OK, I have a confession to make. I didn’t actually buy this single. I robbed it off my brother, but then I feel vindicated on that score as the tide was very much in the other direction wrt vinyl (and later on videos). What’s more, I don’t think that he bought this one either – I think he may have swapped it for something with one of his mates.
Anyway, I’ve calmed down now… whatever the ins and outs of how he / I came upon this item, there is but one fact pertaining. That is, if ever a piece of throwaway pop music resonated more loudly with the youth of any country and any generation then I am a monkey’s uncle.
Released in June 1981, against the backdrop of riots in inner city areas such as Brixton, Toxteth, Chapeltown and Handsworth, the song entered the charts at number 26 before hitting the top spot on 11 July and remaining there for 3 weeks.
The song’s writer, keyboardist Jerry Dammers had been struck with the idea for the song in the autumn of 1980 as the band travelled through the streets of Glasgow. He was moved by the sight of elderly women selling their possessions on the streets. I think that it is the simplicity of the song which goes a long way to explain its impact. The haunting intro and the insistent rising drum beat up to the point where Terry Hall’s vocal comes in are just perfect.