by Hodges, Hugh, Lucas, Dick, Whalley, Boff | The arts
Published 23/02/2023 by PM Press in the United States
Paperback | 320 pages
This is the late 1970s and ’80s as explained through the urgent and still-relevant songs of the Clash, the Specials, the Au Pairs, the Style Council, the Pet Shop Boys, and nearly four hundred other bands and solo artists. Each chapter presents a mixtape (or playlist) of songs related to an alarming feature of Thatcher’s Britain, followed by an analysis of the dialogue these artists created with the Thatcherite vision of British society. “Tell us the truth,” Sham 69 demanded, and pop music, however improbably, did. It’s a furious and sardonic account of dark times when pop music raised a dissenting fist against Thatcher’s fascist groove thing and made a glorious, boredom-smashing noise. Bookended with contributions by Dick Lucas and Boff Whalley as well as an annotated discography, The Fascist Groove Thing presents an original and polemical account of the era.
“It’s not often that reading history books works best with a soundtrack playing simultaneously, but Hugh Hodges has succeeded in evoking both the noises and the feel of a tumultuous 1980s. Proving that pop music is the historian’s friend, he has here recovered those who help us best make sense of a scary, precarious, and exciting world.”
—Matthew Worley, author of No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth Culture, 1976–1984
“Those who think the 1980s were camp and fun clearly didn’t live them. The Thatcher/Reagan era was grim as fuck. This tells the real story from the underground.”
—Ian Brennan, author of Muse-Sick and Silenced by Sound
“Written with verve, humour, and great passion for music, history and politics, The Fascist Groove Thing is a fast-paced, absorbing read. It will jog memories, entertain, and creatively engage those who survived the Thatcher years and those who weren’t yet around. Hodges not only reminds us how music can offer hope, express outrage, inspire action, or provide moments of escape in bleak, frightening times but also that some ’80s music was abysmal! Yet music can help bring people together, broaden horizons of the imagination and build solidarity and connection. And forty years later, the lyrics of Sheffield’s Heaven 17, with ‘evil men with racist views, spreading all across the land,’ seem just as relevant to ongoing struggles against today’s fascism and racism.”
—Aziz Choudry, McGill University
“Very interesting and timely indeed.”
—Anne Clark, spoken-word poet, The Smallest Act of Kindness
About the Contributors
Hugh Hodges has written extensively on African and West Indian music, poetry, and fiction, including essays on Fela Kuti, Lord Kitchener, and Bob Marley. Linton Kwesi Johnson praised his book Soon Come as “extremely engaging and an important, original scholarly work.” He currently teaches at Trent University, Ontario, where his research focuses on cultural resistance in its many forms, and his band the Red Finks remains hopelessly obscure.
Dick Lucas is a writer and visual artist, and the vocalist for three iconic punk bands: Subhumans, Citizen Fish, and Culture Shock. He is also the founder of independent punk label Bluurg Records.
Boff Whalley is a writer and musician, and a founding member of Chumbawamba. He is also an avid fell runner, the subject of his book Run Wild. His most recent musical project is Commoners Choir, a “strange yet open and inclusive choir that meets in Leeds.” The choir’s most recent release is Untied Kingdom.