67. Jerusalem
Written by William Blake, 1804
Performed by Mark Stewart & Maffia
From the LP Learning to Cope With Cowardice (On U Sound, UK 1983)



On Jerusalem in England, Part Three


…from mental fight


‘This classic album was recorded between 1981-1983 and was produced by the great Adrian Sherwood, and it shows Stewart at his darkest and most creative, with noise pop and dub perfectly at odds with each other. The two sounds probably shouldn’t work well but Stewart and Sherwood condense them and blend them ending up with a result that makes perfect sense. Slipping somewhere into no-wave and proto-Bristol sound this was when black British culture was dripping into mainstream music for the first time – the 25 years since then have taken this as a given but Stewart and his followers were true pioneers of the time.’

- Mark Stewart & Maffia; Learning to Cope With Cowardice – Director’s Cut


‘Customer review

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic bizarre industrial/dub cut-ups, June 26, 2007. By Aussiemystic ‘aussiemystic’ (Wollstonecraft, NSW Australia) – See all my reviews

An underlying philosophy of the album is an aural version of the ‘cut-up’ technique pioneered in literature by William S Burroughs. It’s no accident, then, that excerpts of Burroughs speaking appear on the album’s centrepiece, ‘The Wrong Name and the Wrong Number ’, a 12-minute audio assault.

Anyone familiar with Adrian Sherwood’s dub production work from On-U Sound will recognise many of the base tracks on this album, some of which have been pillaged from the On-U collection and re-voiced, reworked, dubbed, reversed, blended and distorted. The tone is set by the opening title track, which begins as a conventional enough dub track, albeit topped by Mark Stewart’s agonised vocals (which made such an impression backed by The Pop Group) but which gradually deteriorates into a chaotic and relentless mix. What follows vary between reasonably straightforward tracks (e.g. Paranoia of Power, To Have the Vision) and more extreme fare (Blessed are Those Who Struggle). One track which has been acknowledged by many as a classic is his cut-up of the old British standard hymn ‘Jerusalem’.

Stewart later went on to a more electronically-based, industrial sound backed by members of Tackhead (still under the moniker of MAFFIA), but the roots of his sound are in the audio manipulations of dub, and this album is arguably where he is most at home.’

- aussiemystic (Wollstonecraft, NSW Australia)


‘Perhaps the main reason to get hold of a copy of this album today would be for the last track, Jerusalem. The scum-sucking politicians of New Labour and the Conservatives have both laid claim to Blake’s anthem. In the process there has been an attempt to create some kind of definition of ‘England’ as a nation. The sort of nationalistic distillation which added weight to the manipulations which brought so many working class kids to the trenches of World War One. Mark Stewart perhaps has more claim to Blake’s legacy. It’s clear from his texts and the images he uses that he’s had visions of ‘England’ that are both beautiful and horrific. The fact that the track is dubbed to fuck also provides a kick in the teeth to people who like things nice and tidy, who hark back to the Empire, the stiff upper lip, nicely clipped lawns and the ordered tyranny against everyone not male and upper class that is ‘our’ proud heritage.

It’s probably worth pointing out that the history of ‘madness’ in music is something that has always gone hand in hand with Mark Stewart’s output. Certainly he has been portrayed in the press as being dangerously paranoid, and rumours abound as to ‘no-shows’ at On-U Sound gigs being due to hospitalisation. As with Lee Perry, there is a nice little box for people who ask too many questions, admit to having problems, come from working class backgrounds and dare to put it all on a record. That box is the ‘mad’ box and once you’re in it you are guaranteed a certain underground acceptance, complete with the usual parade of black clad ghouls who gloat about other people’s suffering /deviance. Oh, and you also get to be successful after you’re dead or have managed to hold on for so long. Perhaps one of the issues that the Mad Pride movement could address would be madness as counter-cultural marketing tool – the recuperation of psychosis.

The track itself continues the theme of a disregard for copyright kicked off by The Pop Group, phasing an un-credited choral version of the song in and out of the mix. Surprisingly, this version has never been aired at the Last Night of the Proms.’



England @ the time of Mark Stewart’s Jerusalem: The 20th century

1 March 1981: Second Hunger Strike led by provisional IRA prisoner Bobby Sands. Sands begins a new hunger strike on the fifth anniversary of the ending of Special Category status.

2 April: A 600-strong street party is held in the St Paul’s district of Bristol one year after a police raid on the Black and White Café triggered the most serious riots on the British mainland since before World War II.

6 April: The latest government figures show unemployment rising from 1.5 million to 2.5 million in 12 months. Joblessness among ethnic minorities is rising even faster, up 82% in one year.

9 April 1981: Sands elected MP. Forty days into his hunger strike, Sands wins the seat for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

10 April: In an indication of the mistrust felt towards the police by the black community, fuelled by Operation Swamp 81, police in Brixton who claim to be treating a black stabbing victim are surrounded by about 50 black youths, who ‘rescue’ the victim. Police reinforcements are driven back and tension remains high all day with sporadic confrontations between black youths and the police.

11 April: The arrest of a black youth outside a minicab office in Atlantic Road, Brixton, following a scuffle with a plain-clothes police officer, triggers violent clashes with police. At 5pm, a police car is set alight; an hour and a half later, the first petrol bombs are thrown. By the end of the night, 14 properties and 22 vehicles have been destroyed by fire. The Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir David McNee declares: ‘I have this message for the people of Brixton. We will uphold and enforce law. Brixton is not a no-go area, nor will it be.’

12 April: Home secretary William Whitelaw tours Brixton with the Metropolitan Police commissioner to taunts of ‘Seig heil!’ and ‘Why haven’t you been here before?’ That night sees further clashes and looting. In all, 7,300 police are deployed in Brixton before order is finally restored.

13 April: Home secretary William Whitelaw announces the appointment of Lord Scarman to conduct a public enquiry into the disturbances in Brixton. Scarman previously headed an enquiry into the violent clashes at Red Lion Square in 1975, when a student, Kevin Gateley, was killed during protests against a National Front rally.

Prime minister Margaret Thatcher dismisses suggestions that unemployment and racism lie beneath the Brixton disturbances, even though figures show that half of Brixton’s black population are without jobs

17 April: On a trip to India, prime minister Margaret Thatcher defends the government’s Nationality Bill, which will further limit the rights of people from the black Commonwealth to come to Britain, and will make Britain the only country in the world where being born within its borders does not automatically confer nationality. She says immigration needs to be limited. The Times of India is unimpressed. Thatcher, it declares, ‘has done more harm to race relations in Britain than any other post-war leader there’.

20 April: More than 100 people are arrested and 15 police injured in clashes with mainly black youths at fairs in Finsbury Park, Forest Gate and Ealing, all in London. A further 350 are arrested in ‘incidents outside London’. Most go unreported by the press, but they offer a hint of how widespread is the potential for violent confrontation.

5 May 1981: Bobby Sands dies on 66th day of hunger strike. His death causes rioting in Northern Ireland and in the Republic 100,000 attend his funeral. The next day, provisional IRA prisoner, Joe McDonnell starts a hunger strike to take the place of Sands. Another nine IRA members fast to death.

30 May: The Trade Union Congress People’s March for Jobs arrives in London, where 100,000-plus march to Trafalgar Square.

8 June: The Black Parents Association in Manchester says that Moss Side police station ‘has long been regarded by the black community as the operational base of a racist army in occupation’. It accuses the police of ‘SAS-style raids’ and ‘brutality, violence, intimidation and racial abuse’. This follows the use of 16 police vehicles and 28 officers to arrest a youth who had gone into a library carrying a 2 foot (0.6 metre) bamboo cane; he was later released without charge. Local minister, the Reverend Alex Mitchell, says Moss Side is a tinderbox but fears that warnings of a riot could become self-fulfilling.

13-14 June: More than 80 arrests are made during clashes between skinhead racists and black people in Coventry, where the National Front is planning a march later that month – on the same day as an anti-racist concert by local band, The Specials.

15 June: Lord Scarman’s enquiry into the Brixton riots opens.

June-July: A wave of far-right attacks on the premises of black, multi-racial and left-wing organisations claims bookshops, the Labour Party, the Runnymede Trust and a north London community centre, burnt out in an arson attack, among its targets. In Walthamstow, four members of the Khan family, including three children, are killed in an arson attack on their home. Between 1976 and 1981 there have been 31 racist murders of black people in Britain. These include, in 1981, a disabled Sikh woman killed in Leeds after a petrol bomb attack on her home, and an elderly Asian woman in Leamington Spa, set alight after racists doused her in petrol.

3 July: The Hamborough Tavern in Southall – the heart of one of Britain’s biggest Asian communities – is host to a far-right skinhead concert by The Foreskins. Several hundred skinheads, many of them sporting National Front banners and badges, are bussed in from outside. The pub comes under attack from Asian youths after an Asian woman is assaulted; it is eventually firebombed and burnt out. Barricades go up and the Uxbridge Road is sealed off. The police seem completely unprepared for the trouble that such a concert might cause, even though it was a National Front meeting in Southall in 1979 that led to the death of anti-racist protester Blair Peach after he was struck on the head with a police truncheon.

4-8 July: Liverpool 8, better known as Toxteth to outsiders, goes up in flames in four nights of what home secretary William Whitelaw describes as ‘violence of extraordinary ferocity’. Police are forced to withdraw from a one-mile stretch of the main road through Toxteth as 150 buildings are burnt down and some 781 police officers are put out of action. Only when CS gas is used for the first time on the British mainland do the police regain control of the streets. Contrary to safety instructions, the gas is fired directly at people, resulting in a number of serious injuries.

7 July: Merseyside Chief Constable Kenneth Oxford accuses around 100 ‘thieves and vagabonds’ living in Toxteth of being ringleaders of the violence, and further inflames local feeling with his description of black Liverpudlians as ‘the product of liaisons between white prostitutes and black sailors’. Meanwhile, Teddy Taylor MP calls for the police to be issued with water cannon, and his fellow Tory Michael Brown demands an end to all immigration. The Liberal leader of Liverpool City Council, Trevor Jones, demands that the army be put on standby, and senior Social Democrat politician Shirley Williams accuses the left-wing Militant Tendency of training people for riots. Unemployment has risen to 37%, climbing to 60% among young blacks, with 81,000 people chasing 1,019 jobs in Liverpool as a whole. As the end of the school term approaches, the local careers office has information on just 12 vacancies to offer school leavers throughout the city.

Around 250 youths, black and white, clash with police in Wood Green, north London; 43 are charged with theft and violence.

8 July: More than 1,000 young people besiege the police station at Moss Side, Manchester.

9 July: Three hundred police are required to quell street disturbances in Woolwich, south London.

10 July: New riots in Brixton are accompanied by a wave of disturbances the length and breadth of Britain. Southall, Battersea, Dalston, Streatham and Walthamstow in London, Handsworth in Birmingham, Chapeltown in Leeds, Highfields in Leicester, Ellesmere Port, Luton, Leicester, Sheffield, Portsmouth, Preston, Newcastle, Derby, Southampton, Nottingham, High Wycombe, Bedford, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, Stockport, Blackburn, Huddersfield, Reading, Chester, Aldershot – all these and other towns and cities report ‘riots’ of varying degrees over the next few days.

Margaret Thatcher cancels a planned visit to Toxteth because her safety cannot be guaranteed. In London, all demonstrations and marches, including one planned by the National Front in Chelsea, are banned for a month. A funeral procession for Mrs Parveen Khan and her three children, killed in an arson attack at the end of June, is called off due to fears of disorder.

13 July: Having cancelled her earlier planned visit, Margaret Thatcher pays an 8am visit to Toxteth. Merseyside chief constable Kenneth Oxford calls for armoured cars for the police, while government ‘insiders’ suggest that army camps might be used to detain rioters.

15 July: Early morning raids in search of alleged petrol bombs (none are found) trigger new clashes in Brixton, but the wave of disturbances is fading as fast as it arose. A de facto media blackout is imposed on potential ‘flashpoints’, to avoid a build-up of large numbers of people and to prevent supposed ‘copycat’ or media-induced rioting

16 July: Environment secretary Michael Heseltine is appointed ‘minister for Liverpool’ in a high-profile government attempt to bring new initiatives to bear on the decline and massive unemployment of this once-wealthy slave port. He reiterates, however, that no additional government money will be made available to the riot-hit areas.

25 July: 1,000 motorcyclists clash with police in the Lake District town of Keswick, perhaps the last large-scale confrontation of the summer, although isolated clashes between young people and the police continue on a much smaller scale until the autumn.


‘It didn’t occur to me until today, the morning after William Blake’s 250th anniversary, to post, by way of celebration, Mark Stewart’s version of Jerusalem with the Maffia, now 25-years-old itself, and sounding, if anything, more contemporary than it did at the time. I’ve just fallen into a very strange imaginary space, trying to imagine what Blake himself would have thought of it.’

- enthusiasm » William-Blake

Timeline Sources

Frontline: The IRA & Sinn Fein: Chronology , PBS



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