Three songs about… Domestic Violence

It’s probably safe to say that the subject of Domestic Violence is probably about as far away from the She Loves You/I Want To Hold Your Hand axis that lies at the backbone of modern pop music. But the ability of songs to capture and convey complex emotions is quite remarkable.

The plotline of ‘…Boy meets girl, Boy falls out with girl, Boy turns to violence to express his anger and frustration…’ doesn’t sound much like the recipe for a hit machine, and writing political material is so unfashionable nowadays. However there are still enough artists out there who know when something needs saying and recognise the power of music to teach and explain. But how do you tell the story?

Hidden away as the B-side of New Order’s 1987 smash True Faith, their song 1963 performs the interesting trick of mixing dance melodies with dark themes to tell the story of “a love affair when the love is gone” while also highlighting the problem of repeat offending by the perpetrators of domestic violence. There’s a real cinematic feel to the song, particularly as the Hitchcockian strings come in from the “Johnny, don’t point that gun at me” chorus through to the tragic end of the song. Powerful and evocative.

If 1963 captures the feel of a thriller film, then Billy Bragg’s Levi Stubbs Tears would probably be a kitchen sink drama – gritty and emotional in different kind of way. This time the song isn’t told by the victim but about the victim – making the point that while broken bones may well mend with time, the emotional scars will not. And sometimes what can hurt the most is to be on the receiving end of an attack from someone you thought loved you. Or as Billy put it “though they stitched her back together, they left her heart in pieces on the floor”. The other nice message is about the redeeming power of music, with the victim taking solace from the Four Tops with the lovely bridge in the song explaining “Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong Are here to make everything right that’s wrong. Holland and Holland and Lamont Dozier too, Are here to make it all okay with you.”

Susanne Vega’s Luka looks into the victim’s mind from different perspective, focusing on how they often deny what has been happening to them when asked. “I walked into the door again, If you ask that’s what I’ll say – And it’s not your business anyway”, once again demonstrating that, often, the emotional damage caused through domestic violence can be even more pernicious than the physical injuries and that our ability to sometimes deny the worst behaviour of those we love can be a harmful thing.

If you, or someone you know, needs help to tackle domestic violence there is more information and links to a number of resources on the NHS website

Listen to the songs here


Levi Stubbs’ Tears


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