly London genre, not the music of provincial “left behind”. Where is the music that connects the Red Wall and Great Yarmouth, Morecambe and Boston — the places that helped give us Brexit and Boris (and Blair, of course)?

The truth is we do not have the same vibrant, distinctive tradition of provincial British music as a genre of its own. In part, I think, this represents the total domination of London in our national life as well as our own cultural norms. In Britain, you don’t revere your town, you mock it (even if that is really a particularly British form of self-effacing affection); you don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, share your pain, or give away your feelings. You don’t rage against life; you quietly grumble. 

But also, I don’t think you rage against London — you move there. In Britain, we don’t have alternative centres of commerce or culture. London is our New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Nashville. If you make it somewhere else, you move to London — or, indeed, the US. The Arctic Monkeys swapped Sheffield for California, the Gallaghers traded Manchester for London. In Bugg’s “Trouble Town”, he is “stuck in speed bump city / Where the only thing that’s pretty / Is the thought of getting out”.

The irony, of course, is that we are so dominated by the rich men of the South East that we’re not even able to produce a vibrant cultural alternative. Instead of producing our own Country music, we import it. Today, Americana seems to be more popular than ever. The annual festival of all things Country in London — Country to Country — is regularly sold out. The biggest Country stars now regularly pass through London: Luke Combs, Shania Twain, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris. There is clearly an appetite for what Country is selling, even if what it is selling is distinctively American. 

But here’s the problem: rather than mock Oliver Anthony and the redneck America he represents, then, we should worry about why our docile culture so dominated by one all-encompassing city does not produce enough Oliver Anthonys of our own. We have bailed out the banks, imposed austerity, left large swathes of the country impoverished and imposed a trade border within our own country; corporate profits have gone up while living standards have gone down, and the state seems barely capable of doing anything but the most basic of public service provision. The country is a mess. We have channelled our fury about the situation into political rebellion, but what about cultural rebellion? We deserve more populist fury than we’ve got. Where is it?


Tom McTague is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Very enjoyable and reflective essay. I do get a bit annoyed when writers feel compelled to acknowledge the hysterical rantings of the regime media. The song does mention Epstein island – one time. It doesn’t peddle any paedophile conspiracy theories. It mentions fat people one time.

If someone listens to that song and thinks he’s punching down, they have some serious cognitive issues – either that or they’re carrying water for the swamp in Washington.

I listened to Anthony on the Joe Rogan podcast and thought he was very well spoken and thoughtful. If he’s a typical redneck hick, the swamp monsters in Washington could learn a lot by moving down to
Appalachia.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Yes, the obligatory genuflections to establishment media tropes do rather spoil what is otherwise a quite useful piece of writing. It’s pretty clear, for example, that Epstein was providing a service for wealthy and powerful paedophiles – so why is one a ‘conspiracy theorist’ for saying so? The corruption at the heart of the US ruling class is a perfectly fit subject for a songwriter – as, indeed, is the catastrophic impact of bourgeois welfarism on America’s working poor.

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Epstein was blackmailing them, its not hard to figure out who he was working for

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
8 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Begins with an M and ends with a d.

David Jory
David Jory
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

And he also shot back at the Republican candidates,who tried to use him, pointing out that they are just the same on the other side of the aisle.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think Epstein Island is presented as a conspiracy theory because so many wealthy and powerful people on the left visited it.

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

That, and media controll/ownership is nice

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Re “punching down” and serious cognitive issues. This to my mind exemplifies the UK problem. Here’s what wiki says of Billy Bragg: “His music blends elements of folk music, punk rock and protest songs, with lyrics that mostly span political or romantic themes. His music is centred on change and activist causes.”

So you might expect to see him as the epitome of what the writer wants as a UK version of Anthony. Is he heck? He’s up to his neck in the woke left wing and completely out of touch with the grass roots whose lack of a cultural leader the article bemoans.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Billy Bragg has too much money and is too compromised by his association with people like Blair and Campbell to even pretend to rebel.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

He hasn’t been the same since Thatch left No 10. Back then, his music had some power and bite, something to say. In a post-Blair world, he’s a crap irrelevance and so is his post-1990 music.
It reminds me of that line from The History Boys: ‘If George Orwell were alive today he’d be in the BNP.’

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
8 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

His is most definitely a BBC approved form of protest music . There is no country music in the UK . ‘County Lines’ criminality may have taken root here but not American country music .

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
8 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Is grass roots defined by what you agree with? Think you’ll find there is no grass roots just a mixture of confused people with all sorts of opinions. Many who wonder how this great country has been brought low by a rightwing political party that has been in power a long time but loves to blame anyone or anything but themselves.

Last edited 8 months ago by Martin Butler
Ian L
Ian L
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

…and no doubt would be brought lower when/if Keir Starmer takes the reins (I’ll not call him sir, ever)

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

You brought politics into it. The Conservative Party makes the occasional populist Right wing noise, but on no conceivable definition is it “right wing”. Truly mind boggling levels of net migration, triple what it was under Blair, and without doubt liberalised by Johnson. Huge and unsustainable levels of spending and debt, 5 million adults of working age on our of work benefits, poor productivity, and overall, a yet further culture of promising people that every problem can be solved by more government spending.

Starmer’s next Labour government will say a few different things but will have only the most minor policy differences.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Country music is just as fake as Goth;
dressing up as people in the past.
Brits gonna’ be wearing ‘Yellowstone hats !o!
PS Stats show more sex abuse is in rural areas.

Last edited 8 months ago by Mark M Breza
Dave Smith
Dave Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I have loved it ever since a USAir Force sergeant gave me some Hank Williams records back in the 50s. He lived next door and drove a Bel Air. To me it often has the rhythms of our old songs . Some of it is good some bad but I like it all really. Hank Williams was a really different sound to me then. Even now he remains one of a kind.
Oliver ‘s song is simple. You either get it or you don’t. What is all this about London? Means nothing now to a lot of us any more and that seems good to me. Like eldest of three sons said to me today. Your father was always his own man . His brother was and so are we all . It must be in our blood. The country people of the USA are mostly descended from us. I was in Roanoke Virginia one time when a family man came over and asked me to join them. He said he and his family were English . He had the family Bible that his ancestor brought to America long ago. He asked me where Ilchester was as that was where his family came from. I know it well so was able to give him a description of the place. A fine small Somerset town not that unlike Roanoke.
Simple really., Never trust the ruling class. Never trust any government and never give them a break. Because they will never give you one and we have always been on our own and that is the way of it. Country music is the music of those of us who will always feel this way. We just want to be left alone. Let us provide for our families our way and stay out of our lives.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

People in Rural Areas Die at Higher Rates Than Those in Urban AreasDeaths from heart disease, cancer and COVID are all higher in rural areas than urban ones in the U.S., and the gap is only wideningBy Tanya Lewis 

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The Night They Drove Oliver Anthony DownWhat the viral sensation behind ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ can learn from Robbie RobertsonBY
DAVID MEIR GROSSMAN

Glyn R
Glyn R
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

His Rogan interview was great.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago

He’s irritated and frustrated, yes.  He has no tolerance for elite overreach and doesn’t resonate with the new cultural ethos but he’s not driven by vengeance.  He’s singing about his own personal demons and music helped him deal with that. He found God in the process.  He feels like he’s just a normal guy being used by God for some unknown reason beyond his comprehension. He’s stated that he gave himself up to God. It’s what Nietzsche referred to as a Master-Slave Morality.  But if you look at Oliver’s trajectory in the given moment, the implausibility of his success is striking.  It simply would not be possible if he ascribed to Nietzshe’s Self as God prescription.  It happened because he humbled himself and things just fell into place.

America is obviously a British colony. The legal system has the same general principles.  British culture is by far the most dominant cultural influence in America.  Conservative and Liberal Americans love Locke.  Secular Americans love Hume. American Atheists love Darwin and Progressives love adopted Brits like Marx. A huge portion of American Christians draw influence from Lewis, Tolkien and Chesterton.  But Britain is a very secular country next to America. London is the most intellectual city on earth. Brits are the most culturally learned people on the planet and treat viewpoint diversity as sacrosanct. That’s probably why so many Americans are on this board. To learn stuff from the best and they’re the best because they challenge their own bias.  Nobody writes like Brits…at least in my “lived experience.” 

Resistance in Britain looks much different because it’s infinitely more secular than America. So by nature, British music is going to have a different flavor of resistance.  I’m not worried about UK.  A place with that kind of cultural pride can figure things out.  I’m more concerned about Canada.

Last edited 8 months ago by T Bone
Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Lovely comment T Bone.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

‘Brits treat viewpoint diversity as sacrosanct’? Tell that to Nigel Farage, JK Rowling or Graham Linehan.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

All three of them are defending diversity: domination by any loud minority is not diversity.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

You confuse Twitter for real life. I’ve read before that only 10% are on Twitter, and only 10% of those are actually active on it and most of those are part of the same social grouping. So 1% of the population manages to get much more attention (due to many journalists being part of that middle class outlook) than their opinions actually deserve

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Haha! In true Brit fashion, you turned a compliment into an offense. That’s the skepticism that defines British academia. Oxford is what all American universities aspire to be…at least before the infection.

Does UK have the mind virus? Yes, but it’s not terminal because skepticism of overly broad narratives defines Britian. At least they apologized to Farage. Jordan Peterson…not so much.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Oxford is what all American universities aspire to be
Most of the UK’s current problems were incubated at Oxford University. It’s a lovely place – but the people there live in a bubble of delusion.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

You’re so off topic.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Speaking as a Canadian, I’m with you. We are so very compliant here.

Andy JS
Andy JS
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

The problem with Americans is that a lot of them these days don’t seem to be able to tolerate any opinions they don’t agree with. As a Brit, I find that difficult to understand. You learn things even by listening to people with whom you totally disagree.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I didn’t see or hear Anthony, in the Joe Rogan Interview or the CNN piece, mention god. That’s what I found refreashing because god is usually so prevelant in country music, and it’s such a turn off. I really like Anthony because he is so likeable, and doesn’t seem to have an axe to grind.
As far the UK not having an equivilant to country music, no it doesn’t. Punk was angry,white male Brits and anti-establishment, and didn’t have broad appeal. It wasn’t soulful and didn’t tell a story which is what country music does, it’s story telling. Not only that but you can sing along with it.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Yes. You feel he is singing it as he sees it (right, wrong or a mix) which is all we can hope for in a song.

Good comment on punk too – though perhaps the Buzzcocks and the Clash were able to tell simple stories.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

So you’re literally at the point where you just hear whatever you want to hear and auto-filter the rest through a lens of smug self satisfaction. He made multiple comments in the Rogan interview about God and scripture. Btw- Your hatred of all white men politically to the right of Friedrich Engels is well known to everyone on this board. You don’t need to reinforce it every time you speak.

Quote by Oliver on the Rogan interview.

“”I just decided right then and there, I know I can’t do this anymore, but I know there are things I need to do,” he added. “I just told God, let me do it and I’ll give all this s— up. I’ll give up the weed, and I’ll quit getting drunk, and I’ll quit being so angry about things… and I’ll start over again and make Him the focus and not me.”

Last edited 8 months ago by T Bone
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

How do you know “your hatred of all white men politically to the the right of Friedrich Engels is well known to everyone on this board” to be a fact? Have you spoken to everyone on this board? And how do you know I’m “smugly self- satisfied”? There’s a lot of projection going on there, TBone, and disagreement isn’t hatred.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I’m worried about Canada too and I’m here. We’re fighting now.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
8 months ago

Punching down is all part of the lingo of the intersectional pyramid brigade and the manipulation and control that the new elites attempt to exercise over opinion as they police it.

Just like CIS-female, reaching out, dog-whistle, white-adjacent, heritage, far-right , trans genocide and on and on.

Whenever you see these terms a BS flag should go up.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Scepticism is my closest friend in this modern era of mistruth.

Clare Haven
Clare Haven
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

As Liddle wrote in The Spectator recently (paraphrasing) – “It’s only punching down if you believe these people are below you”

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Alot of Woke words are neutral concepts with “reimagined meanings.”

It’s ironic that they use the term “dogwhistle” so much because they’re literally speaking in code half the time. For instance when they say “Racism” the ordinary person hears the Exoteric/original meaning; IE a belief in racial superiority. In reality, they’re using an Esoteric dogwhistle adding a silent adjective “systemic” to the term which refers to outcome disparities.

Punching down is actually a decent term of art if applied in a neutral apolitical framework. What they actually object to in the lyrics is that the song questions the wisdom of the redistributive welfare state. Since they’ve crowned themselves Arbiter of Hierarchies, this is completely unacceptable and they will turn the issue into a “fatphobia” diatribe to distract from the actual meaning.

Johan Grönwall
Johan Grönwall
8 months ago

Billy Braggs condescending ”you think wrong I’ll show you how to think right” article in The Guardian shows just how little european elites understand american working class.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
8 months ago

Yeh – BB really is the worst. Basically a metropolitan prig dressed up as a working class hero

J Dunne
J Dunne
8 months ago

Or the working class in their own country, under their own noses. Guardian types have always shown a pitying disdain for the working classes, because they simply can’t comprehend that anybody might legitimately wish to be different from them. The only explanation they know is that it must be because of our lack of education.

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
8 months ago

You make some very good observations about country music but Roseanne cash is more on the spot with “Modern country music speaks less of such desperate loss and has become shiny and rich and rather shallow as a result,”. I.m afraid that you just don’t know enough about music in the UK for your lament about not having ‘vibrancy and diversity’ in British music holding water. London isn’t the centre – try Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol, Leicester, Glasgow, Nottingham – the bands you mention show only a surface knowledge of the stuff that gets to big labels. There are great shows out there to hear this stuff on, including my own – try it, and I can recommend several others.
The other point is that you can replace “Country” with most other genres and over such a long span find the same rich content gradually buried under superficial commercialisation. For all the Pogues cover bands and jolly Irish jug bands there are brilliant folk artists all over the UK & Ireland going unheard by you and your circle, and yes they address real life…

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Zaph Mann

I agree. Although a Brit, the writer has a very shallow grasp of the music scene in Britain, apparently dictated by what he’s “fed” by the mainstream. To make his article even less worthwhile, he then resorts to cliché after cliché about British life in general. His lack of authentic insight includes mis-spelling Morecambe as “Morcombe” – just very lazy, looking for an easy hit and missing by… a country mile.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Whenever people today talk about northern bands, they roll out oasis, like no other has ever existed. Manchester is more than Oasis. There were better that came before and better that will come after.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Zaph Mann

Can’t recall ever hearing – or hearing of – a British songwriter who has been ready to challenge the shibboleths of the Guardian reading class – welfarism, open borders, identity politics etc etc. That’s probably because anyone who did that would never get a hearing. British musicians are as cowardly and conformist as British comedians.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

That’s because Brits have a different psyche to the yanks. Americans being a young country still (rather naively in my opinion) believe in the “American Dream” where a bit of hard work will see you climb up the social ladder into the elite, and when this doesn’t happen you angrily rail against the system for breaking that promise.
Britons by contrast have had over a millennium of class systems, and have become resigned to the fact that if you’re born poor that’s more than likely where you’ll end up. There’s plenty of songs that describe the grim monotony of life in those working class towns, but lacking the belief that anything will ever change the songs instead dream of escaping to various Shangri La’s

Douglas H
Douglas H
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Young country? The United States is older than the United Kingdom, and it’s got the same (or less) social mobility.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

It is a young country, only a couple of hundred of years old. Europe stretches back Millenia, and while the UK as an entity is a similar age to the states, England and Scotland long predate it

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

How can you say that!!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There’s a lot of truth in your comment. Perhaps Brits are bitter whereas Americans are angry.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I think there’s an air of resignation rather than bitterness. It’s probably half the reason there’s such a strong weekend drinking culture, you’re not going to change it so may as well have a couple of days going mad and forgetting about it

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You’re probably right, I don’t live there.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Agreed generally, but wide of the mark re comedians: Gervaise leaps to mind, and Jennifer Saunders satire of urban elite obsequiousness to progressive values in AbFab has been with us 30+ years.

David L
David L
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Morrisey did, and he got cancelled.

tom j
tom j
8 months ago
Reply to  David L

To some extent he did, but he is still going and I think he is the perfect example of a provincial star like this Oliver guy, who sang about the darker sides of life. My lament is that I don’t know if we are any longer producing bands like the Smiths. Zaph says we are, but that nobody outside the provinces has heard of them, for reasons that he doesn’t make clear.

Adrian G
Adrian G
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

“Can’t recall ever hearing – or hearing of – a British songwriter who has been ready to challenge the shibboleths of the Guardian reading class”
Nor ever likely to given that the music publishing and recording industry is based in that alien benighted place and anybody brave enough knows that they are certain to get the Laurence Fox treatment. 

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Oh for heaven’s sake. The Fall. Go educate yourself.
The Fall were, in my view, the best band ever to come out of England. They introduced themselevs on an early song as “Northern white crap that talks back”. Their late lead singer, Mark E. Smith, spent his entire life offending everybody, and esp Guardian readers and group-thinkers.
With Smith, nothing was safe. Left wing, right wing, sooner than be typecast or cornered, he’d attack them all.
Mark E. Smith’s Wiki isn’t bad. The first quote below is wonderful. Unconventional by normal standards of course, but of course, a pure punk attitude which was entirely normal in punk and new wave circles when I was growing up (“muso” was a term of abuse). Sadly, much misunderstood by today’s pop-pickers, with their regressive adulation and pedestalling tendencies.
———————————————————————————
“Smith’s approach to music was unconventional and he did not have high regard for musicianship, stating that “rock & roll isn’t even music really. It’s a mistreating of instruments to get feelings over.””
“… defiantly Northern English in outlook. Brix said that he carried “a chip on both shoulders. I remember him talking about f***ing southern b*****ds a lot and not wanting to come to London. He hated London intensely.”
“Fall songs written in this style are often not concerned withcharacter or story development, establishing a sense of place and atmosphere instead.”
“… asked during a mid-1980s interview with Smash Hits as to what policies he would adopt if he became Prime Minister, he said: “I’d halve the price of cigarettes, double the tax on health food, then I’d declare war on France.”
[Despite being a Man City fan], “He admired mavericks such as George Best, whom he met and drank with …”
“He would fire musicians for seemingly trivial reasons; he once dismissed a sound engineer for eating a salad, later explaining that “the salad was the last straw”.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_E._Smith
As a young person, seeking to make sense of the world, and in consequence vulnerable to the comforting certainties of various neat bigotries, The Fall’s relentless and indiscrimimate jeering initially was challenging, but it was an essential example. Unlike 99% of people everywhere, Smith simply had no sacred cows.
He lost audiences, not only because of the grindingly-tuneless nature of the band’s oeuvre in their best period (’70s and ’80s for me, before the drink and the speed destroyed him), but also because of his scoffing refusal to hop onto any modish “youth” or PC group-think bandwagons.
I often thought there was a lot of Smith in these lyrics from “2 x 4” :
He was agin the rich
He was agin the poor
As was noted in this article:
“Smith’s politics were indistinct, precisely because of his ‘working class weird’ class formation, I’d say, along with a dose of punk contrarianism. He was certainly not on the left in any straightforward or committed way, though equally not on the right. At various points he expressed support for both right and left wing causes and figures, as well as criticism of both.”
That cussedness and idealistic cynicism is why I so admired The Fall.
I played some Fall tunes recently, to my long-suffering better half. I think I played “Spectre vs Rector”, “Prole Art Threat” and “Impression of J Temperance”. 
She said she had never heard worse. Described it like walking past a jackhammer or something you’d naturally put your fingers in your ears to avoid : )
The chippy youth culture of my youth exists in opposition to the modern elitism of musical talent. Someone once noted about Smith:
” … the refusal, indeed the sabotage, of virtuosity that defined the group’s sound from its earliest recordings and drove its many radical line-up changes …”
https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/mark-e-smith-1957-2018
As good a summary of punk as you’ll get. That principle mostly has been lost. It’s not that musicianship was inimical to punk. Rather, as with eloquence, musical proficiency – if thoughtlessly-deployed – is an artifice, a convention, which stupefies and obscures. You become smooth, not authentic.  
Josef Bloch, in Peter Handke’s novel, Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter, “… had to keep his guard up against words that transformed what he wanted to say into some kind of statement” .  
I remember years ago the Stranglers being interviewed, and how they saw punk as not dissimilar in intent to Fauvism.  
As the above article notes:
“… as the musicians in each successive line-up became more conventionally competent, Smith’s quest for the ‘magic’ of the first take, as Brix Smith put it, took ever more desperate and obnoxious forms.”
Shades of Beckett’s “Not I”; of Wordsworth’s describing our second nature as ” shades of the prison-house”.  
As in the intro to one of the songs on the 1984 Fall album “Grotesque” :
‘I always have to say to myself
It has nothing to do with me
He has nothing
He is not me.’
As I drove to a meeting last week, I saw a big sign for a modern country – Nathan Carter – gig.  
Stupefaction is bigger business alright.  

Last edited 8 months ago by Frank McCusker
D Glover
D Glover
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Do you remember Peter Bellamy? He used to set the poems of Kipling to music to make new folk songs. He was especially fond of the Barrack Room Ballads.
Since all folk clubs are run by lefties he had more and more trouble finding bookings. Depressed, he died by his own hand.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRgnvs3namI

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Morrissey. That’s about it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

What?!!

Fiona Cameron
Fiona Cameron
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Sam Fender – not challenging these specific things, but definitely writing about working class life in the north east

Last edited 8 months ago by Fiona Cameron
J Dunne
J Dunne
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Morrissey?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Zaph Mann

Love The Pogues. I did think about folk music as the closest to country. “where have all the flowers gone” is a lament that still endures.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

On reflection it’s more of a universal timeless lament.

anthony henderson
anthony henderson
8 months ago
Reply to  Zaph Mann

And doesn’t country music, especially the earlier stuff have a direct line back to British and Irish folk music. I remember seeing a Dolly Parton clip of her saying that when she was young of her family playing the old English and Scottish tunes.

Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
8 months ago

Glad someone made that correlation. My ancestors ran around in the Ozarks with no shoes, a few teeth, and a shotgun within reach. That fiddle didn’t fall from the sky.

AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

Consider society as a ballroom of Courtiers dancing before the Emperor, with the poor Rude Mechanicals outside, looking through the ballroom windows.
The Rude Mechanicals want to get inside where it’s warm and where there is food available. The Courtiers dance to distraction hoping to catch the eye of the Emperor and avoid being cancelled. The Emperor has no clothes but is clad in the regard of the Courtiers (the Rude Mechanicals don’t count).
So when (apparently) Oliver Anthony is offered 8 million dollars by business people they are bemused that he chooses not to become a Courtier. Perhaps he is aware of the lyrics to Hotel California:
“We are programmed to receive
You can check-out any time you like
But you can never leave!”
Because once you become a Courtier your originality and cutting observations are blunted to suit the taste of others in the ballroom.

Last edited 8 months ago by AC Harper
Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago

Oliver Anthony is at least as much about economics as about culture. We need civil disobedience and, thereafter, civil unrest. As a Hillingdon resident I can assure you that the former is well under way. If the Energy Bill which is due its first reading in parliament next week goes ahead, then the latter won’t be far behind. Governments are overreaching – we are going to have no choice but to literally fight for our rights or to allow democracy to be removed through the use of NGOs, “consultations” and misinformation-led censorship. The British public are awaking ….

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

My advice to any Hillingdon resident who wants to live a happy and healthy life is ‘stay away from that hospital’.

John Croteau
John Croteau
8 months ago

In using the term “backward” Tom confuses Conservative values in the UK and US. In the UK, you have a history of stratified society and aristocracy. America’s history is of blue collar working class and small government that’s “by and for the people.” Classic Americans are embarrassed to accept social welfare. You work for a living, and live what you earn.
Oliver sang out about “Progressive” injustices and ruling elites — both Left and Right — that have lost their way. He yearns for traditional American Liberalism — old Democratic Party values
Unfortunately, America’s political parties have switched sides. The ruling “Left”, the Democrats, represent and defend educated, elite elements of the economy and society. They despise old Kennedy Democrats like RFK Jr. and disdain blue collar “Deplorables”. They promote censorship, impose mandates, prosecute political rivals, and lock people up without trial who protest with different beliefs.
The New Republican Party represents the flyover states, the working class, and traditionally Liberal values — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to due process, equality under the law.
87% of American counties voted for those values and a populist, Trump, in 2020 despite obvious character flaws. Some old, Republican elites like Mitch McConnell still exist, but they’re dying off quickly. They hate populists like Trump worse than they hate Leftists.
America’s core values aren’t “backward”; they’re a rock solid foundation that built the US into the world’s sole superpower. We helped save the UK from humiliating defeat twice in the last century, wore down European aristocracies populated by Queen Victoria and outlasted an evil Soviet empire.
Not bad for a bunch of uncouth, Yankee rednecks. We didn’t preserve your “backward” British aristocracy. We are fighting now to defeat our own.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  John Croteau

“They hate populists like Trump”
A populist? How can so many be made fools of so completely? Trump is an opportunist. Life-long Democrat who made his billions mostly as a scam-artist and MSM entertainer. Crook. Remember Trump Steaks and Trump University? He once said he has no friends, and that’s understandable given that he eventually betrays everyone who ever supported him, even his faithful dog Rudy has been cut lose. Took over the GOP — yes, a *brilliant* hostile takeover — because he detected an untapped market. As Lincoln should have said: “You can fool most of the people most of the time.”

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Boris the remainer and never a conservative, managed to do something similar over here. IF only we’d stuck with Farage, we’d have been far better off as we’d have broken the globalist Establishment by now. As it is, Boris proved incapable of delivering and the battle with the Davos crowd continues.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Well said.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  John Croteau

Common Law, Bill of Rights,Habeus Corpus, Magna Carta, Abolition of Slavery, Industrial Revolution! All these are the foundations of the modern Western world. Your view of England and later Great Britain is seriously lacking in accuracy. Without Great Britain you’d be another Latin American style state. As for your opinions of the 2 world wars, they are even less accurate!
‘Humiliating defeat’? By 1918 Germany was basically beaten, all that was required was for the British new tactics of ‘combined arms’ to break through German lines and make war mobile again and send the Germans to defeat. The British Grand Fleet had effectively starved Germany into submission and the French and British broken their army. The US forces were late on the scene, the hard work done by France and the British Empire. Ironically enough, given Bismark’s comment on the Schleswig-Holstein question,(Famous also for Palmerston’s quote on only 3 understanding it) was ‘Dreadnoughts don’t have wheels.’ The British put wheels on dreadnoughts in the first world war with the tank and the rest is history.
Then in 1939 – again it was Britain and its innovations that saved us. The US didn’t bring our army home from Dunkirk, and even at that time, when invasion was feared, at any point Hitler would have negotiated, Churchill knowing that particular evil refused. Yes the US sold us stuff, but not the best stuff. It was Chain Home radar and the RAF monoplane fighters that saved us from Invasion. Though as historians point out, in reality no German invasion could have succeeded while the Royal Navy existed.
Then in other theatres such as the Med, it was Malta and the Mediterranean fleet that kept the Germans from the oil fields they needed in Arabia as the 8th Army was kept supplied. Meanwhile the US watched and made a profit out of us as the British Empire stood alone. Until Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. Then you had no choice but to join in.
if it wasn’t for Churchill sacrificing the British Empire the US wouldn’t have won any war. Try invading Europe from the US. True without US industry the Empire couldn’t have won, neither could anyone have won without the Devil Stalin’s divisions. Even your Pacific Island hopping include British carriers. As for the Atom bomb, you may have built it but the British invented it.
Then not only did the Empire have more men fighting than the US up until 1944 (Winston Churchill’s memoirs) Over the two world wars we paid the US centuries worth of accumulated wealth for the stuff you supplied. The price resulted in the greatest Empire the world had known breaking up and the bankrupting of Great Britain.
So please excuse me if I find your triumphalism hard to swallow.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  John Croteau

The aristocracy in WW1 had the highest death rate at 20% and 27% of Harrovians were killed. Many Commando/ Special Forces leaders such as Lovat, Jellicoe, Stirling, Fitzroy Maclean, D Smiley, were aristocrats. Charles Howard , 20th Earl of suffolk won the George Crossfor bomb disposal. We bankrupted ourselves by fighting two world wars and we bought, not given arms by the USA.
The Tizard Mission was the greatest gift of all time, it included atomic energy(Frisch–Peierls memorandum – Wikipedia), jet engines, computers
Tizard Mission – Wikipedia
Britain also freely gave our expertise in decription developed by GCHQ, the beginnings of the computer industry created by the likes of Turing and Tommy Flowers .
People say British society is stratified but when one looks at he background of the yeoman archers, F Drake, Shakespeare, I Newton, Captain Cook RN, James Brindley- canals, Thomas Telford FRS born in poverty and buried in Westminster Abbey, George Stephenson railways and most of the creators of the Industrial Revolution, Admiral Nelson, Charles Dickens, etc came from poor or middle class backgrounds. What made Britain different was that it allowed talent to flourish. Shakespeare left school at seventeen years of age and far outshone writers such as Christopher Marlowe who went university.
Most of the technology used in the USA up to Edison was developed in Britain or Germany. What the USA has are cheap raw materials and a large population which enables economy of scale.
The Duke of Wellington readily took the advice of Thomas Telford on engineering matters. It was the Duke of Bridgewater who backed J Brindley to build Britains first canals and take his coal to the coast. What is noticeable is the British aristocracy is very good at spotting and promoting talent. Admiral Lord Mounbatten being a good example.
W Churchill was an aristocrat, born in Blenheim Palace and cousin to the Duke of Marlborough.
World at War Last Episode with Stephen Ambrose – YouTube
Ambrose disscusses the USA’s contribution in WW2 at 14min50 secs. The USA paid the least but obtained the most. 17 min 20 onwards , Britain Ambrose says ” Britain fought the Nazis the longest, had a moral claim on the World as the nation which had stood against Hitler for a year, provided the moral leadership against the Nazis when everyone else was willing to cave in, bankrupted ourself, the USA forced us to sell our overseas assets to pay for Lend Lease, paid the most gained the least.
Stalin said Britain bought time, the USA supplied materials and USSR paid in blood.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago

Country music was founded in the region of the USA where the Scots-Irish settled. It is Outlander territory! So the rebellious sound you are hearing are the echos of England’s adversaries. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t resonate so much or why that type of ‘fight’ doesn’t occur in English culture? For decades, the American military’s recruitment was often in the Scots-Irish areas of the South and Mid-West. These areas produced some of the best soldiers and fighters. In more recent years, when white men are being disparaged in Western culture and even by the American military in favor of DEI training and more diversity – there’s been an enormous drop off by these same Scots-Irish men whose families have served for generations. Every service area, Army, Navy and Air Force is in decline- but not the Marines where fighting standards have been maintained. Tough men and women aren’t keen on Transgenderism. The Army, recruitment has been down by about 15,000 per year. Discouraging this group not to serve cannot be good for the USA.

Last edited 8 months ago by Cathy Carron
anthony henderson
anthony henderson
8 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

You’re forgetting the many English Border Reivers who were transplanted over to Ulster and then became a part of the Ulster Scots emigration to the US. The English surnames of many southern Americans are a clue.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
8 months ago

Very enjoyable essay, thank you. The answer to the author’s last question is that the Formerly-Great Britain has spent the last several generations spitting on their own culture, the one that made the modern world, and are now surprised that it’s in such sad shape.
There is a straight line back thru Country Music to the English & Scots Irish folk music that used to express the universal feelings of common humanity. Just because Europe and the UK have lost their way and no longer feel free to express natural humanity in their culture doesn’t mean America and its siblings (Canada, e.g., home of the Calgary Stampede) must also. But I guess that would be “corny”.
Mark Steyn’s excellent book “America Alone” is explicitly based on this theme. Highly recommendable.
But there is an even deeper factor at play in the strange appeal of Redneck Culture, and that is that culture must, at root be “about” something. Protesting and destroying is not enough to base a culture on; there has to be a positive foundation under it, and no one can pretend that secular, state-based, Anglo-Eurabia is providing a replacement for what has been lost in the last 70 years in the West. Again, with all its glaring faults, look to America alone and what 49% of the country – its Rednecks – are trying to preserve.

Last edited 8 months ago by Richard Ross
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Ross

A thought provoking comment.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

To be an American conservative is to be anti-establishment.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago

Yes! American conservatives are the revolutionaries now.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

No it’s not!

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

As a generalisation, what Alison says is true. Many of the views which could once have been classed as anti-establishment (feminism is the most obvious example, but “wokeism” in general) are now firmly establishment. Many older people have been blindsided by this and still envision the establishment as it was decades ago.

Pikkety has done good work on the “flipping” whereby parties traditionally of the working class are becoming the parties of an educated elite and vice versa. The U.K. is a bit of an outlier (compared to the US and France). Put bluntly because it still has plenty of less educated people with money – old style conservatives.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

I would say that certain conservatives, and certain conservative positions are anti establishment. There are still establishment conservative figures.

But it’s certainly correct that if you apply the litmus test of what can be said in “polite” society – then yes social conservatism is the more anti establishment position.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago

I would suggest the divide is between the individual and the collective. The collective can be Nazi, Communist, Fascism, Roman Catholic of the 16th century, Islamicist or someone who works for a large corporation. Ther middle manager of a large corporation and an apparatchick under communism both do what they are told. After the age of thirty five years if one has responsibility to support others, it is very difficult to change careers and maintain the same standard of living. In effect we become wage serfs.
Professor Steven Hicks has remarkable insights into philosophical thougth from Rousseau onwards.
Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks: Full Audiobook – YouTube
Orwell points out that literature of any worth is only produced in free society; little was produced under the Inquisition, Nazism and Communism. Orwell states that Totalitarian Regimes which emerged in 20th want to control thougth whereas the absolute monarchies of Louis XIV allowed one to think for oneself. Hicks explains that people who lack the capacity to innovate join a collective because they do not have to think or use their initiative . They are happy to give up freedom for security both material and intellectual. What is fashion and why is it so successful ?
How much of the western economy is selling goods and services we do not need but we buy to become fashionable and and how much of woke thought is about being intellectually fashionable?
Both corporatism and communism wishes to destroy the individial’s capacity for discernment and initiative. What is the difference between communism and coporatism when it comes to freedom of thought and speech?

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
8 months ago

Good essay.
Other than the cruel reaction of a pitiless elite, what is wrong with Anthony complaining that he is forced to pay for others to make themselves morbidly obese? He has no beef with that 300-pounder, his beef is with those forcing him to pay for it.
As for “minors on an island,” is there any doubt that Epstein was running a pedophile ring that served powerful people who could have helped poor coal miners but chose not to?
People who say that he is “punching down” are projecting onto him that THEY are “punching down” by attacking him for, to use a word he uses, “bullshit” reasons.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago

“Despite its attacks on corporate exploitation, it has quickly been adopted as a conservative anthem”

Despite? Haven’t you heard? The globalist corporate empire supports the Left now. The Right at least pretends to support the common man, but do they? Conservatives have traditionally been seen as ‘right wing’ but that’s an accident of history. Conservatives are those who want to conserve what is good thus they reject wokeism *of course* but I’d say most of them also reject the globalist plutocracy. You can’t really call Anthony either Left or Right, but you can call him a conservative.

David Yetter
David Yetter
8 months ago

In answer to the author’s questions: I think over the course of centuries, Britain has selected for docility in its population. When you had the Empire, those who weren’t docile either went off to far flung places to seek their fortunes, many never to return, or rebelled, got convicted of something — maybe smuggling — and were sentenced to transportation to Georgia or Australia. Even now America serves as a safety valve: I know a mathematician who grew up in Kent, who couldn’t stand the bureaucratic nonsense with which British academe is rife (two graders for every exam, pointless committees,…) and moved to the States to take a job even though she had a permanent post at a red brick with a thriving research group in her area of mathematics.
And yes, the duration of the Empire was long enough to induce genetic drift in human populations, and yes, human behavior has a biological basis, however much the heirs of Rousseau want to think otherwise.

Last edited 8 months ago by David Yetter
Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  David Yetter

Docile? No, I don’t think so. Ever since the demise of the last English as in Anglo-Saxon king in 1066, We English have been ruled by foreigners, so I think we perfected the art of living our own lives and ignoring the rulers of all. Even now, most of the people I know couldn’t give a toss about our leaders, as long as they don’t interfere with our lives. (probably why we Brexited, the EU interfered too much). Now we commoners have been getting more irritated by the increasing interference. They got away with it during lock-down because initially we believed the lies. Well some did. I didn’t but then it was a wonderful spring/summer and my children came home for lock-down so it was a great experience for us. 3 of them worked from home, we enjoyed walks in the countryside, a large garden to enjoy the sunshine and we played board games almost every night. The consequences haven’t been so good, but we are now simply ignoring what we can and waiting for the current raft of Net Zero insanity and clean air zones to collapse. Very soon the effects of Net Zero are going to produce an even bigger backlash than the ULEZ Blade Runners, AND more widespread I reckon. Just because we don’t riot every week as the French do, don’t underestimate how much we will respond when we have to.

David Yetter
David Yetter
7 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Actually, the ULEZ Blade Runners give me hope for you Brits.

Rob N
Rob N
8 months ago

Love a lot of country songs. Always thought Gretchen Wilson’s ‘Redneck Woman’ a great song and a reflection of the pride that the ‘commonfolk’ have to have to handle the disgust the metro elite tend to show towards them.

si mclardy
si mclardy
8 months ago

Since when was Epsteins island a conspiracy theory? He was convicted and he was known to have involved wealthy friends. Give me break.

Brian Hunt
Brian Hunt
8 months ago

Rich Men North of Richmond is a great song that is relevant to working class lives in the UK. It’s Country Music, American Folk Music. But the folk singers who get the attention here are lefties like Bragg who speak for the woke, not those struggling to get by on low wages and high taxes. For Bragg to say that the song is punching down is just silly and presumably refers to the lines about obese on benefits paid for by taxes.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

My wife and I did a music tour of the southern US several years ago and stopped off in Nashville because — you know, you have to — went to see Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlins at the Station Inn the night we arrived, and got up in the morning for a quick look at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The staff had to claw our cold, dead hands off the exhibits when they closed for the night. On the opposite high wall as you waited for the lifts it said, “Three Chords and the Truth”. The worst of country music is awful, like all genres I suppose, but the best is wonderful, as Ken Burn’s series confirms.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

What I remember about Nashville are the artists playing at small bars. They were all fantastic.

Ian Baugh
Ian Baugh
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Yes, like this one, and these guys. And more widely, the experience of going into local restaurants etc all over the US and happening on someone great you’ve never heard of.
https://youtu.be/1ovvJesObf4?si=zL_lBKZS3ZhT-eur

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The Ken Burns documentary on Country music was amazing. So much I didn’t know and enjoyed learning.

Last edited 8 months ago by Clare Knight
James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago

Music. Young lad with a beard and a guitar isn’t going to change much. Young people are a hive mind exploited by the left. The Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin in the 60s didn’t get us Wilson. Oasis and Blur didn’t get us Blair. The fools in power fuel the change to the next lot of fools, not protest songs.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  James Kirk

Precisely, and this is why the article fails. It’s based upon a false premise.
And, starting his career during the Thatcher years, Bragg got us Major.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
8 months ago

The problem he’s trying to put his finger on is secularism. Christianity + family values + Telecaster/Fiddle/Concertina would give you something like engaged country music. Marxism + antenatal, anti-familiarism gives us Billy Bragg and Oasis

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago

Not really sure how Oasis were Marxist, most of their stuff was simple escapism, dreaming of a better life than on the council estates. It’s that hopeful pessimism of the British working class, always dreaming of life getting better without ever really believing that it will

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

Nah.

Douglas H
Douglas H
8 months ago

Thanks, Tom. This is a a great article that’s made me think again about some of the music I grew up with and then rejected.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

Like what, pray do tell!

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
8 months ago

Yeah. I think that in the US the educated class never quite got control of the “rednecks.” (The rednecks came from the Scottish borderlands). But in Britland you have the educated-class-run Labour Party to make sure that the plebs don’t get any ideas. Jolly good show, chaps! Chin up!

Julie Curwin
Julie Curwin
8 months ago

As an educated Canadian, I have a similar love of certain types of country and Appalachian folk music that I’m slightly embarrassed to admit to. Although I generally agree with how the author has characterized it, I’m a bit puzzled by his assertion that it is “both conservative and anti-elite.” Has he been asleep for the past 20 years? The “elites” these days are the “progressives” — they dominate every institution in the West, including the “deep state in the US. Conservatives are most definitely the counter-culture in 2023. That’s why this “protest song” is being rejected by the left and embraced whole-heartedly by the right.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago

I don’t think London does dominate, at least not any more. It did in the 1980’s and then faded away to a capital in name only. I spent ten years there, it is astonishingly parochial and insecure and I always thought ‘London’ needs to be needed far more than the rest of the UK needs it in return. As for moving there, I don’t think so now, it appears to be the other way around with Londoners moving away. Where I live (Manchester) it is full of ex-Londoners. The British problem is that of a general malaise. The aftermath of a bruising Brexit, Scottish independence never-ending referendum saga, totally meaningless politics and as sense of a nation adrift. Britain is more depressed than angry. Not forgetting of course that in the UK, the young people are the most censorious, and there is no equivalent to the Oliver Anthony’s because those that might have been have dropped out of society. So there won’t be a rebellion any time soon.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago

There won’t be a rebellion anytime soon? Wait until Net Zero starts to impinge even more than ULEZ. There is a large population in this country who just get on with their lives and generally work and try and avoid any contact with authority. BUT as authority insists on interfering, well I suspect that in the not too distant future you are going to be surprised at just how many there are who will react and rebel. Remember the beaches during COVID? Full of people who simply ignored our great leaders. It will happen again, that many will simply ignore our great leaders. Perhaps not so far into the future as you think.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
8 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Bill, I honestly hope you are right.

Adrian G
Adrian G
8 months ago

They just can’t help it can they:
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/rich-men-north-of-richmond-lyrics-controversy-b2397249.html
Another name to be remembered – Louis Chilton?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Adrian G

Read the link. What a truly cringeworthy article. And the regime media wonders why its not trusted. He gets everything wrong, from Joe Rogan being conservative to this little gem; “it rails against taxes, “welfare cheats”, the obese.” The dishonesty of this quote is breathtaking.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Joe Rogan isn’t conservative? That will come as a surprise to anyone who listens to him. His obsequious sucking up to the likes of the odious Jordan Peterson are embarrassing. And he generally doesn’t know what he’s talking about which is a traditional conservative quality.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

I would have identified as Democrat 10-12 years ago. My views haven’t changed. I still support free speech, gay rights, a woman’s right to choose, social programs. I’m still opposed to forever wars and corporate welfare. Yet now I’m a right-wing fascist, according to all the very smart and fashionable people. I think Rogan is in the same boat.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jim Veenbaas
Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago

Not looking good for your world is it?

PJ Alexander
PJ Alexander
8 months ago

It’s a mistake to underestimate true country music in N America and treat it with condescension. There’s a way in which it is the rural version of punk. Our politicians would be wise to listen up.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago

Everyone, including most of the commenters here, is making the same mistake. HIS MUSIC IS NOT POLITICAL. Y’all are waiting for some kind of political solution, or at least understanding. This guy is way ahead of you; there isn’t going to be a political solution, right or left. We’re in a lot more trouble than you imagine.

Jaden Johnson
Jaden Johnson
8 months ago

Bobbie (nb spelling) Gentry…..now there’s a star. Too bad she hasn’t released a record for over 40 years.

Richard Hart
Richard Hart
8 months ago

The contemporary folk/roots scene does produce large numbers of well written ‘protest’ , ‘ant- establishment’ songs but few if any get airplay or mainstream success. Show of Hands have produced a series a very strong songs over the years such as ‘Country life’ , Arrogance Ignorance and Greed (AEG referencing the banking crisis),( Steve Knightley is one of the UK best songwriters). Couple of very songs by Little Johnny England spring to mind etc etc

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Hart

+1 for Show of Hands!

They lean a bit left, but less so than some other folk singers (e.g. The Young’uns). Mostly they stand for the common man, and they have a deep patriotism.

“Roots” is brilliant, as is “Cousin Jack”.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
8 months ago

Epstein’s pedophilia is not a conspiracy theory. He was convicted a decade ago for it and he wasn’t in jail because he didn’t like his NY townhouse.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
8 months ago

“Where is it?” Subsumed under an official rhetoric praising multi-culturalism broadcast by government and the urban elites who control MSM. Any cultural output praising indigenous culture, or lamenting it’s loss, is curtailed or silenced, uness it is something so peripheral as Morris dancing that it can be safely mocked.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

Socialist healthcare has killed any chance of revolution in the UK – when the essentials are laid on, the stakes are too low for serious insurrection.
We just have periodic peasant rebellions instead following the historical tradition. Brexit was the most striking one recently, against another key issue where an elite pushed an ill-advised ideology against the people: immigration.
The devolutionary question has proven almost as radical because the Scots have the intellectual identity which is lacking in English socialism. Otherwise, populism will always be a more likely source of serious insurrection vergin on revolution, and the soundtrack to that is on YouTube and Facebook rather than in the pop charts that belong to the liberal culture industry.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

But the healthcare system no longer works, blue collar people and the young have been driven out of the housing market and the elites are becoming daily more greedy and intolerant. I think you might be surprised. Not tomorrow, but the day after, perhaps.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I think our media channels and quoshes it, retaining the two-party system and the monarchy. Much as equivalent media forces maintain this endless ‘cold’ civil war in the US.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Net Zero is going to do it. The working class (and I mean those working, often self-employed) are going to refuse to return to a dark pre-industrial society, and the Govt and opposition are committed to doing so by 2050. The next GE could well be a Net Zero one, though I’m not sure the Tories are smart enough to know that yet. This winter could be interesting.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Brixton? Toxteth? Too many people on an economic knife edge and too much overreach. I have never observed so much anger, and it’s not ALL projection 🙂

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

The power of the underclass should be to riot or even maintain a certain level of ongoing civil disorder. But perhaps identity politics are now causing too much division within the underprivileged.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Not sure the under-privileged have the luxury of knowing what identity politics are. Round this part of London people making choices between kids shoes and food. Things are grim for what the working class, let alone the working poor.
But I take your point and I think Peter Turchin’s recent podcast promotion of his thoughts on Elite Overproduction point to division, but perhaps within the Elites as the only bulwark against neo feudalism becomes top 1% entry rather than top 10% entry and frustrated clever minds who can’t open the door turn instead to tearing it off the hinges to crash to bloody revolution. He reminds us that both Robespierre and Lenin were lawyers and that Cromwell was the upsurgent landed gentry seeking entry into the cavalier aristocracy.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

The entire point of identity politics is to divide the underprivileged. It’s the oldest tactic in the book. In days of food shortage in Rome the elites would deflect dissent by sending provocateurs into the forum and the wine shops to stir up ethnic and tribal conflict. DEI is just the modern version, just as the persecution of people like JK Rowling is the modern version of the witch-burning orgy that overtook Central Europe after the printing press was introduced.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

it won’t be the underprivileged. It will be those who work to pay for the ‘underprivileged’ once the reality of Net Zero starts to hit home. The underprivileged will only start once their benefits dry up, and that will be after the ones who pay for them have risen up. Assuming of course that no political party decides to stand against Net Zero next GE.

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
8 months ago

Maybe it is about that provincial USA still dreams of conquering the world whereas provincial Britain nowadays primarily dreams of conquering London or Britain .Somehow The Beatles conquered the world and it created an example and it gave many British pop acts the self-belief to follow them upto the 1980’s.But after the 1980’s how many British musical acts have conquered the world?How many British entrepreneurs have created world class business’s? Very few.Either the ambition seems to have gone or the competition is too tough.Prior to the mid 70’s there were not that many musicians trying to make it as professionals then with punk reggae & synthesier music arty youth realised that you did not need to have that much talent to make a living as a musician.You just needed the right altitude.After the cold war ended First World business faced lots more competition from ex-communist countries or China/Vietnam embracing capitalist ideas

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  SIMON WOLF

But after the 1980’s how many British musical acts have conquered the world?

Well, Coldplay were the biggest band in the world for quite a while – tho’ I’m not sure that’s something we should particularly celebrate. Now Ed Sheeran is the biggest act in the world after Taylor Swift (ditto).

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Adele?

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago
Reply to  SIMON WOLF

Oh come on what about U2? Oh hang on…

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  SIMON WOLF

Given the legislative assault on small business who’d wants to risk starting a business in the UK?

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
8 months ago

I couldn’t be happier that country music is getting an airing in the UK. And the suggestions made in the article above are worth a listen. If I may add a few of my own, (and I guarantee you’ll be glad you listened to them:)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nugXkgd_-84
And anything else by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
If that’s not your thing, try the Star Spangled Banner by Chris Stapleton.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcs6HLKz_aQ
I’m not American, but that brought me to my feet.
PS Immigrant Eyes by Guy Clark, for a country view on immigration. Might open a few eyes.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTGlRAkecb4
If you’re looking for something more modern, try Vince Gill, Go Rest High Upon That Mountain

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
8 months ago

Arctic Monkeys Riot Van is playing in my head
So up rolls a riot van
And sparks excitement in the boys
But the policemen look annoyed
Perhaps these are ones they should avoid

Got a chase last night
From men with truncheons dressed in hats
We didn’t do that much wrong
Still ran away though, for the laugh
Just for the laugh

And, please, just stop talking
‘Cause they won’t find us if you do
Oh, those silly boys in blue
Well, they won’t catch me and you

“Have you been drinking, son?
You don’t look old enough to me”
“I’m sorry, officer, is there a certain age you’re supposed to be?
‘Cause nobody told me”

And up rolls the riot van
And these lads just wind the coppers up
They ask why they don’t catch proper crooks
They get their address and their names took
But they couldn’t care less

Thrown in the riot van
And all the coppers kicked him in
And there was no way he could win
Just had to take it on the chin

P N
P N
8 months ago

These songs are long on complaints, short on solutions. Guess what? Life isn’t perfect, never has been, but I don’t see anyone coming up with answers.
“Since 1979, the top 1% in the US have seen their wages grow by 138%, while wages for the bottom 90% grew by just 15%.” This is a very bizarre use of statistics to attempt to make a point. People move up and down the income scale throughout their lives. You may start in the bottom quintile when fresh out of school but as you gain qualifications and experience you will move up and then when you retire, you move down again. Very few people stay in the bottom or top quintile throughout their lives. Also, 1% v 90%? That’s an odd comparison.
“In Britain, living standards have been stagnant since 2007. Why shouldn’t people rage against these failing systems?” This is not true. Stagnant suggests they have not moved up or down when in fact living standards fell in real terms following the 2008 GFC, then increased from 2014 to 2019, then we got Covid when the fell again. Did people think paying for Covid would be painless? Oh. It’s also telling the author chooses 2007, the eve of the greatest financial crash since 1930.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
8 months ago

The left’s hatred of the working class is the biggest piece and mystery of the realignment.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago

Three types have run Britain since 1945.
K Widmerpool the Civil Service, Law and Politics. I’m All Right Jack, the unions.
I’m All Right Jack (1959) – Union negotiation with management [HD] – YouTube
The History Many Education
History Man – YouTube
Which is why we lack an innovative, adventurous, enterprising and industrious ruling class be they men or women; Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats or Green Party: heterosexual or homosexual, Christian Jewish, Muslim, Hindu Buddhist or Sikh. The West Ruling class is very similar to the wealthy Roman Catholic senior clergy( bishops, abbots, etc ) post 1350s; living in luxury on the sweat of others and being defended by others( knights, etc). John Ball, Wycliffe, William Tynedale and Luther were reactions to the venality and corruption of the senior members of the RC Church which is very similar to much of the ruling class of Western Europe.
Oliver Anthony’s comments mirror Boccaccio’ Decameron where the lust and greed of the clergy are mocked. The clergy of the 1350s play a similar role in the USA to the Beltway, Hollywood, Wall Street and those running large corporations.

Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
8 months ago

The young Geordie Sam Fender seems pretty angry.

“Aye”
They don’t act up for the camera
They just sit back and command them
And collect and deflect and abandon
They even wrote all the Ten Commandments
They watched Jesus get nailed to the cross
In real time and in their heads
They watched Boudica fall to the Romans
They watched Lennon as they shot him dead
They watched Jackie pick up Kennedy’s head
They watched kids go to Epstein’s bed
They watched Hollywood whitewash remake movies
Of napalm falling like water on rock
They watched the atom bomb reduce two cities to dust
And paint the whole narrative as totally just
They’re flyin’ drones above our heads
That paint the ground black and red
Children’s eyes clasped in dread
They all knew where it led
Trade ties steeped in guile
They knew the fall was comin’ all the while
And they doubled down on misery
The age-old blatant mystery
Subterfuge in synergy
Poor, hate the poor
Hate the poor
Hate the poor
Hate the poor
Poor, hate the poor
Hate the poor
Hate the poor
Hate the poor
It’s a blame game, it’s a fame trap
It’s the martyrdom of the spoken
It’s the last breath of the awoken
And the woke kids are just –
And the – are all ages
And everybody’s pointing at
Somebody’s sweetheart, I’m a scumbag
Makin’ my peace with the internal drag
Makin’ my thesis on the faceless man
He’s got the whole world in his – hand
I don’t have time for the very few
They never had time for me and you
I don’t have time for the very few
They never had time for me and you
I don’t have time for the very few
They never had time for me and you
I don’t have time for the very few
They never had time for me and you
I don’t have time for the very few
They never had time for me and you
I’m not a – patriot anymore
I’m not a – singer anymore
I’m not a – liberal anymore
I’m not a – anything or anyone
I’m not a – anything or-
I’m not a – anything
I’m not a-, I’m not a-, I’m not
Aye
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5p8dGHELOc

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Johnston

I checked out Fender and, regretably, couldn’t understand what he was saying. That’s always so frustrating.

Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

He has a strong working class Geordie accent.

And none the worse for that!

Philip Tucker
Philip Tucker
8 months ago

A great article Tom – thanks. I have read both positive and negative political analysis of Rich Men and couldn’t quite work out where I sat, even though I like the song and his gritty delivery. Your placing of it in the wider country music canon of songs that deals with despair and sticking it to the man but from a working class, broadly conservative outlook is spot on. Like you, I have wondered where the post Covid anger is in our musical culture. I genuinely thought there would be a new punk movement, as the pent up, locked-down bitterness of the young burst out. It hasn’t happened. In the 70s, punk erupted in the UK and spread rapidly to the USA, spawning a new wave of great music. Perhaps this time it’s happening the other way around?

Ross Jolliffe
Ross Jolliffe
8 months ago

‘If you make it somewhere else, you move to London…’ Ho hum.

Nanda Kishor das
Nanda Kishor das
8 months ago

In this otherwisr insightful piece, the author fails to take into account the wealth of tradition that, although perhaps not as much as in the past, is still alive and kicking in the US. As in families passing down from one generation to the next a wealth of songs, playing techniques, styles… I would argue that perhaps in the UK all this grassroots musicality has been suffocated by the sanctity of class that is so engrained into British culture. That’s something positive about such a predominant drive for profit as they have in the States: if the music sells, it matters little that it is unsophisticated and crass.

Last edited 8 months ago by Nanda Kishor das
Jason Smith
Jason Smith
8 months ago

An interesting article, rather let down by your unwillingness to look at new British music. The Arctic Monkeys were formed in 2002. Stormzy’s first release was 2014. There is plenty of newer angry working class music out there, articulating the kind of issues that you describe. And also “Grime is predominantly a London genre”? Bollocks

Waffles
Waffles
8 months ago

My advice is: go east, young man (or woman). SE Asia is rising. They love gentrification (ie progress and development). There is zero wokeness. They have a strong society and families. People are happy and the streets are safe. Every day is glorious sunshine and I can swim in my outdoor pool every day of the year. Britain has miserable weather and miserable people.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Where are you?

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I’m guessing the name is a play on Raffles, so Singapore?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

SE Asia is great if you’re rich and on holiday, not quite as appealing if you’re a local labourer living in a shack

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

I deliver parcels, and the number of miserable people I come across in over 100 deliveries a day, is minuscule. Perhaps you need to change your friends?
PS An Indian student I knew always wished for better weather in the UK, but not for the reason you’d think. His mother so loved the English rain she came over and stayed with him for months over India’s summer, and that had a dampening effect on his social life.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
8 months ago

Of course no one seems to want to make the obvious point that ‘crap’ wages have gone with the decline in union membership and employment rights. Fortunately the unions are back and hopefully will play a role in restoring the appalling decline in living stands we’ve seen in the last few years. Right wing anti-woke warriors certainly aren’t going to help.

P N
P N
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Of course no one seems to want to make the obvious point that “cr p” wages have gone with the increase in the labour supply. Unemployment rights have improved massively in the last few decades so your point as little if any merit. Unions are a cancer in the economy driving up wages for the privileged few to the cost of everyone else. They create a misallocation of scarce resources with alternative uses. The left never understands the other side of the equation: higher wages are pointless if your money can buy less.
Between 2014 and 2019 we had a rapid increase in living standards and a rapid increase in real wages. Then we got Covid. You are one of those who thought we wouldn’t have to pay for lockdown and borrowing £400 billion? Oh.

Last edited 8 months ago by P N
Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago

Those who “ punch down” on the poorest are most likely to be those next to them in the income distribution. This man shows a typically American lack of class and there are undoubtedly more than a few in the UK living in grotty towns and rubbish suburbs who will agree.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

This is what I don’t get. We literally have politicians who call half the country deplorables, or far-right fascists, and there’s zero pushback from the regime media. Yet this guy from Appalachia – the poorest region in America – is punching down for one line in a song, a song that speaks truth to power, unlike the regime media.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
8 months ago

I agree. People who come from “working poor” backgrounds can most easily see through those who make no effort to get off benefits because they are neighbors, and often relatives. When the only difference between yourself and Cousin Fred is that you go to work at a low-wage job every day while Fred sits at home drinking and drawing benefits, you tend to have a different view of “fairness” than those looking down from the heights of income and status. You also have the pride and dignity that comes from knowing you earn what you have.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  DA Johnson

The show ‘Keeping up appearances’ comes to mind for no particular reason.

Terry Connolly
Terry Connolly
8 months ago

Good writing but the man is starry eyed about the corrupt moron Trump. Worse he is a soft conspiracies fellow traveller.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago

Virtually all modern country music is embarrassing garbage and this dross is no different. This writer’s attempts to co-opt this dirge and country music in general as part of his “anti-woke” contrarianism is comical.
This is the genre that also brought us the racist lynching fantasy garbage from Jason Aldean which got conservatives all excited.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

What do you do with a comment like this? Vote it down? SC spews all the shallow talking points of the entitled, privileged, white laptop class. It’s so formulaic, to the point of being comical. Never any divergence. The comments are anything but socialist. The insincerity is so oppressive that it’s hard to imagine SC is an actual human being.