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Waiting For The Great Leap… Forward, Backward… Up And Down… Ah, Who Knows…

In my younger days, well, a long, long time ago, I saw Billy Bragg at Melbourne Uni.

Now, let me be clear, I was a long way past being a student there. I was an old man in my thirties and there was a “Joh for PM” campaign going on at the time.

Billy made a few jokes about Joh, then looked like he going to play, but he paused.

Then he said that it’s all very well to laugh at Joh, but after that someone will come along and tell us all that he’s more reasonable. And we’ll buy that because it’s all a compatative thing.

I’m not sure if this is what he sang, but this is all about my memory.

All memory is fiction.
It may have been Camelot for Jack and Jacqueline
But on the Che Guevara highway filling up with gasoline
Fidel Castro’s brother spies a rich lady who’s crying
Over luxury’s disappointment
So he walks over and he’s trying
To sympathize with her but thinks that he should warn her
That the Third World is just around the corner
In the Soviet Union a scientist is blinded
By the resumption of nuclear testing and he is reminded
That Dr Robert Oppenheimer’s optimism fell
At the first hurdle
Of course, I should do heaps and heaps of hyperlinks for thsoe who have never heard of Billy Bragg or Robert Oppenheimer or Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. But Jesus Effing Christ (which is abbreviated to an “h” in most acceptable writings!)
In the Cheese Pavilion and the only noise I hear
Is the sound of people stacking chairs
And mopping up spilt beer
And someone asking questions and basking in the light
Of the fifteen fame filled minutes of the fanzine writer
Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is
I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses
While looking down the corridor
Out to where the van is waiting
I’m looking for the Great Leap Forwards
Of course, we’re also embarrassed by the fact that even the Great Leap Forwards needs an explanation. FFS, I don’t care if a kid can’t spell certain words that certain adults – who often can’t spell much either – suggest that this is the end of… siviliesation as we no it (fonnix, baby) – or civilzation as we know it. But I care that a kid can’t undersatnd that he or she is being screwed by things that we never gave them the chance to understand.
Jumble sales are organized and pamphlets have been posted
Even after closing time there’s still parties to be hosted
You can be active with the activists
Or sleep in with the sleepers
While you’re waiting for the Great Leap Forwards
One leap forwards, two leaps back
Will politics get me the sack?
And just for Tony, just because I can’t possibly write tonight..
And just because
Here comes the future and you can’t run from it
If you’ve got a blacklist I want to be on it
It’s a mighty long way down rock ‘n roll
From Top of the Pops to drawing the dole
If no one seems to understands
Start your own revolution, cut out the middleman
In a perfect world we’d all sing in tune
But this is reality so give me some room
So join the struggle while you may
The Revolution is just a t-shirt away
Ah, Billy, let’s hear it one more time…
Oh dear, he’s changed the words
How dare he! Doesn’t he understand that someone else owns him and everything he stands for…
Well, good on him!
Wish I was half as good…
Cheers,
Stay strong, because all we really need is a stronger economy thing…

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3 comments

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  1. Phi

    Really nice posting – there’s a youtube that’s got the original song with footage from a wide range of global protests. Thanks for taking the time to capture the Lyrics Rossleigh, they deserve re-reading. Shades of Woody Guthrie.

    Year before last (I think?) Billy Braggs sang powerfully at the people’s ‘March in March’ at Belmore Park Sydney – inspiring stuff, then the following year Sarah Blasko sang evocatively.

    There is a ‘March in March’ on 22 March 2015 – once again at Belmore Park for Sydney people – see you all there!

  2. gangey1959

    I like, and remember Billy Bragg. I remember being 30. Vaguely. I remember a whole bunch of other stuff from back then too, like optimism, and promise, and opportunity, and being proud that I was Australian, which my mates didn’t understand but gave us something else to laugh about. ‘We’ won the America’s Cup too, and built Monaros, and real politics was about being Ford or Holden at Bathurst.
    I don’t remember being this Angry with my (supposed) leaders, or feeling this helpless.
    Thank you Rossleigh

  3. catsman

    Thanks for the memory. I was in my teens in Perth when billy released “talking with the taxman about poetry” and I soon thereafter discovered politics and some alternative to the racist right wing normality of life at that time in WA. in fact, while I was in the shower this morning, before I read your piece, I was singing “to have and have not”. Hopefully there are kids today who are finding someone like billy who can help them to see more clearly.

    Ps I went to a private school in Perth and just saw the year 12 yearbook of 1986 for the first time since leaving that elitist swamp. It gives you an indication of what Perth was like then that two of the nicknames printed for the leaving class are ” wog” and “nigger”. People like billy Bragg helped to change cultures like that.

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