Thursday, March 24, 2011

33 Revolutions Per Minute....

Dorian Lynskey's new book 33 Revolutions Per Minute : A History of Protest Songs is an essential read for anyone who likes their music with a dash of politics spread on top.

Each chapter is named after a song starting with Billie Holiday's classic Strange Fruit and concluding with Green Day's American Idiot. Along the way there are chapters on the likes of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Clash, Billy Bragg and Crass amongst others. All the music is placed in the context of a particular event in history such as opposition to the Vietnam War, black power, gay rights, the Falklands War and C.N.D.

Most of the musicians in the book, by their own admittance, have thought at one point they could change the world with their songs only to realise that they can't but most have also made some bloody decent music along the way.

At a time when protest songs appear to be in decline perhaps events over the next few years when government cuts start to kick in will ignite a new generation to follow in the footsteps of the artists in the book.

The other great thing about the book is that it makes you want to re-visit the tracks you already know or give a first listen to any you may not be acquainted with.

The book is mostly comprised of Western musicians, but does have pieces on the likes of Fela Kuti and is a fairly weighty coming in at over 800 pages and covers almost 70 years of history and sometimes you realize that a particular track can make a difference as was the case with The Special A.K.A.'s Free Nelson Mandela, which may not quite have got him released from prison but certainly helped the cause greatly.

Anyone with any interest in protest songs or just good ole rock 'n' roll in general will find plenty to enjoy in this intelligent, well written history of the protest song.


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