Mick Hucknall and the Death of Rebellious Music!

Posted on October 18, 2015

I was watching ‘This Week‘ on Thursday night, a kind of semi-satirical political programme presented by Andrew Neil, the former Sunday Times editor and consumer of three shredded wheat a day (he eats two and puts the other one on his head).

Along with his weekly guests that feature Alan Johnson, Michael Portillo and his pet dog, they also have a weekly special guest offering their take on politics and the week that has just passed in parliament.

This week the guest was a rather worn out looking Mick Hucknall of the Manchester based soul band Simply Red. In case you didn’t know, Simply Red were remarkably popular in the 1980’s and 90’s, particularly at YUPPIE dinner parties.

I have never particularly liked or disliked Simply Red and I have never held a particular candle for Mick Hucknall either, apart from when he was a key member of the great Fulchester Rovers team featured in Viz Magazine, a side that also featured Billy the Fish, Shakin’ Stevens and Robert Runcie, the Arch Bishop of Canterbury.


Hucknall in action for Fulchester Rovers

However, when the subject of music and its traditional link to politics and rebellion came up, Hucknall said something that has long plagued my mind but has never really been backed up by anything other than suspicion.

His assumption is that managers and record companies will no longer entertain a band or a singer with a political or anti-establishment agenda, because it could potentially alienate consumers.

If a young band does come along with songs that may be deemed as rebellious, anti-war or anti-austerity for example, they will be told to tone down their act or face not being promoted by record companies or the mainstream media.

In effect, no-one is banning them from singing about what they want, but they are telling them that if they sing with controversy, they may live to regret it. How sad is that?

Traditionally, popular music has been about falling in love, falling out of love, political rebellion or on occasion, enjoyment of the seasons, Christmas and summer holiday songs for example.

Some of the greatest songs are about love, with even better ones being about relationship break-ups featuring lyrics that with a twist of dark humour, you can’t seem to avoid if you are in a relationship break-down.

Stand by Me (The Clash) It’s Too Bad (The Jam) Had a Little Time (Beautiful South) and Dry Your Eyes (The Streets) are personal favourites that feature a bitter break-up, but I have always been more of a sucker for a great rebel song.

Regardless of what type of music you like, I think it is a great tragedy that rebellion is now just seen as something from another era because disenchantment and anger are by tradition, a great source of musical inspiration…anger is an energy, as Jonny Rotten once said.

Music in recent years has been dominated by the likes of Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, James Blunt and so on and whilst I can’t be bothered to get too angry about their existence, there is not a lot to be excited about; it is just dinner party music really.

I heard a song called ‘The Lebanon’ the other day and I thought to myself  “bloody hell, even The Human League got involved in music with a political agenda” and whilst Simply Red’s cover version of ‘Money’s to Tight to Mention’ seemed middle of the road at the time, it would be seen as quite maverick now.

“Money’s to tight too mention” would never emanate from the lips of the Mumfords, Florence and her Machine or James Blunt, as they were all loaded before they chose music as their career, funded by friends with great contacts in the media and the record industry.

That is not to say wealthy people can’t make good music, of course they can. However, if, like so much in the modern world, they are allowed to dominate at it and starve out out those with humble roots, it is a sad tale.

Perhaps in a world where we live in danger of falling into a trap where we become a one party state, everything we listen to will also become more or less the same, a bit like centrist cross-party politicians who are as dull as any Mumford & Sons song.

As for Mick Hucknall, that statement is the most impact he has had on my life since watching him in action in that great Fulchester team of the late 1980’s and 90’s.

2 Replies to "Mick Hucknall and the Death of Rebellious Music!"

  • Nick
    October 18, 2015 (6:43 pm)

    I was part of a group of mates that took an active dislike to Mick Hucknall (his band is still know as “Simply Bollocks” to us). As I remember, it was because he tried to act as a rebel leader whilst singing crap songs and being obsessed with shagging as many women as possible (I seem to recall him bragging of having reached 1000).

    It’s a bit rich of him to blame managers and record companies when his contribution to social revolution was churning out utter bilge like Holding Back the Years (“Strangled by the wishes of pater, hop­ing for the arms of mater”) whilst simultaneously sharing his no doubt comprehensive collection of sexually transmitted diseases.

    I am pretty confident about two things (a) rebellious music is still alive and kicking and (b) I am too old for it (c).

    I’d prefer to listen to the music and social commentary of Shakin Stevens than Mick Hucknall.

    • Bob
      October 19, 2015 (9:37 am)

      Otherwise you quite liked them Nick?

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