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:

In the first verse, in which London, in the 80s, was “like a lover to me, drunk and disorderly, and full of honesty”, I sing about “the wild pubs and squats,” where we “broke all of the rules,” and in the second verse, about the early 90s (up to the time of Tony Blair), I sing about how rave culture and protest movements like Reclaim the Streets gleefully continued the spirit of dissent.

The reference to the M11 refers to the M11 Link Road that was ploughed through swathes of housing in East London — and resisted by a formidable protest movement — and the CJA, for those who were not around at the time, refers to the Criminal Justice Act, the Tories’ heavy-handed response to the rave culture that saw millions of people dancing and taking drugs every weekend in huge unlicensed raves, and that, in its cross-over with the free festival culture of the 1980s (which was supposed to have been crushed at the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985), created a huge free festival at Castlemorton Common in Gloucestershire on the May Bank Holiday in 1992, when all the tribes and sub-cultures came together in a glorious celebration of dissent — but one that prompted the government to introduce legislation that, as well as severely curtailing the right to gather freely, also allowed the police to shut down events featuring music that was “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

London, they tried to stop you being free
By selling off your culture and through the death of industry
But you came bouncing back with your pills and your all-night raves
In those glimpses of giddy utopia when millions misbehaved
And you were like the earth mother on drugs from the M11 to Reclaim the Streets
Though they hit us with the CJA and that ban on repetitive beats

After the heady enthusiasm of the early to mid-90s, the most recent dark change came, ironically, with the election of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s New Labour in 1997, when, as strategist Peter Mandelson explained, the Labour Party was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” He added, as has often been forgotten, “as long as they pay their taxes”, but the former is the point about wealth that sunk in, and changed Britain for the worse.

In almost no time at all, a housing bubble began that, by the early years of the 21st century, was already out of control, as house values were increasing at such a rate that people’s houses were making more money than they were in their jobs. As a result of this bubble, endlessly sustained through low interest rates, and a refusal by government to find and publicise any other way for people to invest their money, a fair society is now nothing more than a memory. There was brief puncture to the bubble after the bankers’ (and politicians’) self-inflicted global economic crash of 2008, but then it came back with a vengeance under the Tories, who took power in 2010 (aided by the hapless Liberal Democrats), and, with the assistance of the colossally corrupt Boris Johnson as Mayor of London from 2008-2016, aggressively tried to turn the whole of London into a giant building site for global speculators, while depriving everyone else of the ability to even live with any kind of security.

As I explain in the third verse, focusing on the destruction of London by developers and politicians:

London, you were my impetuous wife
Always out and out of it with a voracious appetite
But oh my darling, the end came with the men in suits
Whose enthusiasm for the super-rich meant they sold you like a prostitute
And when you still weren’t silenced and laughed at their dull complacency
They razed your neighbourhoods to the ground and gave you a lobotomy

And bringing the story up to date in the final verse, with reference to the plague of luxury developments rising up all over London:

London, you’re on a life support machine
In the basement of one of those hundreds of towers being built for a foreign elite
And oh my baby, I hope that you rise again
And throw off these rich parasites like you have every now and then
And I’ll keep fighting against the dying of the light
But without some kind of revolution the future doesn’t look too bright to me

The focus on housing is, I believe, entirely appropriate, because, even before the Grenfell disaster, housing had become one of the two big themes of the 21st century in London, the other being a cynical “war on terror,” launched after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which seeks to fulfil the West’s geo-political aims, making huge amounts of money for those profiting from war, and also allowing western governments to clamp down on civil liberties in their own countries — convenient when we look back on the dissent of the 80s and 90s, and its continuation in the massive anti-globalisation movement that 9/11 was used to curtail.

Alongside the “age of fear” promoted by our governments’ cynical counter-terrorism policies, housing stands at the heart of a refocusing of the economy, especially since 2010 — at the top end, a bubble sustained by foreign investors as cities like London have, through assiduous marketing, become seen as safe, tax-free havens for the global super-rich, but a result of this, as noted above, is that hard-working people have been priced out of the market, even those earning more than the national average wage. The housing bubble has also created an accompanying boom in the price of rents in the private sector, as ordinary people encouraged by the endless message of greed and self-interest pumped out by what passes for our culture, resort to the one-on-one exploitation of others.

With private renters free to be as ruthless as they want, due to a chronic and deliberate lack of regulation, unsafe and hideously overpriced slums are everywhere, sometimes housing desperate immigrant workers in crowded conditions, but also housing hard-working families who would once have been on the housing ladder by this stage in their lives.

Also under threat, as Grenfell showed in such a horrific manner, are those living in social housing, which was once provided almost entirely by councils. Unfortunately, a great sell-off of social housing started under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, and many surviving social properties have since been transferred to housing associations and arms’ length managements organisations (ALMOs). Some are very good (like the housing association that manages my home), and committed to renting out properties at genuinely affordable rates compared to the tsunami of greed in the private sector, but others, like Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the ALMO that runs the 10,000 or so social properties in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where Grenfell Tower is located, are definitely not.

Note: The photos are from my ongoing photo project, ‘The State of London‘, which I began over five years ago, and which involves me cycling around London on a daily basis taking photos in all of the city’s 120 postcodes, as well as in some of the outer boroughs.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

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 »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Complete Mixes for New Album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’

The Four Fathers rehearsing in November 2016 at the Music Complex in Deptford. From L to R: Richard Clare, Andy Worthington and Brendan Horstead. Photo by Andrew Fifield.Check out our existing recordings here, and get in touch to let us know if you’re interested in our new album, out very soon!

Yesterday, I was very excited to put the final touches to my band The Four Fathers‘ second album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ The album will be available soon on CD and to download on our Bandcamp account, where our existing recordings are still available — our first album ‘Love and War’, the ‘Fighting Injustice’ EP, featuring remixes of three songs from ‘Love and War’ (US and UK versions), and a single, ‘Close Guantánamo.’ Please feel free to like us on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter.

The album features ten original songs — eight by me, as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, and two by Richard Clare (lead guitar, backing vocals), and we recorded it with Pat Collier at Perry Vale Studios in Forest Hill in three sessions from July to November with Brendan Horstead on drums and percussion, Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica, and Louis Sills-Clare on bass.

My songs include the title track — our most recent song — comparing how white westerners value their own lives compared to the victims of the west’s post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the refugees fleeing the death and destruction in Syria and elsewhere, and the black men — and children — killed with impunity by the police in the US, where the Black Lives Matter movement has been such a powerful force. 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.
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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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