Monday, January 13, 2014
Music Monday: London Bridge is Falling Down - Newtrament (1983)
Newtrament's 1983 electro track 'London Bridge is Falling Down' came out after the general election of that year. The track includes a sung refrain from the nursery rhyme and one of the first UK raps. As Paul Gilroy writes in 'There ain't no black in the union jack' (1987): 'His version chronicled police malpractice and inner city decay while suggesting that electoral politics were a sham. Whoever won the contest, he argued, the political processes of significance would take place far from parliament and the plight of the dispossessed and the poor would be essentially unaffected:
Election Fever on all four channels...
Red or Blue...
Win or lose, lose or win,
jobs will still be getting thin...
vote, vote, vote, there ain't no hope'
According to the excellent How's Life in London thesis on the history of London hip hop:
'Bertram Johnson, better known as Newtrament, was a London-based DJ who teamed up with MC Sir Drew and DJ Mr Mix12 to record what is widely considered to be the first British rap song London Bridge is Falling Down (Hunter, 1998). Released on Jive in 1984, it was ‘one of the first British tunes to make references to the land of its origins’ through its mention of the ‘boys in blue’ and its message about the state of electoral politics in Britain... The ‘cod American accent’, however, was still in effect and would continue to be present in most British releases during the 1980’s as British MC’s continued to wrestle with their own identity and the authenticity of their music. The Newtrament Krew were influential in establishing jams around London that helped further interest in hip-hop and also brought together the small clusters of interest that existed. The London hip-hop scene at this point consisted predominantly of small localised scenes with many people ‘unaware it was going on in other parts of town’ so these jams were important'