Stiff Little Fingers are my favourite Punk band. They came roaring out of Ireland full of ire, angst and fury. They were railing at the tragic life they were being forced to live in the shadow of the ‘troubles’ with real emotions based on real experience. Life was hard in Thatcher’s Britain for young disaffected youth but it was real murder in Belfast! They were fed-up with the guns, bombs, sectarian hatred, barricades, barbed wire, and being threatened by soldiers, police and paramilitary thugs. Punk proved the ideal vehicle. It all came pouring out on that first album ‘Inflamable Material’. It wasn’t inflammable it was incendiary.
No wonder John Peel loved it. He had a real ear for genuine talent. He immediately saw the genuine emotion that soaked through every sentiment. These weren’t a bunch of kids making stuff up – they were venting their hearts, spleen and lungs.
If the Sex Pistols were brash Stiff Little Fingers were brazen. If the Pistols were hot Fingers were nuclear. Not only that but they had the lyrical ability to put it all down in a form that made it interesting and accessible. Jake Burns had the word play at his finger tips to illustrate the world they lived in. He even managed to inject some humour in between the fury. This was Punk with real teeth. This wasn’t to do with Thatcher’s selective austerity and no jobs for the lower classes, class warfare; this was war with real bullets, bombs, threats and deaths.
Fingers even took the Bob Marley classic ‘Johnny Was’ and made it there own. Where the song was about a senseless gang killing in Trenchtown they transferred it to Belfast. The raw guitar exchange of riffs with their strident ring gave it a sinister edge. It was an anthem to senseless murder and violence. The riffs snarled and spat. The vocals soared with despair.
Fingers were what Punk was all about – protest, despair and fury. It was the voice of disaffected youth who saw that they had no future.
This was my type of music, full of rightful political/social fury at the injustice created by politicians, religious leaders and the businessmen who orchestrated the unequal world order. It was a scream of protest. They made the Irish situation stark for all to hear but also illustrated a problem the world over. The ones at the bottom were being shat on by the tiny minority that ran it all.
Punk didn’t get much better than this!