Read Hard’s Classic Pop-punk Picks: Stiff Little Fingers- Go For It

Posted: March 20, 2014 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

As the first two albums in this column both were from the 90’s, I figured I’d pick something from the early 80’s next. I also wanted to do a SLF album, the first two albums: Inflammable Material and Nobody’s Heroes are considered their classics. Their later albums are often hated or ignored by punk fans and I always found that weird. The first SLF album I ever got was Now then, as a treat I bought myself after a trip to the dentist in 2006. I had heard a few songs by them in 2004 and was surprised to hear what Now Then sounded like, but I really liked it. Go For It is the album between Nobody’s Heroes and Now Then and it’s maybe their most ambitious album. The idea was that every song could be a single and it seems they tried to write every song in a different genre without losing the SLF touch. The album is also a lot poppier than the previous albums; I feel like this is the album that suited the column the most.

Go for it was released April 17 1981, supported by the single “Just fade away”. The album only has 10 songs, but they are all pretty long, which might be the turnoff for a lot of punks. All the lyrics are written by their manager and author Gordon Ogilvie, and still this album seems more personal than the earlier records that were more on the political side. The album, as the earlier ones, deals a lot with living in Belfast and getting out of there, but this time it’s from a more personal point of view than the political one of Nobody’s heroes and Inflammable material.

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1. “Roots, radicals, rockers and reggae”: The album starts off with a cover. The original is by Bunny Wailer, who was the drummer of the Wailers, though his song is called “Roots, Radics, Rockers and Reggae” and the title is misspelled on the album. I love the title, because alliterations are fun! The lyrics are very different in the two songs, whether this is because Wailer had several versions of the song or if SLF wrote new lyrics for it is uncertain (the song is credited to both Bunny Wailer and SLF and not Gordon Ogilvie). The only really recognizable part of the song is the intro and the chorus.  There’s actually a video of me dancing to this song on YouTube from Berlin 2010. I do my signature dolphin jump.

2. “Just fade away”: The first single from the album, it charted 47 on the UK charts. I think the title is a reference to Buddy Holly’s “Not fade away”, Holly’s classic is a song about loving a girl a whole lot and not wanting love to fade away. This song says the opposite; it’s basically a song where the protagonist tells a girl that’s into him, to fuck off. There are lots of contrasts in the lyrics that show how one can have fun with language like “She asks for more, and I give less” and “She asked me out and I gave in”. The band’s goal was to have 10 very different songs that could be singles, but this song actually sounds a lot like the last song: “Piccadilly circus”. I really love the solo at the end.

3. “Go for it”: The title track and an instrumental. To have an instrumental song as the third track, is a weird choice, and in my opinion, a terrible choice, because it ruins the whole flow of the album. The song really suits as intro music, and I think it’s been used by sports shows and the band still uses it as the intro song before they start playing. It’s a very simple track, but there are a lot of interesting elements in it and it has a great bass line.

4. “The only one”:  The first song on the album that is sung by Henry Cluney (the others have been sung by Jake Burns). The song is about frustration and the feeling of being alone in the world that feels a certain way. In the last verse the song concludes that people are not alone.  “It makes you so angry, a rage that’s all your own/it makes you feel so lonely, but you’re not alone”. The song is slow compared to the earlier songs and especially to the band’s earlier material.

5. “Hits and misses”:  A song about a serious subject, domestic violence. I think the title is a pun. The lyrics to the song are bleak and the song is catchy. The song was inspired by the erotic thriller Dressed to kill from 1980 with Michael Caine in the lead role. Caine is mentioned in the song (not one of his character’s names) as a reference to the infamous shower scene from the film. I don’t think the movie is even about domestic violence. The movie is about murder and the song serves more like a contrast to the bizarreness of the movie. Movies often give the viewer a distance to situations and horror. The bridge says that an abuser isn’t necessarily a character you’d see in a movie, it could basically be any guy you see in the street or some of your friends. “I’m not talking about a psycho-killer, Sonny, it’s not one of those/ It could be you/ It could be me/ It’s someone we all know”. The song is a social comment on how society shrugs their shoulders and treats domestic violence as par for the course instead of a terrible crime.

6. “Kicking up a racket”: Another Henry song and possibly the fastest song on the album and shows that the band is still punk. The song is about sitting in your room and listening to records as loud as possible. The song was written in the time when the band was in their highest peak in fame. And Cluney describes a feeling of introversion: sitting alone in your room instead of partying like bands are expected to do when they have reached fame. The song also seems like a forefather to the straight edge movement. The protagonist does not smoke and drink and find his pleasure in listening to records and turning up the volume.

7. “Safe as Houses”: The longest song on the album and the slowest song and to a lot of fans that might be a turnoff, but I think this is one of their best songs if not the best! The song is played in reggae style. The lyrics tells the story of two individuals(one girl and one boy) who have dreams they want to pursue, but end up settling down instead because of parents or fear the unknown. The last album had a song called “Gotta getaway” which dealt with getting out of Belfast and how it was common for Northern Irish kids to get out of Belfast and go to London, this song was about people who did the opposite and played it safe. The song encourages people to follow their dreams and the last chorus ends with the album title: “You must Go For It!”

8. “Gate 49”: This is also one of my favorite SLF songs and by far the Henry song I enjoy the most. It’s also the shortest song on the album. The song has a 50’s rockabilly feel to it with a very poppy melody and production. The song sounds like a typical love song, with lyrics about wanting to get back to someone you love. In the early 80’s gate 49 was the gate at Heathrow where planes went to Belfast. The song shows a feeling of homesickness and wanting to go back to a lover in Belfast, or simply go back to Belfast itself. This is the exact opposite sentiment than that which is sung in songs like “Gotta getaway” and “Safe as houses”. This gives the listener a feeling of ambivalence.  The harmonies in the last verse really make it one of the cutest songs I know.

9. “Silver Lining”: The second single from the album and a live staple to this day. It charted at 68 on the UK charts. The song is a perfect example of the band trying new styles and still being SLF. This song is inspired by the Motown era and has a horn section and an organ, with Jake Burns’ scratchy punk vocals it’s an interesting mix. The lyrics, in the same manner as “Safe as Houses”, deals with not giving up on your dreams or let other people tell you what to do with your life, a classic punk rock ideal. The bridge also borders on socialist as the protagonist wants to give and distribute the wealth and get an equal share back. The song is both positive and negative as it expresses that shit’s fucked, but it could be worse, and the chorus ends with “there’s always someone better off than you”

10. “Piccadilly Circus”: Like I said earlier, this song reminds me a lot of “Just Fade Away”, the melody has similarity and it has a very similar structure. They both have a guitar solo that fades out the song; the solo in “Piccadilly Circus” fades out the whole album. The similarity gives the listener a feeling of there being a chronology in the album. I think this song, however, is a lot better! The song is a true story about a businessman going from Belfast to London and gets stabbed in Piccadilly Circus. And the song describes grotesque images of how it happened. The last verse concludes “He tried to put it in his past, and flew safe home back to Belfast”. This adds to the re-occurring theme of “Belfast vs London”. It’s always common to hear about how much terror and horror was in Northern Ireland at the time with the troubles and segregation. And the tale of a man from Belfast being stabbed in London and going back to his safe home makes us question that for a minute. Together with “Gate 49” it creates Belfast as “home sweet home” and I think for someone like me who is not from Northern Ireland it’s hard to understand, but it makes me feel like the album as a theme, even if it doesn’t necessarily have one.

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Like Screeching weasel’s Wiggle, Go for it also has a lot of bonus tracks, but I figured I’d just write about one.

Bonus track “Mr. Fire coal man”: A cover of the Wailing souls’ classic from the 1960’s, this was the first version I heard of the song and what got me to love the original. The lyrics consists mostly of famous sayings and idioms like “you ever see smoke without fire, but what you sow you got to reap” and “the man who lives by the gun ends up dying by the gun”. What makes it different than their other reggae covers is that they actually kept it a reggae song.

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Though this is the album the band likes the most themselves, it’s not an album the music world or punk fans appreciate, so my goal was to change that, but I don’t know if I will succeed. The next album up is Gorilla marketing by the Steinways.

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