There are dead men in the South Atlantic
It's meant to warm our hearts
They think that they died for you and me
Oh God, what a farce, what a farce
Camp at the Falklands
460km off the coast of Argentina in the South Atlantic, lies an archipelago of more than 770 islands. First discovered in the 17th Century, the Falkland Islands are now a self-governing British territory. In the 1980s, however, these islands saw a war between British forces and the Argentine military junta claiming sovereignty over the island nation. The Falklands War, essentially a land dispute over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, raged from 2 April, 1982, until the Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June of the same year. Both sides suffered casualties, the Brits losing 255 military personnel while the Argentine casualties totalled almost 650. The Falklands War had a significant impact on both countries, inspiring patriotism in Argentina, which eventually led to the downfall of the ruling military government. Despite some public protest to the war in Britain, the success of the campaign bolstered Margaret Thatcher's government, carrying them to victory in the 1983 general election.
The Falklands War also had a significant impact on British culture resulting in a slew of books, films and songs about the event. The punk band New Model Army, who take their name from Oliver Cromwell's revolutionary army, took a rather critical approach to the Falklands War in their song “Spirit of the Falklands.”
Hailing from Yorkshire, the punk-alternative band released their debut album Vengeance
in 1984. Their music, termed “crusty-punk,” though considered more melodic than other punk bands at the time, was immediately recognised for the poetic lyrics expressing various political and humanitarian themes. The song “51st State” catapulted the band to cult status amongst those against American Imperialism – although this didn't do much for the band's chances of touring the USA. The thirteenth track of the 21-track album is “Spirits of the Falklands,” a song considered a scathing sneer at the war efforts, a song that viewed the country's triumph over the Argentines with severe disdain. The band had the courage of their convictions and didn't shy away from controversial subject material, eloquently expressing their opinion both lyrically and musically, believing, as many did, that the Falklands War was a mere distraction from the real war Thatcher raged at home against the Trade Unions.
“Spirit of the Falklands” combines driving rhythms with strained vocals typical of British punk in a song reminiscent of The Clash, as front man Justin Sullivan spits out the acerbic verses. While the music is fairly simple, the lyrics are all-important and made deliberately audible over a repetitive riff accompanied by a snare drum rhythm that calls to mind marching soldiers. The more melodic chorus drives home the issue as Sullivan sings through the final line “...what a farce.”
Regardless of the political leanings of the song and album as a whole, Vengeance
earned the band a reputation for blunt and unashamed political statement while establishing New Model Army as one of the rising stars of the 1980s British punk scene. ~ Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include
Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and
The Other Me. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and eats far too much peanut-butter.