Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Thatcher Trail: End 1979 And The UK Pop Scene

The Iron Lady on the cover of Time.
Thatcher's England:

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) is gone at 87.  May she rest in peace.  I remember following news about her from our local media, talking about her when she became PM at the end of the 70s as I chatted with people on the streets of London. Then her visits to Singapore in 1985, 1988, 1993 and a  Dendrobium Margaret Thatcher.

She was an icon but a controversial figure. After the famous, Labour Isn't Working call and during the Winter of Discontent  (1978 to 1979) when the government was facing criticism because of public service collapse and spiralling unemployment, Iron Lady came to the rescue and in May, 1979 had the doors of 10 Downing Street opened for her when she became the first female prime minister. 

I am writing not to discuss this lady but just trying to track the UK pop scene in 1979 and my time spent in that country.  To me those were memorable years.

Movies and VHS:

First, on the film trail, classic Apocalypse Now by Francis Coppola was the talk of movie buffs and Ridley Scott's Alien recognised as a masterpiece of cinema. In the same period home entertainment took a turn and Sony's Betamax recording format introduced in 1975 had to go to war with JVC when the latter came out with challenger VHS in 1977. 

I was confused, not knowing which to choose but finally decided on the more popular VHS. The VCR or video cassette recorder was the device that transformed the video entertainment market and we got to watch Brando, Martin Sheen, Sigourney Weaver, Rocky and Kramer vs. Kramer at home.

Pop Songs:

Still following?  Well Cliff Richard fans may remember that with good friend Bruce Welch (Shadows' rhythmist) he produced a single released in late 1979 that was huge. It reached number one in UK and the top ten in the US.  It made Sir Cliff the first artiste to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 80s while also having scored Hot 100 hits in all of the previous three decades.  And the song? We Don't Talk Anymore.

By the end of that year another new star hit the headlines and rock group Pink Floyd released The Wall, an album which went to the peak of Billboard and stayed for 15 weeks.

The list went on with Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. This theme song for movie Watership Down was the biggest selling single of 1979 in the UK.  Then came When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman by Dr. Hook, YMCA with the Village People, Ring My Bell with Anita Ward, Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen, Chiqitita by Abba and the ever haunting instrumental, Cavatina (Theme from The Deer Hunter) by John Williams.


I came back again in 1981 but this time to Aberdeen, Scotland and read three of many great books provided free by a university. I absorbed the books as I did the country. The books included: 1)  Changing Places by funny man David Lodge; 2) Three Plays: Five Finger Exercise, Shrivings, Equus by serious Shaffer and 3) Worlds: Seven Modern Poets that included Charles Causley, Seamus Heaney, Thom Gunn, Ted Hughes, etc., edited by Geoffrey Summerfield.

Penguin Books: David Lodge: Changing Places, Peter Shaffer: Three Plays, Worlds: Seven Modern Poets.
My meandering is what I call my Thatcher Trail around the late 70s and early 80s when I used to frequent  England and Scotland.  The countries, mode of government, books and songs made me understand the UK psyche better. These places you just don't want to talk about. London especially. You just want to visit, read and experience them again and again and again...

Pink Floyd:
"We don't need no education.
We don't need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher, leave those kids alone.
Hey, Teacher, leave those kids alone
All in all it's just another brick in the wall..."


Can you believe the lyrics?  A truly wonderful lady lecturer in her 60s gave me a free ride in her tiny Ford Focus all the way from Aberdeen to the Underground in London when I was coming home. It was a near 12-hour ride.  I shall never forget Ms Levi.

During her eleven years in office Thatcher was not well received by British  and some non-British musicians. The English Beat's Stand Down Margaret, the Larks' Maggie Maggie Maggie (Out Out Out), Morrissey's Margaret on the Guillotine, and Elvis Costello's Tramp the Dirt Down were only a few of these vitriolic songs.  (It was the 80s and this blog does not discuss the period).
Information from:
1) Internet, Wikipedia and 2) Decades of Our Lives 70s, Classic, Rare and Unseen: From the Archives of the Daily Mail Transatlantic Press: 2010.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Margaret Thatcher and Pop Music:

'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead' has zoomed to number 10 in the Official Singles Chart and likely to peak.

The song from the 1939 film 'The Wizard of Oz,' has flown into the Top 10 Charts following a Facebook write-up by the Iron Lady's critics. 10,600 copies now and possibly 5,000 copies away from a Top 3 spot.

At iTunes it's Number Two and on Amazon is already Number One.



Wikepedia said...

"Two Little Boys" is a song written by American composer Theodore Morse and lyricist Edward Madden. It was written in 1902 and became a popular music hall song of the time. In 1969, it became the No. 1 top-selling single for entertainer Rolf Harris in the UK.

On BBC Radio Blackburn in 1979, Margaret Thatcher picked it as a favourite song.

True Blue said...

Margaret Thatcher has a mixed relationship with music. Her favourite pop song, 'Telstar', was the first single by a British group to reach number one in America in 1962.


Oh dear, Andy! Thatcher was a powerful woman who did many controversial things. Many of us will remember her as the Prime Minister who pushed mentally ill people out of care and into the streets to fend for themselves; she destroyed British industry and made millions unemployed; she encouraged yuppy-ism and its consequent greed; she ordered local authorities to sell council accommodation at cut prices and caused a housing crisis for homeless people which still exists on a massive scale to this day; many of the people who bought these underpriced council properties later sold them for massive profits; she caused the deaths of many Argentinian and British troops in the unnecessary Falklands war and forbade wounded British servicemen to be at the waterside to welcome the troopships home after the war. She snubbed the Queen on one memorable occasion.

Hope I haven't shattered any illusions!

Best wishes,

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Allan for your side of the story. Opposing views, that's what we need.

SOO HIAN said...

Hi Andy,

I'm a scriptwriter, doing research about police work and night clubs/cabarets in 1950s-60s Singapore.

This is for a series of online videos about life in the 50s/60s.

May I contact you to find out more about this era?

My email is

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Soo Hian,

You can write to me anytime but I am hardly an expert on Police country as I am more at home with pop music.

If others are interested please contact Soo Hian at his email address.

ROGERPOH said...

Hi Andrew

Apa khabar?

How's your blog?

A journalist from The Star newspaper in Msia would like to interview a senior who blogs. I said yes I have one in mind but I've to ask you first. I just got her email a while ago.

This is in the context of an article on blogging for seniors which I wrote for the paper.

Please let me know.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

OK Roger, thanks and not a problem. Wow you're really going places.


GYSC said...

I respect this iron lady. Got guts! said...

"Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics," Meryl Streep said in a statement.

MSNNEWS said...

Above all, not only was she bad for the country during her premiership, she continues to be bad for the country today. The causes of the present slump - unrestricted credit, deregulation and too much financial speculation - all date back to the 1980s. No successive government dared reverse these decisions: a blessing to her legacy, but a curse we must now all share.


1979 saw the beginning of a few trends in British music. The start of the New Romantic movement and synthesiser bands began to gather momentum (although both these trends had to wait for the eighties for real growth) and the first rap hit in the UK for the Sugar Hill Gang.

The 2 Tone movement also emerged with early work from bands like The Specials and Madness. Disco music was still the most popular music of the year, although showed signs of dying out in later months.

1979 remains the biggest-selling year ever for physical format singles sales in the UK.


This article has been sent by James Kwok. Thank you James:

This is a very different side of Lady Thatcher which I admire most.
I always thought of her as the iron lady, but to know that she was also
kind and compassionate to the little people. God bless her.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks James. It's been a while but I appreciate the articles. She gets her dues today. May she rest in peace.

We need to speak up time and again or we may be trampled, especially by the wicked.