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How the Iron Lady factored into modern music

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The Specials: Ghost Town Spooky, psychedelic ska from 1981, in which happier days are recalled and sound effects mimic either an eerie wind or an ambulance siren. Inspired by the riots in Bristol and Brixton of 1980, it was a chart topper in 1981.

Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

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Robert Wyatt: Shipbuilding Elvis Costello wrote the lyrics to this sad masterpiece and later recorded his own version. The poignant ballad addresses the unfortunate paradox involving the Falklands War and England’s depressed shipbuilding industry – that the battle vessels being built would result in a stimulated economy but at a loss of sailors’ lives. “With all the will in the world, diving for dear life, when we could be diving for pearls.”

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Billy Bragg: Between the Wars Folk musician and Red Wedge leader Bragg offered an elegant, stoic plea for a more compassionate governance. “I kept the faith and I kept voting, not for the iron fist but for the helping hand.”


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Elvis Costello: Tramp the Dirt Down It is not known whether Costello is a member of the gravediggers’ union, but if he had his way, his boots would be dirty this week. A stunning, personal indictment of Thatcher’s reign imagined the leader’s death and funeral. “When they finally put you in the ground, I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.”


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The Jam: Town Called Malice Paul Weller and company offered no solutions to Britain’s general state of unrest in 1982, but instead provided a Motown beat for distraction. His explanation? “I’d sooner put some joy back into this town called malice.”

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Crass: How Does It Feel to Be the Mother of a Thousand Dead? The scathing punk question made the Sex Pistols look like Engelbert Humperdinck. Thatcher was directly assaulted, with the rage and contempt of the bombshells lobbed at Argentine targets during the Falklands War. “Your lies persuaded people to accept the wasted blood/ Your filthy pride cleansed you of the doubt you should have had.”

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The Beat: Stand Down Margaret The ska pioneers weren’t any more effective than the Labour Party when it came to parliamentary challenging, but this 1980 single was much more danceable than anything opposition leader Denis Healey ever came up with.

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The Notsensibles: I’m in Love With Margaret Thatcher A sing-along lark from the light-hearted punk pranksters was first released in April 1979, before the song’s object of affection was elected prime minister. Highly forgettable music; consider the source.

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Morrissey: Margaret on the Guillotine Not a believer in the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice adage, the melancholic and controversial singer blasted Thatcher on Monday as “barbaric” and someone “without an atom of humanity.” In 1988, on his debut solo album Viva Hate, the former Smiths front man was equally as over the line and unsympathetic, asking on the hazy, languid number, “When will you die?” He now has his answer.

Donald Weber/The Globe and Mail

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The Blow Monkeys, with Curtis Mayfield: (Celebrate) The Day After You The song was banned by the BBC because of a perceived anti-Tory lyrical theme – a hopeful Thatcher electoral defeat was a cause to “celebrate.” The track off 1987’s She Was Only a Grocer’s Daughter could have been outlawed more justifiably because of its blindingly high-sheen boogie and drum-machine abuse. As it turns out, the Conservatives won the election and the song gets our vote for worst Thatcher-inspired song of all time.

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