Wednesday, 19 December 2012
You know you love it!
No Copeland. Embarrassment of riches that geezer's work for The Police.
Social realist bemulleted heartland rock synth drum attack!
Monday, 17 December 2012
Despite all the good things that came out of the music of the 1980s, by and large it was a fairly dismal decade. Or at least it was as far as mainstream music went, with a lot of what you'd hear on FM radio or in clubs. Lots of shitty guitar solos, no shortage of triffling go-nowhere trends.
Main beef being with how the beat got simpler. In many instances starkly, minimally -- almost metronomically -- so. I dunno how or when the trend actually started -- it seemed to gradually creep in at some point around 1982 until in gained damn-near complete hegemony. Maybe it had something to do with how the later phase of disco had simplified the beat, and then again with how dance music that came after the post-disco backlash stripped it down even further. Or maybe it was Prince's "When Doves Cry" (known in some quarters as, "Where'd the fucking bass go, homes?") that violently unended the scales, that made it official as the musical trend of the decade. Not sure, but things got pretty stark for a good long stretch after that. Yeah sure, this was all concurrent the hip-hop's gradual steps toward mainstream acceptance. But the mid-school era of mid-digitally sampled of breakbeats and loops was still several years away (mainly due to the affordability of the equipment). Most rhythm tracks for hip-hop cuts either being laid down in the studio by a session drummer laying down a steady beat, or programmed on a drum machine -- most often an 808. The Roland 808 could be a marvelous thing -- capable of complex patterns of the polyrhythmic "Latin" variety, but why put that much effort if you didn't really need to? If there was anything that characterized the sound of "true" hip-hop by the decade's midpoint, it was the punishing jackhammer kick of the 808, pummeling away with inhuman severity.
There were the odd exceptions to much of this, of course -- like Sheila E and her timbales, or the occasionally more-intricate-than-usual rhythm track on some popular "Latin freestyle" number. But as far as what dominated a lot of dancefloors and much of the airwaves -- it was likely a policy of rhythmic austerity had been put in place, or merely decreed the sound of the zeitgeist. Like ridiculous big hair or parachute pants, it was what was in fashion.
Which is why go-go was such an incredible thing when it first began to circulate, was greeting with some sets of welcoming ears, and almost -- but not quite -- became the Next Big Thing.* Hailing from the city of Washington D.C., Go-go was a locale-specific, homebrew affair. It clearly hadn't kept up with the times, had chosen instead to shoulder its way against the tide of the crowd. It had actually been around for a good many years in gestational form, with some of its key contributors having been veterans of the 1970s funk scene. In fact, the 1970s had seen a couple of proto go-go tracks make it onto the American charts -- Black Heat's "No Time to Burn" in 1974, and then Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers' "Bustin' Loose," the latter of which briefly became a #1 hit on the Soul charts in 1978. The sound of go-go proper wouldn't start to emerge until around the end of the decade, right about the time that disco was being shown the door.
Go-go remained an isolated scene throughout the early years of the 1980s, was limited to the release rosters of small D.C.-based record labels. But in the middle of the 1980s some major labels were taking notice and the music started to gain national attention. Musically, it was clearly a whole 'nother thing entirely -- something distinctly apart from what else was going on. For the marginally-attentive, the music's trademark call-and-response vocals had them thinking it must've been part of the "rap thing." To anyone with memory of the prior decade, it may've sound like mid-period P-Funk, but streamlined and re-tooled and tilted into polyrhythmic overdrive. To others, the extensive percussion section of your average go-go outfit might've brought to mind Afro-Cuban rhythms. To someone else it may have sounded like the music had a strong "Southern" connection, specifically to the sort of drumming often heard on the streets of New Orleans. Whatever the case, it was clear that the music was as live and as loud and as deeply funky as things could get. I was like something lots of people had been missing, had hungered after, without having realized it until it came along and smacked them upside their earholes.
But as far as national exposure went, go-go's popularity turned out to be peripheral and brief. Yes, for a brief while, a number of commercial hip-hop acts (Salt-n-Pepa, Kid 'n Play, et al) would include a token go-go track on their latest album -- maybe as a way of paying tribute to the music, maybe just as a move for hopefully selling a few extra units in D.C. record stores. And of course there was the appearance of the band E.U. in Spike Lee's second feature film, School Daze.
|Full-page magazine advert for the Good To Go soundtrack, |
which most likely didn't feature Art Garfunkel (c. 1986)
There was even, at one point, an attempt to do a film about D.C.'s go-go scene. Titled Good To Go, and with Don Letts as one of the production's instigators, it was originally conceived as a movie focusing exclusively on the music. But a short time into production, a number of the film's backers reputedly got cold feet and backed away. In order to salvage the thing, it was quickly transformed into a crime drama set in D.C., with -- get this -- Art Garfunkel playing the lead role. The music portions of the film were quickly benched, or relegated to the sidelines of the movie's story. (The film itself, after release, would come & go without notice, and would for a few years circulate on video under the [re-]titled Short Fuse.)
If anything, go-go commanded attention because it was a groove that asserted authority. The music's brazenly insistent, exhortative horn-yness, its density, the occasional Clavinet cameo in the mix were all signifiers of a funk 'nuum that refused to die, of a party that never ended. Add to this that a fair number of the music's central figures -- Chuck Brown, et al -- were veterans who'd been working the D.C. circuit for years. Even a gaggle of relative newcomers like Trouble Funk exuded seniority -- partly because of the tightness and expertise of their rhythm section, but also because the raspy vocals of bassist Big Tony Fisher projected a wordliness beyond its years.
Relatedly, just uproad from the D.C. of the late 1980s, a set of associates were crafting the beginnings of their own new sound -- starting to kick around the first "doo dew" beats that would eventually morph into the sound of Bmore club" music years later. All of these scattered heterotopias of the groove might be viewed as home-turf DIY remedies for the vagaries that arise from the physical limits of how the entertainment industry operated at the time -- a way of filling the many gaps left by shitty distribution of material product, lazy radio programming and bookings. But more often, however, these localized or regional responses arose from a shared affinity or sense of dissatisfaction, and from a mutual agreement that other motherfuckers just ain't bringin' it, or may have missed the point completely.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
- · It is archaic.
- · It has a basket.
- · It is a horse you don’t have to feed or groom.
- · It is dangerous
Friday, 27 July 2012
Brock Vond's genius was to have seen in the activities of the sixties left not threats to order but unacknowledged desires for it. While the Tube was proclaiming youth revolution against parents of all kinds and most viewers were accepting this story, Brock saw the deep -- if he'd allowed himself to feel it, the sometimes touching -- need only to stay children forever, safe inside some extended national Family. The hunch he was betting on was that these kid rebels, being halfway there already, would be easy to turn and cheap to develop. They'd only been listening to the wrong music, breathing the wrong smoke, admiring the wrong personalities. They needed some reconditioning.
Friday, 20 July 2012
The last glimpse of a mainstream political party not assuming that Britain’s future lay in ‘the service economy’ (in general) and the City (in particular) was in 1988 when the Labour Party was doing its policy review after the defeat of 1987. The economic part of that review was done by a committee chaired by Bryan Gould MP. Gould represented a current within the Labour Party and wider labour movement at the time which was hostile to the bankers. It had concluded that the key structural conflict in Britain wasn’t between the classes, the Marxist view, but between the interests of the domestic and overseas sections of the economy; which in shorthand boiled down to the City on the one hand and manufacturing on the other. 1 This group included Neil Kinnock, as his 1986 book, Making Our Way, shows, and Bryan Gould, who was appointed by Kinnock to chair the committee on economic policy. Gould’s committee duly produced a detailed analysis of why the bankers had too much power and how to reduce it.
But the Gould committee report was rejected by Neil Kinnock as soon as it was finished. Gould tells us that, just before the report was due to be published, a group of Labour MPs came to see him to try to get it stopped or modified. One of them was the then rising star of the back-benches, Tony Blair. This was 1988. Gould went on to stand against John Smith for the leadership of the party in 1992 and lost heavily. New Labour – at its core the capitulation to the financial sector– could be said to have begun there.
We still don’t know why the Gould report was dumped. My guess would be that the group around Kinnock wanted to get elected more than they cared about the state of the British economy or the fate of its citizens; and having lost two general elections, decided that the bankers were too powerful to challenge. By this time – 1988/9 – the City had been largely sold off to American banks in the so-called big bang of 1986 and was well on its way to being an extension of Wall Street; and thus to be anti-City of London increasingly meant being perceived as anti-American. But for a while a Labour Party which was explicitly an anti-City of London party did seem a real prospect. For whatever reason, the policy review document on the economy was abandoned and Labour began the long process of making itself acceptable to the City of London – even though the City then was only about 2% of the British economy.
Thursday, 28 June 2012
"The atom bomb" performed a double duty in early 80s culture, as both the object of a ubiquitous, obligatory terror and a figure for the terrifying thing that had already happened, was already happening in slow motion. No-one was allowed to forget that the world might end tomorrow; but there was also the sense that it had already ended yesterday; that the post-apocalyptic unraveling of customs, institutions and even language depicted to such horrifying effect in "Threads" was already somehow underway, and gathering pace. Not for nothing was "atomisation" one of the watchwords of the era1.
Alongside the fear, then, that the time remaining may be limited, was the feeling that whatever was still standing was already damaged, fragile, weakened by the blast of whatever it was that was sweeping so violently through the contemporary moment. And pop songs of the time registered these feelings, responded to them by throwing a variety of affective shapes, some more overtly "political" than others.
Level 42's Sun Goes Down combines a kind of abstract aspirational positivity ("though I live on the edge, time is on my side / all the doors of my life are open wide") with an alert sense of temporariness, of getting what you can while you can:
Mark King's protestation that "I know what I want, and I don't wanna go to war" is seconded by the weary "soldier standing in a bar", presumably recently returned from the Falklands, who says, "I need to love someone / before they drop the atom bomb". At the same time, love itself may be too long-term, may be too great an attachment to risk: "I get kind of scared when love's around". What will fill up the time that remains is "the groove", which keeps on grooving for "just as long as the wheels keep turning round".
Is the groove, the uplift of funk, an adequate object of devotion, something one can live for? At first, King seems to think so: "I'm married to the beat...to the music I gave the heart I could've given you". But there is the nagging question of whether its "forward motion" is really enough to carry one through: "it it a false emotion?". And behind it all, the singer is stalked by a nameless anxiety: "I get kind of scared when I turn around", when forward motion is interrupted by retrospection. Having "time" on one's side, being in step with the time, entails a certain vertiginous ungroundedness, an ever-present risk of falling back.
Things are complicated somewhat by a female dancing partner, initially rejected in favour of the groove but accepted in stages, firstly as an object of admiration embodying "the shock of the new", then as a potential social trophy ("I want my friends to see me standing next to you"), but finally as a putative alter ego ("there's something about her reminds me of me") and temporary "soulmate". If love as mutual fascination, the game of making eyes at each other and getting bewitched and hooked, is too binding a proposition, then moments of occasional solidarity with a generic fellow-groover ("there must be one like her in every club in every town") at least serve as a respite from nervy atomisation.
It doesn't seem terribly adventurous to stay out dancing only "until the sun comes down" - ordinarily that would be when you'd start partying. But I think the metaphorical associations here link the groove to work rather than play, with sundown being the time when tools are put aside and activity ceases (remember that Level 42 were always a hard-working band who could really play their instruments - King's celebrated slap bass style is especially machinic). Sundown is also, of course, the time when darkness falls, and the apocalyptic overtones would be present even without the passing squaddie's ominous mutter.
Nik Kershaw's I Won't Let the Sun Go Down On Me vanished ignominiously on first release, but had a successful second run on the back of Wouldn't It Be Good. The lyrics are much more explicitly about the imminent threat of nuclear war ("forefinger on the button"), with a sort of protest-song-lite flavour:
Here the proffered counter to nuclear terror is personal indignation, a refusal to countenance the affront of annihilation: I won't let the sun go down on me. There is an appeal to the listener's conscience and political agency - "break your silence if you would / before the sun goes down for good" - and I guess the song might have got some play at CND social events, but the political mode it anticipates is precisely that of Live Aid: the problem of solidarity with others, whether organised and practical or transient and affective, is set aside in favour of striking, and exhorting others to strike, a morally impressive individual posture. I remember an awful lot of 80s "politicalness" being like this: already irrevocably "atomised", and seeking collective articulation through synchronised slogan-chanting - the imagined apocalypse being "as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced".
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Estrangement, intensity; the dream that our separate abjections and ecstasies might be reconcilable - if only in the manner of a verse melody in the relative minor playing over a chorus in the relative major. Why do they appear as separate in the first place? The lyric personae of Wouldn't it be Good stand in for two directions of social mobility - for the "downwardly" and "upwardly" mobile, for those thrown out into the cold and for those consumed by the white phosphorous of financial conflagration.
The patterns are more established, their ideological reflections more secure, by the time Microdisney come to address them - in 1987, with And He Descended Into Hell, and in 1988 with Gale Force Wind:
"If a power was to lift him up / and make him rich / would he admit it was luck?". Again we are making deals with God: the force driving us apart is nameless, sublime, possibly malevolent. It deals in anarchic reversals of fortune, in uplift and sudden ruin. If Kate Bush tries to confront this anarchy with erotic solidarity, Cathal Coughlan takes stock of the human relationships it has destroyed and the pathologies generated by nostalgia for a stable moral order:
"He believed he was right to ask for things / to be his and for him alone / and the world was not right with him unless / his wish was the world's command". How, without reimposing rights of ownership over others, tying them to us so that they cannot escape or be blown away, is the world to be made right again?
Another song about wanting to change places with someone else:
The underlying conceit is the same as that in Nik Kershaw's Wouldn't It Be Good: intensities (freezing/burning) are exchangeable, substitutable. "Running up that Hill" is about the ascent towards ecstasy, a troubled and turbulent ascent ("there is thunder in our hearts") which Bush imagines could be made smooth and easy ("be running up that hill / with no trouble") if only a deal could be struck which would render the lovers interchangeable, each having direct knowledge of the other's tribulations ("don't you want to know that it doesn't hurt me?").
The problem in both cases is one of empathy. Kershaw's lyric personae get into a kind of contest about who's got it worse ("I'd stay right there if I were you") while the song (from the position of Bush's "God") withholds from both the knowledge that they're in the same existential fix. Bush embraces intensity, without desiring to escape from it, but wants to know how it can be converted into an upward spiral of mutual fulfilment. At the same time, the song itself seems to enjoy its own swirling languor, punctuated by occasional lightning-flashes within the clouds. In spite of the underlying rhythmic pulse, it's not actually in a hurry to go anywhere in particular.
When I was a child, songs like this always raised the troubling and unresolvable question: is she singing about sex here? The answer is fairly obviously "yes, and...", but it's determining where the "sex" stops and the "and" begins that's difficult (perhaps the sex never does stop: when is Kate Bush ever not singing about sex?). Dramatic and troubling, this song always seemed to me to present an aspect of grown-upness that I wasn't sure I'd ever quite be ready for. I'm not altogether sure I've got the hang of it even now.
Monday, 25 June 2012
Nik Kershaw's Wouldn't it be good is fairly compositionally sophisticated for a pop song, with a dramatic harmonic transition (from relative minor to major) between verse and chorus and a neat bit at the end where the verse and chorus melodies run simultaneously. Neither of these tricks would be too surprising in a competently written showtune, but together with the "thick" production (crunchy guitars and synths filling up the available sonic space) they give the song an unusual sense of scale.
The video, enlivened with some advanced Quantel magic, adds to the drama, although it's difficult to believe that handsome Nik is really as miserably down-and-out as he has to pretend to be for the first verse. Metaphorically, the lyrics work the conventional Petrarchan opposition between freezing ("the cold is biting / through each and every nerve and fibre") and burning ("the heat is stifling / burning me up from the inside") into a sort of pretend social commentary - the "pressures of modern life" or some such produce two different kinds of unbearable affect, forms of life from which one would dream (with a cruel, condescended-to optimism) of escaping.
There is a sense of both of the song's lyric positions - despairing loser and cracking-under-pressure high-flyer - being tried on like costumes; the assertion the song wants to make about their interchangeability ("wouldn't it be good to be on your side / grass is always greener over there") comes off as glib.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Monday, 23 April 2012
Monday, 16 April 2012
Monday, 26 March 2012
80s cockney music has its roots in pub rock and punk, with their deliberate deployment of London accents (real or acquired), songs and imagery about London ('Down in the Tube Station at Midnight', Kilburn and the Highroads) and importance of local venues like the Hope and Anchor in Islington, which attracted loyal followings.
It was Ian Dury and the Blockheads, though, who set up the key elements for 80s. Obviously, through their frontman they kept the vocals and imagery side, with Dury's art-school twist. But they also added funk and soul to the music, and this took them into proper pop hits territory. These two elements are, I think, in tension with each other for many London working class bands through the 80s.
Alternatively you could drop the vocals side entirely (and indeed any humour or playfulness) and concentrate on being a slick, modern soul band, as with Islington's finest Spandau Ballet:
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
"We shall not conceal from my lord that the silver has run out and the animal stocks are my Lord's! Nothing is left for our Lord but our carcasses and our farmland! Let us not perish before your eyes, both we and our farmland! Take possession of us and our farmland in return for bread, and we and our farmland will be slaves to Pharaoh. And give us seed, that we may live and not die! And that our farmland not turn to desert!"
And Joseph took possession of all the farmland of Egypt for Pharoah, for each Egyptian sold his field, as the land became Pharaoh's. And he reduced them to servitude, town by town, from one end of the border of Egypt to the other.
In between celebrating Fascist regimes (from a country then having thousands 'disappeared' by another Fascist regime), and vandalising modernist poetry or The Greatest Story Ever Told, Baron Webber was quite vocal in his support for Mrs. Thatcher. Like any number of plutocratic creeps, claiming "she did wonderful things for this country" easily translated into "she did wonderful things for me". His generous Conservative Party donations are his own grateful tribute to Pharaoh. This of course was honoured in kind with a peerage, though as one of the richest people in the UK that would be inevitable. It's not just Tory tax policies he represents. Rupert Murdoch's recent problems remind us of the cultural 'contribution' that Thatcherism (and moreover, neoliberalism) made to society: The lowest common denominator for the maximum amount of profit, floating on a bubble of empty hype, inherited privilege, labour oppression, lazy conformity, market terrorism, and aggressive self-importance. Their class wouldn't settle for anything less.
Tuesday, 13 March 2012
This might as well be the story of a clock. It is a clock that stopped at ten twenty-five in the morning of August 2, 1980, and then again some time in 1995, and then again in August of last year. Always it returns to that time: ten twenty-five.
It is the clock on the top right corner of this picture. You can’t tell from a photograph if a clock has stopped, and since it looks undamaged you may think it fixes the time when the photograph was taken. But it does not. It fixes the time when the bomb went off.
23 kilograms of nitro-glycerine, T4 and Compound B stuffed in a suitcase abandoned in the second class waiting room of the west wing of the train station at Bologna. A bomb designed to have the maximum impact, not only on the building – the entire wing was destroyed in the blast, along with the Ancona-Chiasso train waiting to depart by the nearest platform – but also in terms of the number of victims. A Saturday morning at the beginning of the holiday month in one of the busiest railroad hubs in the country, and the second-class waiting room, where you would find the highest concentration of people. The bomb killed 85 of them and maimed or wounded more than 200. Such was the force of the blast that of one of the victims, Maria Fresu, no remains were found. She had been travelling with friends, whose bodies were recovered. So was her three-year old daughter’s. But all that was left of Maria Fresu were a handful of scattered fragments. She had been disintegrated.
Clearly this isn’t the story of the clock that stopped at ten twenty-five on the morning of August 2, 1980, as if it too was in shock. It’s the story of the people involved: those inside the train station when the bomb went off; those who came in to join the rescuers, outnumbered and unprepared; those who assembled the bomb and those who planted the bomb (who aren’t necessarily the same people); and later those who fabricated the evidence to derail the investigation, and then the investigators who slowly and laboriously sifted through the evidence, both actual and fabricated, and eventually found some but not all of the culprits. Because finally this is a most Italian story: a story of obfuscation, deception and collusion, a story of institutions parallel to the State or hidden within the State whose job was to ensure that the truth, the whole truth, would never be known. And without truth, without justice – as was said in the first anniversary of the bombing – history itself is rendered meaningless.
It took fifteen years to secure the convinctions of two of the three people who materially carried out the bombing – neofascist terrorists Giusva Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro – along with operatives of the military intelligence service and the leader of the Masonic lodge P2 responsible for a series of progressively more elaborate and, in the final analysis, successful smokescreen operations. It is thanks in no small part to those efforts that we know who and we know how, but we still don’t know on whose orders and why. The Bologna bombing is in this respect the culmination of what chroniclers and historians call the strategy of tension, but also its most perplexing and horrific example. This was not 1969, the year when the strategy was inaugurated. By 1980, the Italian state appeared no longer vulnerable, and the need to strike fear into the population in order to placate revolutionary movements and workers’ struggles on the one hand, and foster the demand for authoritarian measures on the other, had lost almost all of its urgency. Yet it was at this time that the largest scale mass murder was committed. The Bologna station bombing killed more people than those of Piazza Fontana, the Milan police headquarters, Gioia Tauro, the Italicus and Piazza della Loggia put together. It was the atrocity that contained all other atrocities, and yet lacked their political motivation, that is to say a connection – however deranged, however criminal and appalling – with the present.
Murder for murder’s sake: that is perhaps the only form of terrorism deserving of the name. And this above all else I remember of those years. Is there anything more profoundly unsettling for a child than to see fear on the faces of his parents, of the adults in his life? I was nine years old when the Bologna bombing took place. We were holidaying in Yugoslavia with friends. We got hold of an Italian newspaper, perhaps it wasn’t even the next day but the one after that. But the consternation and the fear of my parents and the others, I remember them well.
This is not the story of a clock. It couldn’t be. It’s the story of Maria Fresu, who at ten twenty-five of August 2, 1980 simply ceased to exist, and we may never know why. It’s the story of her three year old daughter and of the other victims and of the wounded and of their loved ones, who for over three decades have fought and continue to fight for the truth and justice that they were denied. The association of the families of the victims of the Bologna station bombing is a microcosm of the Italian society of those years, formed by people whose commitment arose not out of a shared political or ideological background but in the most tragic and random of circumstances (almost literally any of us could have passed through that station on that day). And out of those circumstances grew the determination not to let the bastards get away with it, to pile the pressure on in those early years when the investigation had came close to being abandoned, and then again after the grotesque verdict of acquittal of 1990, which the Court of Cassation judges who ordered the re-trial later called ‘illogical and incoherent’. But still there is so much that we don’t know about that massacre, as well the ones that preceded it. Almost the only thing that has been established to a forensic certainty is the involvement of sectors of the State in the cover-ups and the sidetrackings. So perhaps that is the closest thing we have to a motive. Raison d'état. For the good of the State.
And so this might as well be the story of that clock, for if you must imagine that for the members of the association time really stopped at ten twenty-five of August 2, 1980, then perhaps the same can be said for our democratic institutions. Not that it was always that way for that clock itself. A few months after the bombing it was fixed, yet most people thought that it hadn’t – this is where the story gets a little peculiar – and the station administrators kept being asked to set it at ten twenty-five so that pictures could be taken or for the commemorations, which apparently was a rather difficult business, so that when the mechanism broke down, in 1995, the opportunity was taken not to fix it, and the hands were put back at ten and five, where they remained until August of last year. It was then that the clock was fixed a second time. Somebody had complained, although there have always been complaints: there is no plaque underneath it and so some people quite understandably trust the clock, and occasionally they miss their train. But this time the administration relented and so the clock was put back into service, which generated even more complaints from the association of the families of the victims and from all the people who thought that it shouldn’t have been, and so about a month later the hands were put back at ten and five one more time, and there they remain. At least for now.
The clock is a reluctant, accidental memorial, thus a fitting metaphor for the manner in which these crimes of our history are remembered: that is to say intermittently, hesitantly, and so long as it isn’t too inconvenient. Fioravanti and Mambro – who even before the events of August 2, 1980, had already been directly responsible between them for a dozen murders and for ordering the assassination of investigative magistrate Mario Amato – are out of prison and live very respectable lives, writing books and working for the NGO Hands off Cain, which opposes torture and the death penalty. They never admitted their role in the bombing, let alone named its instigators, and served sixteen years in prison plus 10 more on probation each out of a sentence of 8 consecutive life sentences plus 134 years and 8 months of detention (Fioravanti) and 9 consecutive life sentences plus 84 years and 8 months of detention (Mambro). These almost comically hyperbolic convictions, too, and the gap with the actual time spent behind bars, suggest a most elastic notion of time on the part of our justice system. The clock above the west wing of the train station at Bologna is not the only one that operates in fits and starts.
But I’m not upset that these two loyal foot-soldiers walk freely, not as such. The far greater outrage is that the historical and political conclusions were never drawn from all that bloodshed, and that what we all knew, what we had ample evidence for, was never officially acknowledged: namely, that there were some in positions of power who saw those murders as necessary for the preservation of the State; and that therefore our public institutions as they exist today can be said to be founded no longer on the principles of anti-fascism, nor on a civic, democratic response to the left- and right-wing terrorism of the Seventies, but rather on a series of acts of repression and state-sponsored murder designed to protect and cement the existing structures of power. The bombing of the train station at Bologna was the last and most spectacular of these acts, it was the final object lesson in the brutality that is demanded in order to maintain the peace. Eighty-four bodies had to be mangled, crushed or torn to pieces. The eighty-fifth had to be disintegrated. A blast. A freeze-frame. For all those lives, and in our history, it is always, it will always be ten twenty-five.