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Published on April 9th, 2013 | by Alan Cross

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Goodbye, Margaret Thatcher and Thanks for All the Music

I’m not sure if the Iron Lady could play an instrument, but I do know this:  she was responsible for an awful lot of music.

In fact, it’s possible that no other person in history has been more reviled and demonized in song as much as Mrs. Thatcher.

When she came to power in May 1979, she quickly became a divisive and polarizing force in Britain.  Her conservative policies and brawls with unions and strikers soon attracted not just opposition from some corners of British society but outright hatred.  And much of that opposition and hatred was expressed in the form of music.

Take, for example, Morrissey.  On Viva Hate, his first post-Smiths solo album, there’s a song called “Margaret on the Guillotine.” In some countries, lyrics like this would be considered seditious and subject to charges of treason.

The kind people 
Have a wonderful dream 
Margaret on the guillotine 
Cause people like you 
Make me feel so tired 
When will you die ? 
When will you die ? 
When will you die ? 
When will you die ? 
When will you die ? 

And people like you 
Make me feel so old inside 
Please die 

Morrissey was hardly the only anti-Thatcherite.  Check out this song by Henfner called “The Day That Thatcher Dies.”

Then we have this classic from The Exploited.

A couple of I-hate-Thatcher songs even became hits.  Like this one.

There are more, but you see what I mean.

But we can look beyond just the songs that were specifically about Thatcher.  There are all the songs inspired by the mood of Thatcher’s England, especially during and after the Falklands War along with the way she dealt with the strikes that paralyzed Britain, the riots that broke out over the Poll Tax and her overall promotion of capitalist free market principles.  

And even though she’s been out of power since November 1990, the songs just keep on coming.  

Still need more proof?  Try this list of character assassination that includes Billy Bragg, Robert Wyatt, The Specials and Heaven 17.  We can also find tracks from The The, Pink Floyd, Crass, Elvis Costello and many, many others. (Find another list here.)

Conservative governments seem to encourage an upswing in angry, left-ish, anti-establishment songs.  But it’ll be a long time before someone comes along to inspire as much music as Mrs. Thatcher did.

Related:  Morrissey’s eulogy for Maggie.  It’s not nice.  Surprise.

Related:  Maggie’s detractors came from all classes.


About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.



3 Responses to Goodbye, Margaret Thatcher and Thanks for All the Music

  1. Mark A. says:

    What's the The The song? I didn't see it on either of those lists.

    Another criminally underrated band. I only vaguely recall Dogs of Lust being played on The Edge/CFNY. Not sure how I came across them, but Armageddon Days Are Here Again grabbed my attention and made me seek out the rest of their catalogue.

  2. Mike says:

    Don't forget about U2 Maggie's Farm which was adapted to fit mid-80's political situation from Bob Dylan's pen….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6m65q34wgmU

    Also, I am also sure that Morrissey wrote his song with legal implication in mind so he doesn't actually call for her death…he just infers it.

  3. Michael H. says:

    Lets not forget that ROCK music was not the only art form attacking Thatcher. FILM – and especially the brutal Peter Greenaway film "THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER" – 1989. If you read this film as a political parable you get – COOK = Civil servants, citizens, THIEF = Thatcher's arrogance and support of the greedy, WIFE = Britannia Lover – ineffectual opposition by leftists and intellectuals. – - – The late film critic Roger Ebert has an excellent 4 star review and summary of this tough and not too easy film to watch.

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