1001 Songs Challenge #433: Police and Thieves (1976)
On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Junior Murvin – Police and Thieves (1976)
We’re staying in Jamaica today, dear reader, and why not because the island is lovely, the sun is out and the reggae music is proving rather catchy. Good thing we have a bit more of that for our listening pleasure now. Junior Murvin began his music career in the early 1970s and his breakthrough came when he wrote a song and approached producer, Lee “Scratch” Perry, with it. It would prove to be Murvin’s signature song and the one that 1001 Songs have selected here – Police and Thieves.
Although written about the clashes on the Jamaican streets between the police and crowds, Police and Thieves would come to be embraced overseas, especially in the UK where the song became an anthem during the Notting Hill riots in 1976. The song observes society in the midst of anarchy with the police – formerly peacemakers – now resorting to violence and brutality all in the name of maintaining order. Murvin plaintively calls for an end to the madness, his hopes resting on the next generation to turn away from the chaos and back down the road of peace. It sound like wishful thinking.
Police and Thieves was the product of a turbulent time in Jamaica’s history when martial law was implemented and music offered a way to shout back. Junior Murvin captures the insanity of a broken society where the police have lost their way in becoming as brutal as the criminals they swear to bring to justice. It’s a profound song full of meaning and would resonate with many people at this time. In Notting Hill two young men named Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon were involved in the riots that took place there and when they heard Police and Thieves, they decided to cover the track on what became the debut album by a little known group called The Clash!
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)