Bob From Brockley: The theme tunes

Dave at Though Cowards Flinch tagged me with this theme tune meme, and then lovely Carl reminded me. They both picked two tunes (Carl's included one of my favourite songs, and a song I really love): opening and closing credits I guess. I found it almost impossible to narrow down from my mental longlist of about 20, but finally managed.

I aimed for songs that capture the effect I aim for at Bob From Brockley: to recreate the feeling of reading Hannah Arendt while eating greasy southern fried chicken bought in a Turkish Cypriot takeaway on the top deck of the 171 bus listening to Johnny Cash on your iPod but unable to hear it because the kids next to you is playing tinny grime music on his mobile phone. Here they are:

Calexico - Guns of Brixton

This epic spaghetti western cover of the Clash classic about police brutality is beautiful to listen to, but also somehow transposes the landscape of urban Sarf London to the American west, and so nicely chimes with my trans-Atlantic sensibility. (It's the reverse move to Alabama 3, who featured in my longlist.)

Oi Va Voi  - S'Brent

I've already written about this anti-fascist anthem: It's by Mordechai Gebirtig, who died in 1942 in the Kracow Ghetto. "S'Brent" tells the story of the burning of a shtetl, Przytyk, in 1936; rather than being simply a cry of agony, it is a call to action ("Di hilf iz nor in aykh aleyn gevendt" - help is in your hands alone) , and it was adopted as the anthem of the Kracow underground resistance during Nazi occupation. (Gebertig, incidentally, was a socialist, a member of Henryk Grossman's Jewish Social Democratic Party, which became part of the Bund.) You can listen to several other versions here (my recommendation is probably the one by Argentinian/Mexican cantor Leibele Jinich). Oi Va Voi's version features the gorgeous voice of Agi Szaloki, a young Hungarian folk and jazz singer who specialises in Gypsy traditions. You can listen to some clips of her music at her website. I've seen Oi Va Voi live a number of times, and they rock. When I first heard of them, as "a drum & bass klezmer band", I thought it was a comedy gimick, but I was so wrong.

Carl tagged six people, so I'll follow his example. I'm tagging Jams, Roland, Flesh, Steve, Rosie and Graeme. I'm overdue on another music meme or two, so other friends be expecting other tags soon!

P.S.  I know this is cheating, but here's some items from the longlist: Chumbawamba and Credit to the Nation "Enough is Enough"; Alabama 3 "The Old Purple Tin (9% of Pure Heaven)"; Woody Guthrie "Deportees"; Apachi UK "Original Nuttah"; Ewan MacColl "Sweet Thames Flow Softly"; Junior Murvin "Police and Thieves"; Massive Attack "Be Thankful"; Johnny Cash "Man in Black".


jams o donnell said…
Thanks Bob I'll put up my ofering shortly
Anonymous said…

excellent set of tunes! i've listened to a few pieces by oi va voi before, but this is the first time i've heard s'brent. very powerful, especially the lyric you quoted. and, the calexico track as well as your remarks about reading arendt and eating greasy fried chicken put me in mind of a now all but forgotten group originally from l.a. called "rank and file" who were among some of the early practitioners of cowboy punk. their first album "sundown" is pretty amazing. a combination of early 80s post-punk and johnny cash, with some pretty good lyrics. and that album cover: stark strands of barbed wire against a stylized western sunset.

BenSix said…
Really enjoyed S'Brent. Cheers.
Anonymous said…
I'll have to keep my ears open for more klezmer-infused drum 'n' bass. Are they good live, I looked at pictures of their shows, it looks like an interesting set up. They are playing KOKO in Camden 16th of June, I might go along.

Excellent choices.
anshl said…
some problems with yiddish words... "zikh" is not "zich" and yiddish is not german.
bob said…
Anshl, not sure what you're referring to - do you mean in the way they sing it? I'll have to listen more carefully. The lyrics on the youtube video look correct Yiddish to me (see below).

Carl, I saw them live a fair few times but a while back when they had a different line up, with KT Tunstall (before she was famous) doing most of the vocals, and with Sophie Solomon and Lema Lovaz (both incredibly charismatic) at the front. They were fantatic live then, really dynamic.

Les, Good to hear from you - it's been a while! I've never heard of Rank and File, but I will seek them out. By the way, I am sort of toying with the idea of organising a bob from brockley drinking session. If you are interested in participating, e-mail me at bobfrombrockley at gmail dot com .

Ben, Glad you liked it. I just realised I've never added you to my blogroll, something I will remedy!
dave said…
Wow, interesting cover! I always think it's brave when someone covers a song and completely takes out or changes some fundamental musical component, in this case the amazing, iconic bassline. I think it works, though, gives it a darker edge, which at first sounded a little over the top to me, but by the end, I was sold! Awesome!

If you're into Spaghetti Western sounding music, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called "Showdown at the BK Corral." It's basically an epic Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks - very influenced by Morricone and Leone. I'd love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at
Roland Dodds said…
Thanks Bob, I will get to it later this week.
anshl said…
the way they pronounce yiddish - not so bad... (erger iz nokh miglekh..) but not so good. do you try to sing hungarian if it would not be your language...