Heaven 17 – still around – still gigging. But in 1981 they released this song and they made it clear that, like so many felt at the time, the state of the world was going south quickly. So as a reaction to what became known as the Reagan/Thatcher Years, bands like Heaven 17 – taking Techno and Dance and putting it into the service of protest.
And (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang became something of an anthem for the 80s – it mixed the message of political upheaval and unrest under the guise of upbeat and peppy – so you were protesting and dancing at the same time – feeling alternately good and angry – something indicative of the schizo nature of that decade anyway.
But they certainly weren’t the only band taking protest to the dance floor – The Specials had a huge hit with Ghost Town, talking about racial violence in clubs and on the streets – the political activism of bands like The Style Council and The Clash. The 80s weren’t as complacent a decade as you might imagine, especially if you weren’t around at the time – there was a lot of anger and protest to go around.
And it’s ironic that a band like Heaven 17 and a song like Fascist Groove Thang hit the same nerves in 2017 as it did in 1981. Of course, taking it to the dance floor doesn’t seem so apropos this time as it did 36 years ago.
I’m wondering if it isn’t time to reactivate the old Angry Arts Festivals that were around in the 60s, during the Vietnam War period. It was serious business then – it’s deadly business now. With a world up-ended and consumed with a sickening confusion. More than a protest against an unjust and unethical war at the time, it is now a protest against the timid, cowardly and hate-filled – those people whose ignorance is only matched by their arrogance; their fear matched by their posturing; their hate matched by their impotence. We’re in the middle of some bad times, my friends. But we don’t have to fall into it and we can rise above it. Because we are, deep-down, a whole lot better than that.
Crank it up and be heard.