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“Pack up your troubles”: politics and popular music in pre- and post-ceasefire Ulster
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-26, 12:35 authored by Sean Campbell
Popular music has had a long and often complex relationship with political life. A specific event in the mid-1970s ensured that musicians within Northern Ireland could not evade the vexed relationship of pop and politics. After a late night concert in Banbridge, Co. Down in July 1975, a popular Irish outfit called The Miami Showband were viciously attacked by the Ulster Volunteer Force, a Loyalist paramilitary group. In the course of the attack, three members of the band were shot dead, while another was critically injured. As Britain's Melody Maker music paper explained the following week, the attack was 'the first time that musicians [had] been chosen as a target for violence' in Northern Ireland, and local musicians were consequently in 'fear that the province's musical life [might] collapse'. The event had two long-term effects on popular music-making in Northern Ireland. First, 'the myth of a sectarian-free popular music was shattered'; from now on it would be clear that musicians were 'as likely as anyone else to be identified in the restrictive religious and / or political terms that defined the Troubles'. Second, the attack would stigmatize Ireland - and particularly Northern Ireland - as 'a problem destination for international rock acts'. However, an unexpected consequence of the de facto touring boycott of Northern Ireland was an upsurge of domestic music-making. The late 1970s witnessed a marked increase in popular music-making activities across Northern Ireland, a development that overlapped – quite significantly - with the emergent 'do-it-yourself' ethos of punk, which convinced many youngsters in Northern Ireland (as elsewhere) to write songs that addressed their own everyday lives. This article explores the particular ways in which this political crisis was engaged - and also eschewed - by punk and post-punk bands in Northern Ireland, before addressing important aspects of the post-ceasefire music scene.
Publication titlePopular Musicology Online
PublisherPopular Musicology Online