Q Magazine

Playlist - Tom Hickox's "Songs of war and protest" feat Dylan, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Springsteen, 'Stones & more

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With a new album on the way entitled War, Peace And Diplomacy – have a listen to The Angel Of The North taken from it – Tom Hickox has found the theme of his impeding record resonating recently, which is why he’s curated this Playlist for us, “songs of war and protest”. “This month has reminded me of the importance to society of the artist,” he explains. “We live in a world where everyone in authority has to some degree an agenda to protect,” he explains. “Hence politicians will sell honours for cash, police will be moles for journalists, journalists and media owners whore their political allegiances to suit their needs, and those that don’t play the journalists’ game can find themselves under surveillance and sometimes threat, and so it goes on. Who, therefore, can provide a credible political voice to shine a mirror back on society without being compromised by self-interest? It is only the artist.”It is the artist’s job to find a truth, no matter how small, in a song, and that becomes even more important in times of war, from Siegfried Sassoon onwards. It is also true that an artist can be politicised without being political, and perhaps that is when they are most successful. When an artist’s politics scream off the page or out of the stereo, then they are searching for their own version of truth. The following songs land their punch, and that is all you can ask for.”

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Bob Dylan – Masters Of War

“It would be hard to start anywhere else. A coruscating attack on politicians and generals in the pre-cold war era, it is delivered with a blunt blade, You that build all the guns/ you that hide behind desks/ I hope that you die.”

Johnny Cash – We’ll Meet Again

“Vera Lynn’s wartime classic made even more poignant by the wrenching delivery of the man in black. I’ve always thought that this song is profoundly sad, based as it is on an assertion that will probably only come true in death. Haunting.”

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Tom Waits – Day After Tomorrow

“Unlike Neil Young say, it’s not really Tom Waits’ natural arena to make a direct political protest in one of his songs. But in this small masterpiece he certainly does, taking aim at the stupidity of the Iraq war via the borrowed voice of a returning soldier, “I’m not fighting for justice, I’m not fighting for freedom, I am fighting for my life”.”

PJ Harvey – The Glorious Land

“I could have picked almost any song from Let England Shake, but this really is astonishingly powerful writing, How is our glorious country ploughed? Not by iron ploughs/ Our land is ploughed by tanks and feet/ Feet marching….. oh America, oh England…

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Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit

“A song ostensibly about acid, it is an allegorical piece calling for the American people to protest against Vietnam, One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small It is a presentation of the choices there for the American youth. Larger is to protest, small is to join up. When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go/ Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know.”

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

“The Vietnam war proved an incredible catalyst for some of the great music in the pop canon, and none more so than this. Written in reaction to protesters against the war being badly beaten up by police, the title says it all, and all set over one of the great pop melodies.”

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Joy Division – Warsaw

“Not a protest song, but the story of one man’s experience of war, the Nazi traitor Rudolf Hess. A poignant lyric underlining the humanity of those caught up in war, I just see contradiction, had to give up the fight, and all delivered over thunderous, raging accompaniment.”

Randy Newman – Rednecks

“No a war song, but most definitely a protest song. Newman turns in on his own with this brilliant, and hard to listen to assault on the American deep south. We’re rednecks, we don’t know our ass from a hole in the ground, and we’re keeping the n****rs down“.

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The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

“Britain’s most powerful artistic response to Vietnam. Musically unsettling, lyrically very direct: War, children, it’s just a shot away, thrilling to listen to.”

Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA

“I had to end with this, not because I’m a huge Springsteen fan, but because of the phenomenal irony of this song being taken up as iconic by the breast beating, flag waving patriots it ultimately condemns: I had a brother at Khe Sang fighting off the Viet Cong/ They’re still here, he’s all gone.”

For more head to www.tomhickox.com.


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