Off to WOMAD, Back on Monday! Have A Listen to The Four Fathers While I’m Away

A comparatively rare sunny interlude at the often rather wet WOMAD 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Dear friends,

It’s that time of year again, when a whole posse of us from south east London head down to Charlton Park in Wiltshire for the WOMAD world music festival, which this year is celebrating its 35th year!

This will be my 16th annual visit, as part of a group of family and friends running children’s workshops, led by my wife Dot. I first went just after our wedding, and have been every year since — in the festival summers of 2004 and 2005, for example, when I launched my books Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield at the Glastonbury Festival, and also spoke and sold books at the Big Green Gathering and the Shambala Festival, and in 2007, the first year at Charlton Park, after the move from Reading, when it became a mud bath, and we feared it might not survive.

But this “hardy celebration of music marginalised by the western pop machine”, as the Times describes it, is not so easily destroyed. WOMAD came bouncing back in 2008, having redesigned its place in the landscape of Charlton Park, and it has been thriving ever since. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ at Vinyl Deptford

A screenshot of the video of The Four Fathers playing 'Masters of War' at Vinyl Deptford on April 28, 2017.Today I’m posting the second of three new Four Fathers videos on our YouTube channel — of us playing our cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’, a live favourite — also featured on the CD of our first studio album, ‘Love and War.’ The video was recorded on April 28 at our most recent gig at Vinyl Deptford, a great record shop in London SE8, which has a wonderful little rock and roll basement, and our thanks to Ellen for making the videos.

We’ve played Vinyl many times before, but this was our first time with our new bassist, Mark Quiney, who joined us at the start of the year, and we hope you enjoy it, and will share it if you do.

I would’ve written an original anti-war song myself, but when The Four Fathers started, three years ago, a version of ‘Masters of War’ just fell into place, and it’s such a powerful song, with such direct and compelling lyrics — from Bob Dylan’s early incarnation as a folk singer and a protest singer — that it made me put aside my own notions of writing an anti-war song until last year, when I wrote ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’, the title track of our forthcoming second album, which, as well as dealing with war, also focuses on terrorism, the refugee crisis and the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play ‘Rebel Soldier’ Live at Vinyl Deptford

Andy Worthington, Bren Horstead and Richard Clare of The Four-Fathers playing Vinyl Deptford in December 2016 (Photo: Dot Young).Today I’ve posted the first of three new Four Fathers videos on our YouTube channel — all recorded at our gig at Vinyl Deptford on April 28. Thanks to Ellen for recording the show.

The first of the videos is of our opening number, ‘Rebel Soldier’, an old folk song that I gave a new tune and a reggae rhythm 30 years ago while living in Brixton. At the time I put together band called the Rebel Soldier with my friend Glyn Andrews, who sadly died some years ago, and we sometime used to play with Vivian Weathers, who played bass with Linton Kwesi Johnson — and who, incidentally, taught me some crucially important lessons about the role of the bass in reggae music.

Rebel Soldier’ is one of a handful of songs I wrote — or arranged — in the 1980s that I have been playing with The Four Fathers since we first formed three years ago. Our recording of it is on our first album, ‘Love and War’, released in 2015, as well as another song from that time, ‘City of Dreams’, five new songs, a song written by our guitarist Richard Clare, and two covers. Another song from that time, ‘River Run Dry’, about the end of an affair, will be on our second album , ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ which also features another seven new songs by me, and two by Richard Clare, and which we’re planning to release in the autumn.  Read the rest of this entry »

Four London Gigs for Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers, Promoting Songs from Forthcoming Album, How Much Is A Life Worth?

A poster for The Four Fathers' gigs in London in July 2017.Over the month of July, my band The Four Fathers have four gigs in south east London, and we hope that, if you’re around, you’ll come and see us — and even if you’re not around, we hope that you’ll check out our music, and even buy a download or two!

In the last few months, we’ve been releasing songs from our forthcoming second album, How Much Is A Life Worth? — Close Guantánamo, which I wrote for the Close Guantánamo campaign, and with a new verse dealing with the menace posed by Donald Trump, Dreamers, a song about friendship and parenthood, which I wrote for a friend’s 50th birthday, and, most recently, two of our hardest-hitting political songs, Riot, which warns politicians about what to expect if the poorer members of society are relentlessly exploited and treated with contempt, and London, a love song to the city that has been my home for the last 32 years, in which I reflect with sorrow and anger on how the UK capital’s wildness and its relentless and persistent state of dissent in the 80s and 90s has been tamed — or bludgeoned — by greed over the last 20 years, and how, sadly, the recent disaster at Grenfell Tower in west London is the most distressing outcome of this institutional disdain for the poor.

Other key songs we play live include our anthemic anti-austerity song, Fighting Injustice, our cover of Bob Dylan’s Masters of War (from our debut album, Love and War), the folk song Rebel Soldier that I put to a reggae tune in Brixton in the 1980s, and other songs not yet released — How Much Is A Life Worth?, about how white people perceive the value of their lives against those of (i) the victims of our wars, (ii) refugees and (iii) in the US, black people killed by the police, and Equal Rights and Justice For All, about the importance of habeas corpus. A recent addition is Stand Down Theresa, our updated version of the Beat’s classic protest song, Stand Down Margaret. A rough but energetic version of Stand Down Theresa is on video here. Read the rest of this entry »

After Grenfell, Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release New Single, ‘London’, A Savage Portrait of the UK Capital Hollowed Out By Greed

The cover of The Four Fathers' new single 'London', released on June 23, 2017.In the wake of last week’s entirely preventable inferno at Grenfell Tower in west London, in which, officially, 79 people died (although the real total may well be over 300), the horrendous loss of life — and the fact that it was entirely preventable — has forced London’s housing crisis to the top of the political agenda, although to be honest, that is where it should have been for the whole of the 21st century.

The latest online single released by my band The Four Fathers (also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), ‘London’ deals largely with the housing crisis, as part of a love song to the city going back to the 1980s. I moved to Brixton in 1985, and in the song I provide my personal take on how the wild and chaotic capital of the 1980s and 1990s has been overtaken by a focus on greed and the dull, soul-sapping, materialistic values of “gentrification,” and how, in this dysfunctional new world, the vibrant dissent of the 80s and 90s has largely been silenced, and those in charge of housing — endlessly putting profit before the needs of people — have razed neighbourhoods to the ground and given the capital city a lobotomy.

Listen to the single below — and buy it as a download if you wish: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play ‘Stand Down Theresa’, An Updated Version of The Beat’s ‘Stand Down Margaret’

A screenshot from the video of The Four Fathers playing 'Stand Down Theresa', a version of The Beat's protest classic, 'Stand Down Margaret.'When I was growing up in late 70s Britain, one of the great political anthems of the time — when we were not short of protest music from, to name but a few artists, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Specials — was ‘Stand Down Margaret’ by The Beat, featured on their debut album, ‘I Just Can’t Stop It,’ which was released in 1980. Paired with Prince Buster’s ‘Whine and Grine,’ ‘Stand Down Margaret’ primarily featured a polite but wonderfully poetic and insistent message, asking Margaret Thatcher, who became Prime Minister the year before, to resign. As the song stated:

I see no joy, I see only sorrow
I see no chance of a bright new tomorrow
Stand down Margaret, stand down please
Stand down Margaret

Here’s Dave Wakeling of The Beat talking about the song in 2013 — and about Margaret Thatcher, about whom he said, “Most everything about Margaret Thatcher was pretend … a way for the privileged to secure themselves at the expense of everybody else.” And here’s fabulous footage of The Beat playing their “insurrectionary anthem” on children’s TV. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Riot’, New Online Single Tackling Austerity and Inequality

Listen to ‘Riot’ here!The photo is by Eric Hossinger (hozinja) on Flickr, and is reproduced via a Creative Commons agreement. It was taken on December 4, 2010 during a UK Uncut protest outside Topshop in Oxford Street about tax avoidance by the company's boss, Sir Philip Green.

Today my band The Four Fathers are releasing ‘Riot’, our third online single from our forthcoming album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ following the release of ‘Close Guantánamo’ (2017 mix)’ in February, and ‘Dreamers’ last month.

I initially wrote ‘Riot’ in 1986, while living in Brixton, as a punky reggae song that dealt with how parents and society mess up kids’ minds and emotions — themes of youthful alienation that didn’t survive when I revived the song for The Four Fathers at the end of 2015. We’ve been playing it live since then, and we recorded it last summer in the first session for our new album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ which we hope to release on CD in September.

Musically, our version of my old tune is the closest we’ve come to date to echoing the minor key tunes and armagideon themes of classic late 70s roots reggae, which remains my favourite music, nearly 35 years after it first blew my mind at university in Oxford. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Dreamers’, New Online Single Written for a Friend’s 50th Birthday

A quilt made by Jen Owen, the subject of The Four Fathers' song 'Dreamers', made when she was a student in Sheffield in the 1980s.

Listen to ‘Dreamers’ here on Bandcamp!

A year ago, I wrote ‘Dreamers’, a song for the 50th birthday of a very good friend, Jen Owen, who I first met 20 years before. I played it for the first time at her birthday party in Stroud, in Gloucestershire, and then recorded it last September with my band The Four Fathers, and we’ve just released it online as the second single from our forthcoming second album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’

‘Dreamers’ reflects on our wilder, younger years, and then progresses to look at how we came to be parents and how “we overcame some demons / And gained some wisdom somehow,” and it’s one of a number of songs I’ve written in which I attempt to grapple with getting older and what that means — something that, I find, very little popular music does, being generally fixated as it is with youth, even when those responsible for its creation have long passed their youthful days.

That said, one of the most poignant musical moments for me over the last few years was when David Bowie returned from long years of musical silence with his 2013 album, ‘The Next Day’, and the absolutely extraordinary ‘Where Are We Now?’ with its palpable sense of mortality, and its refrain about “walking the dead.” And then, in 2016, almost on the eve of Bowie’s death, came ‘Blackstar’, a song that felt like a requiem — as well as being one of the most profound pieces of popular music ever recorded. Read the rest of this entry »

Rebel Music: Memories of St. Patrick’s Day in London, 1986

A vintage postcard image for St. Patrick's Day.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

31 years ago, I made a discovery that had some serious resonance for me — the existence of St. Patrick’s Day. It was March 17, 1986. I’d moved into a flat in London three months earlier, in December 1985, opposite the George Canning pub, where I had ventured on my first night, meeting up with squatters, from the roads behind the junction of Tulse Hill and Brixton Water Lane, who soon became my friends.

After three years in Oxford, I wanted as big a change as possible — somewhere in the real world, as far removed as possible from Oxford’s dreaming spires and the endless reminders (to someone from a northern, working class, Methodist background) that it was basically a finishing school for the public schoolboys who would soon go on to run everything.

Seduced by my love for roots reggae music and the Clash, I decided there was no better place than Brixton to sign on and to learn to play the guitar and write songs, inspired by two of my other musical heroes, Bob Dylan and, recently discovered, Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, whose rattling bender of an album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, had recently been released. Read the rest of this entry »

New Close Guantánamo Video and Updated Campaign Song By Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers

Arlo Varon, the son of Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture, calls on Donald Trump to close Guantanamo.Please support my work as a freelance investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Yesterday marked the end of Donald Trump’s first month in office — surely, the most disastrous first month of a presidency in living memory, with a ban on immigrants and visitors from seven mainly-Muslim countries that has been blocked in the courts, a Russian-linked scandal involving Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has resigned, and a widespread understanding that Trump isn’t fit for the job, and that his administration is severely dysfunctional.

In amongst his machine-gun fire of dreadful policies have come unnerving hints about his proposals for Guantánamo — keeping the prison open and sending new prisoners there, including Islamic State prisoners, and, initially touted but since abandoned, a plan to revive Bush-era torture policies with new CIA-run “black sites.”

While we await further news about Trump’s plans, I’ve been marking his first month in office with a new campaign video for the Close Guantánamo campaign that I founded five years ago with the attorney Tom Wilner, who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008. The video is also available on Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington

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The Guantánamo Files

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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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