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Politics

“The Battle of the Beanfield” (1991) From the Levellers Album, “Levelling the Land”

Writing about the Battle of the Beanfield inevitably led me back to that great record by the Levellers which will be a staggering 25 years old next year.

Some albums are important because they matter. And Levelling the Land matters a great deal as it captured the politics of the time, the division, anger and bitterness of everything the Tories did in the eighties comes out in this riot of a record, but, and this is the reason I love it so much, it has such an optimistic vibe. Despite the complete capitulation and current irrelevance of the Labour Party in the wake of the election debacle in May we must never lose hope.

This record made me believe, influenced me, moved me; the rare album where all the songs are inspired gems, an album you can pick up in any mood, and it makes you smile, dance across the living room, an album that touches your soul.

The live show was just a massive party with everyone jigging and dancing, hugging friends and total strangers, the most tactile gig I ever experienced.

The support band were crap. Two geeky looking muso types, aided by two of the weirdest guys I have ever seen on stage, neither could play a note as far as I could fathom. The Manic Street Preachers, who went on to be the greatest band of their generation, what did I know?

Levelling the Land kept me going through those dark nights banging on doors for the Labour Party as a 24 year old in the Spring of 1992 because it mattered so much for us to roll back the tidal wave of selfishness and cynicism that helped the Tories sweep all before them and allowed the disgusting attacks on the weak, the vulnerable, the sick and the old to go on and on. A tide of evil as Neil Kinnock described it in his brilliant speech to Conference in 1985.

And that’s why the defeat in 1992 hurt so much. I was just 24 years old and in my second year as a teacher and I admit I wept my own tide of tears that long horrible night of 9th April, of frustration and anger. Never again. Never again because it matters to too many people for those hideous people ever to get in again.

“No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party . . . So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” Nye Bevan

The Levellers come that great tradition of folk rock going all the way back to Richard Thompson and Fairport Convention, and as the name suggests with a just an ever so slight nod to politics.

The combination of uplifting melody and inspiring, angry, reflective and postive lyrics sung with the true passion of someone who really believes in what they are doing, puts this record way ahead of other folk albums.

It’s a record brimming with Freedom and Hope. Total genius.

From “Sell Out” which is a commentary on the way things looked in 91, to the aching longing and positivity of “The Boatman”, this is a must listen album.

The anti-war Another Man’s Cause (one of the band’s greatest songs) and Battle of the Beanfield, are other highlights of the album, The Game and The Road are great fiddle-driven folk rock, and The Riverflow is one of the catchiest songs of all time I defy you not to be tapping your foot at the very least, just so uplifting and positive, proving you can be a Socialist and have a bloody good time too.

Nothing I can say can really do it justice. Just listen and believe that what ever you do in life, do it for the right reasons, whether in love, friendship, community or work. And that we do much better together than on our own.

That’s the ethic of this record.

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About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.

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