"How can you ban language? How can you suppress someone's opinions just because you don't share them?"
Thus spake John Lydon on one of those endless list TV shows, this time on banned records, as he discussed the convenient removal of his band's single 'God Save The Queen' from the top of the charts in the Queen's Jubilee week.
But it's always easy to castrate artists who are outspoken and whose views upset the moral guardians that oversee our every movement, and under Thatcher's jackboot many who spoke out in the 1980s found their tongues cut or found themselves facing arrest. How dare we speak out! How dare we voice our opinions! And today we are here to look at Conflict and how one of their songs became a criminal offence.
Aaaahhhh....don't you just long for the good old days...I Love The 1980s indeed!
Conflict started out on Crass Records releasing 'The House That Man Built' e.p before branching out and forming their own Mortarhate Records upon which they would release all further records. Their full length debut album included a track called 'Meat Means Murder' a full two years before The Smiths would take a mightily similar title into the British charts.
Conflict's approach to music was quite different from that of their friends Crass, in that where Crass would apply a more minimalist approach to their music to let the lyrics be heard, Conflict applied far more bluster as though they were REALLY ramming the message home, taking NO prisoners.
When Crass split in 1984 vocalist Steve Ignorant would go on to join forces with Conflict, adding a second voice to that of Colin Jerwood, as the lyrics became more frantic and more impassioned.
In 1986, as Thatcher's reign ground agonisingly on into its 7th year, Conflict released their ultimate statement 'The Ungovernable Force'; housed in a provocative sleeve showing a close-up of an armed riot police officer, it was a complete statement of their political and aesthetic beliefs. Conflict had so much to say about the state of Britain, and its status as America's lapdog, that there are almost too many words on the album. Take for instance 'Force Or Service' and the moment at about 43 seconds in when Steve Ignorant (acting as the voice of a British Police Chief) proclaims:
"The CND are communists, we're sick of petty pacifists,
Greenham dykes, Trotskyites, Greenpeace and the rest of it
Rioters, muggers, looters, shooters, niggers are the cause of it
Repatriation for the nation, the simple way to deal with shit
Rastas, punks, mods and hippies, students, queers and dirty pakis
Demanding more than nothing less, but never want to work for it
Miners, printers, paddies, pickets, givin' it all the demo bit
We'll smash them back with our attack, because we're the guys to deal with it"
Now, I dare you to try and follow those lyrics while listening to the track. How does he fit all those words in?
But the album would also contain Conflict's most notorious moment, the track 'This Is The A.L.F", a song whose entire lyric gives both suggestion and information about how you, the listener, can fuck up all those who inflict pain and suffering upon animals in the name of health and beauty.
This was deemed a step too far by the governing powers and the song was treated as a terrorist statement, meaning any reproduction of the lyrics, or any performance of the song was breaking the law.
An act of terrorism!
Give me a fucking break!!
Given that two thirds of the ~Streetlamp~ team are borderline vegans and passionate animal rights supporters, and have been for over a quarter of a century, and given that we are at present in fighting mood, we reproduce the lyrics here for you now:
"What does Direct Action Mean?
It means that you are no longer prepared to sit back and allow terrible,
cruel things to happen. The camerman in Ethiopia took direct action,
he filmed the worst disaster that has ever happened to human beings. He
realised it was too enormous a problem to handle himself - so he took the
films home in the hope other people would help. They did. Are you prepared
to sit back any longer? Direct action in animal rights means causing
economic damage to those who abuse and make profits from exploitation.
It's possible to do things alone, slash tyres, glue up locks, butchers,
burger bars, the furriers, smash windows, bankrupt the lot. Throw paint over
shops and houses. Paint stripper works great on cars. Chewing gum sticks
well to fur coats. A seized engine just won't start, sand in the petrol tank
means that delivery's going nowhere. When the new death shop opens up make
sure you're the first person to be there. If the circus comes to town
remember what goes up must come down. Stop contributing to the abuse
yourself - don't eat meat, don't buy leather. Buy non-animal tested make up,
herbal soap and shampoo's better.
Try and form a group of people that you know that you can trust and plan
ambitious direct action, sometimes risky but a must. Only when you have
animal liberation will we obtain human freedom, when the last
vivisectionist's blade is snapped. It will be that one step nearer to peace.
Direct action in the animal movement is sussed and strong, and our final
goal is not far off.
Animal lovers, vandals, hooligans, cranks; recognise the labels? They say we
don't care about human beings. We say all sentient beings, animal or human
have the right to live, free from pain, torture and suffering. They say
because we are human and speak the same, we matter more. Is our pain and
suffering any greater or lesser than that of animals? Human v. animal rights
is as much a prejudice as black v. white or the Nazis versus the Jews an
affront to our freedom.
Vivisection is a violation of human beings, the same as it is for animals.
We have a chemical world built on a pile of drugs to thanks for their
experiments. Drugs are designed for profit, manufactured to suppress
symptoms. Human freedom, animal rights. It's one struggle, one fight.
When animal abuse is stopped then human abuse will soon stop also, an
attitude of mind. "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind".
Start by protecting the weak, the defenceless, animals, the sick, the
disabled. Compassion and emotion are our most important safety values.
If we lose them, then 'we lose' the vitality of life itself.
Emotional? Hooligans? Cranks?...."
The song would prove to be detrimental to the existence of Conflict in its original guise as live shows were constantly under threat and the band's every movement surveyed with ruthless scrutiny.
The world, especially Britain, needed bands like Conflict then, and we need them now.
Under Major and Blair, Britain sat back on its fat complacent arse and let the world get into the state it has now. The student protests at the tail end of last year showed that a swing back to Direct Action is on the cards.
Get ready to do your bit!
For more information about the Animal Liberation Front please check out their website, and do everything you can to help them.
They are a truly wonderful cause.
The Ungovernable Force can be downloaded here