The Birkenhead rock/folk/postpunk band, which first released Back In The DHSS in 1985, have been knocking out superlatively funny and clever material ever since, but perhaps this is still their best known song, from the EP of 1986. Nigel Blackwell (lead vocals, guitar), Neil Crossley (bass, vocals) formed the original core of the band. Their work has always been brilliantly satirical, and packed with cultural reference. So naturally from yesterday’s tribute to the gentle music from the children’s TV programme and narrator Brian Cant, no connection would be complete with moving straight to HMHB, and this subversive reinterpretation of the beloved children's programme during a decade of unemployment under the Margaret Thatcher years, with strikes, riots and social upheaval – happening of course in peaceful Trumpton. Under the present Tory government of austerity, a similar political climate of dissent is beginning to re-emerge.
The instrumental and hummed introduction is to the tune of "To Be a Pilgrim" ("He Who Would Valiant Be") by John Bunyan (1628–88) as arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a popular hymn sung, ironically in this context at the 2013 funeral of Thatcher. The lyrics are the real key, however, and they cleverly thread together many of the characters from the Trumptonshire trilogy, such as Camberwick Green’s Windy Miller (Windy Militant) to the nosey gossip Mrs Honeyman, into the context of this troubled town:
Unemployment’s rising in the Chigley end of town
And it’s spreading like pneumonia
Doesn’t look like going down
There’s trouble at the fire station someone’s had the sack
And the lads are going to launch a scheme get rid of Captain Flack
Tell PC McGarry to get himself a mate
And arm themselves with CS gas
They’re gonna be out late
We’ve had Cant conformism since 1966
And now subversion’s in the air in the shape of flying bricks
Someone get a message through to Captain Snort
That they’d better start assembling the boys from the fort
And keep Mrs Honeyman right out of sight
‘Cos there’s gonna be a riot down in Trumpton tonight …
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