Know your Socialist R&B

Given that R&B does exactly what it says on the tin, it is astonishing how many people have lost sight of what it really means. You take the blues – a set of fancy scales, if you’re a soulless technical player, or a feel that you can’t be tricked into, or out of, if you’re a warm-blooded human being with soul. You then put a rhythm section under them. You create blues you can dance to. You have R&B.

So it’s easy to know you’re listening to R&B – it’s blues music, with a rhythm section, it’s chock-full of soul, and you can dance to it. The Stones were R&B. Sun-era Elvis was R&B. Dr Feelgood were R&B. Chuck Berry was R&B. The Small Faces were R&B. Sam Cooke was R&B. Thee Faction are R&B. When you hear R&B you know it’s R&B. If you hear Dire Straits and think you’re hearing R&B, you need to re-tune.

There are various noteworthy offshoots of R&B, and no doubt you can find venn diagrams and flow charts demonstrating how one relates to another. If you’re the sort of bourgeois trivia gatherer who needs to do that, good luck to you. The only offshoot of R&B which should be of any interest to comrades is Socialist R&B.

Now Socialist R&B is generally regarded by aficionados to be R&B in its purest form. The purer the R&B sounds, the more likely it is to be Socialist R&B. You know it when you hear it. You can google it. You’ll probably just get a load of links to Thee Faction. Cos as far as the general public is concerned, Thee Faction have always been the public face of Socialist R&B. But there’s plenty more out there. Dig through the archives at Sun, at Chess, or at Stax. You’ll find Socialist R&B in there.

What are the pointers? You know how to spot R&B. Add to that the bite of the local rabble-rouser, the spine-tingling of the trade union anthem, the spirit of the Communist Manifesto, the clang of the factory, the unpleasantness of wage labour , the violence of the extraction of surplus value, the pain of alienation, and the bite of what Engels called the ‘dull compulsion of the economic’. That’s your Socialist R&B.

That is Thee Faction.



  1. Nylons just called to say that he’s with Brentford on this. Looks like we can add Dire Straits to the Situationist International and Entryism on our list of ‘things which divide Thee Faction’.

    As I said, this piece isn’t the last word on defining Socialist R&B. No doubt there’ll be an update soon.


  2. Much as I object to the internal bickering which has upset too many leftist movements, I feel I must write in defence of Dire Straits, whom you suggest as the anti-Socialist-RnB-band.

    Whilst I accept that their huge success affects their credentials, there are certain elements of Socialst R&B about their sound.

    The Knopfler brothers’ father was an emigre from Hungary, where he was escaping the Nazis as a card-carrying Communist.

    The band paid their dues playing R&B in pubs, (firstly as Brewers Droop) mainly around Deptford.

    ‘Sultans of Swing’ IS a Socialist R&B song, about a real band who eschewed rock cliche by being purists and loving their music as a hobby. Guitar George was Teenage Fanclub’s guitar tech for many years and was very much a Socialist. The man who broke them by playing the demo of ‘Sultans Of Swing’ on his radio show was my dear friend the late Charlie Gillet, who was very much a Socialist and an expert on R&B.

    I also refer you to brilliant anti-war song ‘Brothers In Arms’ and the rock excess-baiting ‘Money For Nothing’ (although the latter inexcusibly features Sting).



    1. Hi, i dont really care if Dire Straits were R&B or even if the the bloke who knew all the chords was a roady for a week indy band – they are wankers.


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