Radical left-wing politics on Top Of The Pops anyone? Fourteen years before Chumbawamba hit the mainstream charts, the Redskins were the first band to bring revolutionary socialism to the dancefloor. Their fusion of 60s soul, rock, pop and punk with an uncompromising political stance raised many peoples' consciousness' during the 80s struggle against the Thatcher government.
Few bands have suffered so much critical flak and unfounded abuse as the Redskins. Their opponents came not just from the right but from the left too. The Redskins' politics were not some rock 'n' roll pose; they Really Meant It Man, and many people from all political backgrounds found that unpalatable. It was easy to criticise at the time, but so much of Chris Dean's words have an uncanny resonance of truth and relevance today. The Redskins were slated for disparaging Live Aid; they were proved to be right. They were slated for attacking the Labour Party; well, just look at New Labour's record in office and deny that Chris' predictions about Labour (for Kinnock, read Blair) weren't spot-on.
Few bands have backed up their rhetoric with such determined action as the Redskins. Where in the music industry today can you find such commitment and dedication? They meant so much more than so many other bands, and testament to that can be found both in the plethora of benefit gigs to support the miners strike and antiapartheid, and in the eyes and minds of people like myself that they helped to permanently open a little bit further.
I would also like to point out that on a personal level, I found Chris Dean one of the most genuine, honest and approachable people I have ever encountered. For instance, he was instrumental in helping with the Wake Up miners benefit EP (offering, without the knowledge or consent of their record company, what was to be their last single, a superb reworking of Billy Bragg's Levi Stubbs' Tears, which has the honour of being Bragg's favourite cover of all time) and he helped set up contacts to make sure the money raised from the project was put to the best practical use. Chris was often maligned for his arrogance and intractability (if you can't fault someone's politics, make a personal attack), yet I have seen few so willing as him to patiently and constructively engage in debate with their critics. I could name several other "left-wing" musicians who were incapable of hearing the slightest criticism without losing their tempers and storming off.
Ultimately (and perhaps inevitably), the band's constant struggle to balance the demands of the music industry with their political principles led to their demise, but their legacy has never been properly acknowledged. For all the criticisms they faced, the Redskins never got sucked into the hypocrisies of the music biz - which is more than can be said for a lot of other supposedly idealistic performers.
Dave T. (Wake Up Fanzine)