Jah Wobble: In Conversation On Get Carter At 50
I am a child of Thatcher, and Get Carter (a few months older than me) foreshadows a Thatcherite world, with its gangsters who want to deregulate everything.
Jah Wobble (born 1958, so nearer my mum’s generation) is excellent on the UK before Thatcher – a country few of us actually experienced or even remember, despite the fact it obsesses the Daily Mail. Wobble’s portrayal is closer to Corbyn’s vision of a UK based on, among other things, lifelong learning:
You had working class institutions like Birkbeck, where I did my mature course. You had evening classes, adult learning centres, all well funded. You had a feeling you could go forward in the arts. You could progress into life and have a life. The younger mob coming through are fucked, we’re very much back where we were, except there’s a bigger middle class. But, as in America, that middle class is very vulnerable. And they know it.
I got the fag end of this world: the year I went to university was the first year of the student loan. So while I graduated with a sizeable debt (to the bank as well as the Student Loans Company) it was nowehere near as big as current graduates are saddled with. I studied Literature and Philosophy at a former Northern polytechnic: there was no pressure on me to choose a more “financially beneficial” course.
It is easy to be nostalgic about the post-war era. The Newcastle of Get Carter is corrupt, and the real Labour city council leader T. Dan Smith had resigned after a bribery trial, and was later jailed for six years. It was also socially conservative and quite slultifying – I’ve always seen punk largely as a reaction to this rather than any class thing. Wobble’s occasional bandmate John Lydon has of course ended up as a MAGA-hat sporting, Farage-loving cartoon character. And like he says, there is a sizeable, property-owning middle class, which has generally voted Tory as it has aged.
But this is also the era of great working class artists, such as Wobble and Mark E Smith. Even if Smith was all autodidact, he prospered in a world where you could take the time to develop a band while signing on. It’s undeniable that education and housing were more accessible to the working class; it wasn’t until Thatcher that the aim became to leave your class altogether, and those that failed to join the middle class were demonsied. We shouldn’t be nostalgic, but there’s a lot here to rediscover and reinterpret.
Anyway, this underpinned-by-Wobble masterpiece came up on Spotify unrelatedly. Lydon’s delivery and lyrics often annoy me, but on this he’s magnificent:
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