Trouble Songs: A playlist of resistance and resilience
by Raquel GOMEZ for Shared Future News
11 May 2018
Every age has its unique characteristic sound, its particular musical style. Every age has its own soundtrack. What is the soundtrack of the Troubles in Northern Ireland?
The Northern Irish music journalist, Stuart Bailie, launched his book — Trouble Songs: Music and Conflict in Northern Ireland — in the Oh Yeah Music Centre as a part of The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. Trouble Songs is the compilation of 30 years of music listened to during the Troubles and the peace process. Bailie recounts the soundtrack of the Troubles through 60 interviews with people involved in the music scene. The interviewees give their perspective and another way to understand the conflict — “resistance and resilience” — through their personal stories and the lyrics that were sung at the time.
The night of the launch started in the most appropriate manner, with Bailie’s voice reading some pages of his book. Highlighting how music was used for social and political demands as well as a powerful tool against sectarianism and division. Bailie emphasised that “there is a proud realisation of the importance of music during the worst times”. Being a musician during those years was, among other things, a risk.
Bailie remembered the Miami Showband attack, where three of the six members and two other people were killed. Bailie read a part of his interview with Stephen Travers (bass player of the band) that sets out their anti-sectarianism. Travers said: “When people came to see us, sectarianism was left outside the door of the dancehall. They came in, they were brought together and they enjoyed the same thing. That’s the power of music and I think that every musician that ever stood on a stage, north of the border during those decades, every one of them was a hero.”
The music scene after the Sixties changed radically when punk rock music raided the dance floors. It was much more than a kind of music. It was a revolutionary movement. The Clash and the Sex Pistols have gone down in history as some remarkable examples of British punk rock.
Terry Hooley and his record shop, Good Vibrations, and the local punk bands, like The Outcast and Stiff Little Fingers, have remained as a substantial part of the music scene of Seventies’ Belfast. “I realised that the punks had no fear. I was really impressed by that. The anarchy of it all,” said Hooley.
During the launch event, Terry Hooley went up on stage and read some poems and songs, like “Be My Friend” and “Love Me”. His lyrics and words gave to the audience the spirit of those years. He sang for the friendship, love, for “don’t look back to the days of yesterday” and to look at the future with hope.
Following the readings, there was a performance of XSLF. Oh Yeah Music Centre went back 40 years ago through Henry Cluney’s voice. The dance floor turned into the right place to speak out, to let music being a peacemaker.
Trouble Songs could be the name of a Spotify playlist. It’s the playlist of the Troubles and it’s the playlist of a generation of resistance and resilience.
As Bailie kindly signed our book: “Music as healer, persuader, peacemaker.”
“When punk rock ruled over Ulster, nobody ever had more excitement and fun. Between the bombings and shootings, the religious hatred and the settling of old scores, punk gave everybody a chance to live for one glorious, burning moment. Let it provide inspiration.”
Joe Strummer, November 2002.