Picket Line Party track 7 – Music Hall War!!!

August 18, 2011 by cosmoakacitizensmith

(To listen to the track, click the play button below. To download it, click on the arrow pointing down on the right bit of the thingy below. To share it on Facebook etc, get the embed code by clicking on the icon on the right bit of the thingy below).

According to Twitter, I last uploaded a track for “Picket Line Party” 67 days ago. So much for my “one track a month for free download” idea!

So what’s been going on? It’s like the world around me has completely changed. The last time I remember having any energy I was Busking Against the Cuts on the main thoroughfare in Cardiff at the end of June. Gigs, strikes, picket lines, song release deadlines…..Suddenly everything takes its toll and it’s off to Cornwall to get rid of this bout of midlatitude psychosis blues. Our rulers and betters have infinite resources, contacts and privileges with which to shaft us, and take holidays in Tuscany to chill out from it all. We have fresh air, excitement and camping holidays!

Just before I leave, a crazy Norwegian fundamentalist Christian shoots up a load of kids at a leftist camp and bombs Oslo to protest against multiculturalism. Why didn’t every living Norwegian and fundamentalist Christian need to explain how they weren’t racists, terrorists and child killers, on pain of being thought of the enemy within? If Anders Behring Breivik had been a Muslim, this would have been different. So it goes…..

Then there’s the ongoing story of cops, politicians and News International clowns like Rupert and James Murdoch, once-triumphant kings and queens of the spectacle, all in it together, falling into a quagmire of corruption and lies.

And now a load of rioting in England has left people seriously freaked out and scratching their heads. What the hell happened there? How did it come to this? Politicisation has crept up slowly as a result, but mostly people have run up against their ill-thought-out prejudices gleaned from the right wing press. It’s been surprising how many friends I’ve wanted to lose on social network sites for spouting nonsense. Already, a 23-year-old has gone down for 6 months for nicking a bottle of water during the riots that cost £3.50. People applaud. And so this kind of hysteria goes on. (This article shows some of the rank class hypocrisy  at work). Politicians and bankers get away with looting the country but that’s ok. When the rest of us do it, it’s lockdown. Why are we still at this level in our attitudes? It’s like dealing with people that refuse to grow up.

The Met seemed to have started the rioting by shooting a black guy called Mark Duggan in Tottenham and then treating his family like shit. They are also in line to get new powers from the government as large parts of the population line up behind them. How does that work?

And against all this backdrop, the world economy goes into free fall!!!!

In Cornwall I found a load of dreams that I thought I’d discarded that still felt vivid and alive. Landscape there has that power. Then there was Abel Paz’s biography of Spanish anarchist hero Durruti with me there too. Durruti helped bring Spanish state come reeling to its knees in 1936 with an alliance of factory workers, temps, mechanics, cleaners, peasants, nutters etc……trying to create a new kind of democracy based on communities, workplaces, gender equality….Hmmmm. If there is hope it lies in the proles? Maybe that’s the missing piece of the puzzle here? In which case, we have some serious work to do!

Every leftist folky dreams of coming across an obscure story of a strike or injustice that has yet to be chronicled in song. In Britain in unlike now, 1907, there was lots of working class solidarity. Strikes, lockouts, arguments down the pub, suffragettes….it was all going on! How do you imagine we ended up having a public service and NHS to serve up to the wanton beasts of capital now? Strike, occupy, resist! Even the entertainers were at it! This is the story of the Music Hall War!!!


The year is 1907

A piano player, that’s me

I’ve plied my trade in music halls

From here down to Battersea

I’ve played at the old Hackney Empire

At Gatti’s and Shepherds Bush too

But the syndicates got a bit cheeky

And there was a mighty to-do


The stage-hands down in Holborn

Were already feeling the pinch

And Stoll would always take a mile

If anyone gave them an inch

We’d do one show of an evening

Then suddenly they wanted two

And a matinee for no extra pay

Well strike was all we could do!


Fair London town had never seen it’s like before

It went down in history as the Music Hall War!


The stars come out in the daytime

When we had our first picket line

Marie Lloyd sang her saucy songs

And we had a jolly old time

She said she weren’t there for the money

But she knew the score from her roots

It’s always us lot below stairs

Who lose out to those in the suits


Arthur Roberts, Gus Elen

Added their stardust too

Our more famous contemporaries

Were all out with us too

The boxer Battling Nelson

Him from the US of A

Said he’d rather forgo his 5 grand

Than be a scab any day


Fair London town had never seen it’s like before

It went down in history as the Music Hall War!


The syndicates thought they were clever

And brought scabs to the Halls

That parade of has beens and never-will-bes

Couldn’t get past us all

Then one time at the picket

Belle Elmore tried crossing the line

Marie Lloyd said “Just let her in

She’ll clear the place in no time!”


Back then all working people

Were fighting for our rights

Ben Tillet and Keir Hardie

Both took up our fight

At Somerset Maugham’s suggestion

Talks they were begun

Minimum wage, maximum week –

I guess you could say we won!


Fair London town had never seen it’s like before

It went down in history as the Music Hall War!


Though I’m long dead and buried

My ghost still haunts these streets

And pubs and clubs and stadiums

Wherever people meet

To get some entertainment

To dance their cares away

These problems that we sorted

Are back much worse today


So if you’re a performer

Or working on the crew

A small time shark or corporate suit

Is always shafting you

Call it exploitation

Call it pay to play

When we stand together

We make the bastards pay!


Fair London town had never seen it’s like before

It went down in history as the Music Hall War!


Read more about the Music Hall War here.

Gus Elen on Spotify, His biog is here.

Marie Lloyd on Spotify. Her biog is here.


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