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Dinosaur rock comes of age: Roger Waters and 'Hey Ayatollah!'

When I was getting into music in my teens in the late 70s it was deeply uncool to like "old" stuff.

The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, Blondie, The Undertones, The Ruts, The Specials, Stiff Little Fingers. This was all that mattered. I think when you're 15 this is how it is. Then when you're (ahem) 30 years older, you've not only got 30 years worth of "personal" music history, but you've doubtless delved deeper, further back.

Anyway, two blind spots: The Kinks and Pink Floyd. Never much liked what I heard; didn't like the reverence they came wrapped up in.

Except … in the last two days I've heard first Ray Davies and then Roger Waters on the radio sounding – shock horror – intelligent and engaging. (Don't worry, I'm not going to start calling them "great blokes" and rushing out to buy Q magazine). 

So, on the Today programme we had Ray Davies talking to his namesake Evan about his 1951 Festival of Britain memories and 60s music. Interesting, non-pompous and unpredictable, he resisted the opportunity to say everything was better in the sixties. Good for him.

And this morning, on Desert Island Discs (yes, it's a creaky old format but I can't help listening to it!), we had Roger Waters being extremely personable whilst talking about how The Wall was directly inspired by the loss of his father in the Second World War when Waters was only an infant. He also explained how the band’s famous Wall live shows have become “very political”, with people sending photographs and stories of family members who had been killed in conflict or under repressive governments. Good stuff. And he chose Neil Young’s Helpless, which is a stone-cold classic tune ….

Before he got into the studio with Kirsty Young, Waters had also been busy endorsing a new video campaign from the Canadian rock band Blurred Vision. This involves asking people to join in with a cheeky update of the “Hey teacher” line, turning it into a call on the Iranian authorities – "Hey Ayatollah Leave Those Kids Alone!” See their Another Brick … remake here. Waters' support amounts to a big-name musician lending his voice to a call demanding freedom of expression and an end to executions in a repressive country. Hey, I’m hip to that …

As I write this post a colleague is off to a TV studio to talk about today’s Bahrain Formula 1 story. As soon as I spoke to him about Formula 1 someone in the office starting humming the classic Fleetwood Mac theme tune from the Formula 1 TV programme. Blimey, those rock dinosaurs never die …

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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