The tragic mystery of the Redskins, or: No socialism in our time
One way in which this age of Google and Wikipedia is different from that of decades past is that even the most obscure names live on forever, remaining forever a mouseclick away. How many times haven’t you thought, “hey, I wonder whatever happened to..”: fill in the name of an old acquaintance, a long-forgotten band, a football star of yore? In previous eras, you’d spend that wistful thought on it, and then by necessity shrug it off. Who knows?
Well, now you too can know. That obscure new wave band? The singer writes songs for TV shows now; the bassist works as a market salesman. That ridiculous Eurovision Songfestival contestant? He’s online now, editing his own Wikipedia entry and touting the brilliancy of his performance on specialist web forums. And a surprising number of tragic endings… one moment you’re listening to a song by The Sound that happened to pass by on last.fm, the next you’re looking up their bio and find out that the singer committed suicide, and his band mate died of AIDS.
So who remembers the Redskins? They were a punk band in the early eighties, and they were as political as could be. Committed to the revolution, they played every benefit gig, in support of the miners’ strike, against racism, against apartheid, you name it. They were Billy Bragg’s little skinhead brothers. They threw in pop and soul in too if that enabled them to reach a wider audience with their message: “think the Jam, the Clash, the Specials, Dexy’s, the Fall and the Supremes all rolled into one,” as a retrospective review put it.
Their second single, Lean On Me
, was dubbed “a love song to workers solidarity” and “a modern soul classic” by the NME. They even had some minor top 50 hits. Keep On Keepin’ On!
reached #43 in the UK charts in 1984; Bring It Down (This Insane Thing)
reached #33 the year after. The Redskins, concludes fan Dave T. on an unoffocial band website, “were the first band to bring revolutionary socialism to the dancefloor.”
But when you wonder whatever happened with them, the story you find is rather tragic, and something of an allegory for an entire political culture which they, in their way, represented.