Hundreds of young people gathered in Zilker Park following John Lennons Dec. 8, 1980 assassination.
Hundreds of young people gathered in Zilker Park following John Lennon’s Dec. 8, 1980 assassination.
Unknown photographer

Political bands

’80s pop musicians expressed political messages in their songs

The electric twang of a guitar rises above the chaos and confusion of a young world. Since 1978, there has been a resurgence of New Wave music. It started in the ’60s with an uprising of politically or socially motivated bands. They bravely spoke up against corruption in their society. Today there are new issues like apartheid in South Africa and the more widely known problem of a nuclear holocaust.

According to a local authority, Deron Bissett, it is a subjective cause to decide who gets their message across the best. However, any band showing consistency, for example U2, would be considered successful. Such bands address issues including industrial reform, Central American issues, prejudice and religion. These issues, however, are sensitive and rarely popular with top 40 radio stations.

“Every band makes some sort of social statement but popular ’70s bands weren’t arousing public attention,” Xiax (another local authority) said.

To be a commercial hit, most bands tend to stay away from politics.

“To get commercial success, (bands) can’t afford to have politicized music for financial gain,” Bissett said.

Few bands are wise enough to know when to stop making statements and play music.

— Deron Bissett

Money is not a primary reason for being in a political band. The general reason for success of such a band is attributed to the need to express or revolt.

Bands of today have tremendously influenced young people throughout the course of rock music. Music as a natural expression attracts an inquisitive, rebellious and philosophical group of people.

Most recently, U2 released The Unforgettable Fire, featuring its first single, “Pride (In the Name of Love).” This song conveys profound emotions concerning the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Also, Frankie Goes to Hollywood has written the song “Two Tribes” directly referring to the behavior of the two superpowers. During the 60s, The Beatles were known for their antisocial attitude with such songs as “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Nowhere Man.”

Source: The U2 YouTube Channel

In November of 1984, tens of British and a few American musicians joined forces at an all-night recording session in London to produce “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” The group, calling themselves BandAid, consisted of such people as Rob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats, Sting, Bono, Phil Collins, members of Duran Duran, Bananarama, Paul Young, and Culture Club as well as several others. More recently Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson wrote “We Are The World” featuring 43 outstanding American artists including Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and many, many more. These projects started a series of international groups working to raise money for the Ethiopian Fund.

Source: S T A R G A Z E YouTube Channel

“Political bands have the responsibility to allow the public the right to express themselves in the same way the public allows the band to make a statement. Few bands are wise enough to know when to stop making statements and play music,” Bissett said.

This article was published in The Shield on March 29, 1985.

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