From Elvis Costello to The Exploited...
Stand Down Margaret sleeve


It's almost beyond a name. In life, Margaret Thatcher became one of the most divisive politicians in the history of the UK, capable of rousing astonishing ire but winning three successive elections.

Presiding over some of Britain's worst ever riots, the Falklands war, the Miner's Strike and the Poll Tax, Margaret Thatcher's premiership produced a nation which is still - for better or worse - visible today.

Passing away yesterday (April 8th) following a stroke, Margaret Thatcher's legacy has been ripped open for debate. What isn't up for discussion, though, is the astonishing effect the Prime Minister had on pop culture - with the rippling waves of Thatcherism galvanising British youth in a remarkable way.

If ever an argument could be made for uniting pop and politics, it can be derived from the searing polemic which could be found scaling the charts during the years of Margaret Thatcher's premiership.

- - -

The Exploited - Maggie
The Exploited began at light speed, then only increased velocity. Hailing from Edinburgh, the band saw both sides of the Thatcher era as the city succumbed to a wave of unemployment and heroin addiction, before finally becoming a hub for the financial industry following the de-regulation of the city. Nailing their colours to the mast, The Exploited sang it like they saw it... all together now: MAGGIE IS A...

The Beat - Stand Down Margaret
A mixed race group of vagabonds from a area (formerly) dominated by heavy industry, The Beat were virtually tailor made to represent everyone that felt excluded from Thatcher's Britain. As race riots tore the country apart in 1980 and 1981, the politician's reign looked set to be cast as a one term anomaly. To hasten her end, The Beat composed 'Stand Down Margaret' - perhaps the catchiest piece of political rhetoric to emerge from the era.

Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding
Of course, Thatcher managed to last a little longer than one term. The Falklands War managed to create a swell of favourable public opinion, with the Prime Minister re-cast by jingoistic favour into a heroic war leader. For those who lose friends, family and loved ones in senseless warfare, though, the truth was somewhat different. Written by Elvis Costello, it took the quivering tenor of Robert Wyatt to take 'Shipbuilding' into the charts, resulting in a beautiful, profound and poignant moment in pop history.

Crass - How Does It Feel (To Be The Mother Of 1000 Dead)?
But not everyone was so eloquent. Crass were disgusted by the free market capitalism of the Thatcher era, and were once investigated by security forces for distributing seditious material. 'How Does It Feel (To Be The Mother Of 1000 Dead)?' remains as blood curdling as the day it was laid to rest. In a way, Crass were the type of group which could only have existed during the Thatcher era - soaring unemployment presented British youth with a lot of time on their hands, y'see.

Elvis Costello - Tramp The Dirt Down
Margaret Thatcher's death almost caused social media networks to collapse, such was the weight of users intent on venting their spleen at the former Prime Minister. Whilst some was beyond the pale, some used the words of others to describe their feelings with many pointing towards this Elvis Costello classic. Written whilst Thatcherism still raged, 'Tramp The Dirt Down' is an odd beast - musically graceful, the lyrics speak with a rare ferocity with Costello barely withholding his rage.

Morrissey - Margaret On The Guillotine
One of the finest lyricists British pop music has ever coughed up, Morrissey can twist your heartstrings or make you laugh with just a few lines. The Mancunian Bard can also be simple and direct, as envisaged by this 'Viva Hate' cut - a simple ode to the execution of Margaret Thatcher which contains the repeated line "when will you die..."

Mogwai - George Square Thatcher Death Party
Presumably, the title of this post-rock track was intended as a joke. After all, no one would take this seriously... right? Wrong. After the news of Margaret Thatcher's death broke, a loose knit menagerie of hard left supporters, liberal sympathisers and bemused, amused members of the public flocked to the Glasgow landmark. Reviled in life by the Scottish public, Margaret Thatcher's death was unwittingly soundtracked by Mogwai - somehow, we think they're slightly proud of this feat...

...and one more thing.

The Not Sensibles - I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher


Follow Clash: