Culture: Don't get too close to Labour, rock star warns

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The Independent Online
The British music industry is endangering itself by cosying up to the Government according to former rock star and agit-prop artist Bill Drummond. Paul McCann asks if there are really no more rebels any more.

It is difficult to imagine the Special AKA singing "Stand Down Tony" or Elvis Costello wanting to "Tramp the dirt down" on this Prime Minister's grave as he did with Mrs Thatcher.

In fact it is so difficult to imagine a rock 'n' roll opposition to a Prime Minister who has Noel Gallagher round for drinks that one erstwhile rock star has called for a halt on the music industry's pally attitude to Labour.

Bill Drummond, part of the art pranksters the K Foundation, formerly known as the groups Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and the KLF, has attacked Alan McGee, head of Oasis's record company, Creation, for joining the Government's task force on the arts.

"I'm getting very frightened," Drummond said yesterday. "It seems that the establishment has pulled the arts to its bosom, but it is the job of the arts to stand outside the establishment. As soon as you start becoming part of the PR of a government you are getting into a dangerous area."

Mr McGee maintained on the BBC's Today programme that he was not a rebel which is why he is on the Government's Arts Task Force: "It's to ... make it easier for people in the industry," he said. "The management of bands is currently very inexperienced, there is no training. With government assistance the music industry can be juicier."

The Government has dedicated itself to assisting the "creative" industries such as film, music and design, which it sees as areas of future economic growth. It even sent a minister, Mark Fisher, to the Glastonbury festival . But Drummond is concerned that rock music will be damaged by government intervention and that opposition to the Government will be limited: "At the moment there is no cultural opposition."

Despite a proud history of a musical opposition to the ruling establishment, going back to Bob Dylan's protest songs, the trend seems to have petered out. From the class war of the Jam's "Eton Rifles" to UB40 singing "I am a One in Ten", every band worth their salt in the Eighties lined up to oppose the government of the day. Even Bruce Springsteen sang Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land", anthem of the International Trade Union Movement, in stadia full of Reagan-voting yuppies. In the Nineties, opposition rock has been championed by anarcho-crusty bands such as the Levellers, with their support for environmental causes.

Drummond, whose oppositional antics have included taking a dead sheep to the Brit awards, hijacking the Turner Prize and burning pounds 1m of his own money, believes the rock world's fraternisation with Labour in opposition should stop now it is in power.

He is taking a stand against Labour by setting up a campaign to "F**k the Millennium". The K Foundation took out national advertisements this week to ask people to phone in and say whether they want the K Foundation to "F**k the Millennium".

For further evidence of the cosiness between rock and power, he need have looked no further than Chequers yesterday , where Mr Blair played host to former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney at a "private" meeting.