Morning Music: Not Great Men by Gang of Four

Gang of Four - Not Great MenI think I should apologize. I’ve been so angry for the last day! All I’ve been writing about is that anger. I don’t even know what’s going on in the world. And I do want to get past it. But it’s hard when people think they can just yell at you and call you names. All I feel I can do is get through this as quickly as possible. There are awful people in the world. And those awful people are usually the people with the most power. It made me think of the great Gang of Four song “Not Great Men.”

It’s about how the books of history are filled with strong men, but not great men. Although I would take exception to even the idea that the history books are filled with strong men. Sure, there are strong men, but mostly history is made by the people who were born to it. But they are certainly “Not Great Men.”

If you looked at humans the way you look at an ant colony, you would see all the wars and such as cut off from what’s really going on. Ever since the Neolithic Revolution, the real action has been going on in the farms. The great men were the ones who inch by inch improved how agriculture was done. The people fighting wars or involved in “business” were just living off the efforts of the true heroes. So history is not made by great men. It is defined by men who had the power to define it as something that ought to be written down and revered.

“Not Great Men” is a great song. I love listening to it. But more than the song itself, it is just knowing that other people get it — they understand that all the hero worship is nonsense.

9 thoughts on “Morning Music: Not Great Men by Gang of Four

  1. This is just about the only band who ever were able to discuss the effects of ideology and social rank in their songs, without being really loud, obnoxious, or boringly didactic. They don’t really blame the people in the upper ranks as individuals either. Pretty down-to-earth yet subtle.

    Still, in some ways I prefer Crass. Loud, obnoxious obviously. Didactic, but does not bore me. Obviously, a lot more angry! They point fingers, with quick hand motions that you must perform yourself to get into the band.

    Viva la punk.

    • I agree. But there is a big difference. Crass and Dead Kennedys were actual punk bands. Gang of Four is distinctly post-punk. As such, they were much more clear with their lyrics. It really was music for the revolution: straight to the point. Another thing I loved about them was how sparse the music was. The interaction between guitar and bass was just wonderful. Entertainment! is still one of the great albums. I liked their later work, but I most loved them at their most raw.

      “If men are only blood and iron, doctor doctor, what’s in my shirt?!”

  2. I STILL think they sound pretty great played at the wrong speed. (I had bought a full sized LP of theirs, but not realized, until Frank pointed it out about a year later, that it was a 45 speed record, not 33………then I didn’t dig the sound quite as much.)

  3. Dude. My bad. Yeah, I bought Minutemen and Gang of Four at the same time. I will assume you to be correct.

      • You bought them and I swiped them from your collection? Not the 45….you would have noticed and known the correct speed from the get-g0. Are you sure? OK, wasn’t our first exposure on a CBS Records compilation I bought? Think both bands were on that.
        I do miss Backdoor Records, though when I mention the place to other old folks they usually respond with, “they actually sold records?…I thought it was just a front.”
        Years later, when it had become Backdoor Disc and Tape, I went into there and could not find one thing worth purchasing.
        The Last Record Store seems to be the only place left in the northbay.

        • It wasn’t like that. I was bouncing around living here and there and so you had pretty much my entire record collection. You were never that into punk. It’s probably because Marlo was, or, as seemed to be the case, pretended to be. He was the guy who introduced me to Dead Kennedys though. He also introduced me to William Gibson, although I doubt he would even recognize the name today.

          I wrote about that, Not the Last Record Store.

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