The Mekons – “Never Been In A Riot” b/w “32 Weeks” and “Heart & Soul” (1978)


“‘Never Been in a Riot’, the Mekon’s first single, was released in 1978 as a direct response to ‘White Riot’ by The Clash, which Kevin Lycett (a former Mekon) reports the band found ‘very offensive’ with its sentiment of ‘I want a riot for us poor downtrodden white people’ (Revenge of the Mekons). The Mekons response, an aggressively self-deprecating song about a man who has never done much of anything, captures a great deal about what makes them successful punks in Jesse Prinz’s aesthetic terms. The song is irreverent even to the point of attacking another celebrated punk act, and the lyrics’ emptiness and moral ambivalence (when they are intelligible) clearly reflect a youthful nihilistic sensibility. Most strikingly, the song is obviously amateurish in its musical incompetence. Indeed, when The Mekons formed, they were a group of art students with no musical training or ability; Bob Last, the head of their first label, recounts that ‘the critical thing [about his decision to sign them] was that they really could not play’ (Revenge of the Mekons). Mary Harron, in a 1979 Melody Maker article in which she refers to the band as ‘a strange combination of sophisticated theory and technical incompetence’, shares this sentiment: ‘The Mekons’ genius has always lain in the way they exposed their defects instead of hiding them, and put them to imaginative use’. Early in their career, then, The Mekons had already emerged as models of punk success via aesthetic failure. The art of The Mekons’ economic failure, on the other hand, has taken their entire career to fully realize, because it is in many ways an art of unlikely endurance in the face of commercial and popular indifference. …”
The Punk Art of Failure: The Mekons and Ideology by David Walker (Video)
W – The Mekon
The Mekons – Formed: Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, UK
YouTube: Never Been In A Riot, 32 Weeks, Heart & Soul

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