Not enough people know Credit To The Nation Call It What You Want, I just love it. Okay, so it has that sample, they were given clearance in 1993 to use that holiest of holies the opening riff to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and use it they did; but it’s not all about an opportunistic Nirvana steal by any means. Owning this record pins me to a particular time and place and political persuasion, as neatly as any butterfly collector could skewer a 1537arius Leftwingystudensis. Let’s dial it back a notch or two, 1992-ish various nasty extremists like the British National Party (BNP)and the National Front (NF) were on the move and so for floppy-haired pinko students like me there was only one course of action to take, we’d buy political records by all manner of right-on artists – that’d show those skinhead bounders! I vaguely remember, the eminently detestable, Morrissey stirring the pot with some casually racist remarks around this time too – although I’m hazy on the details, so I may be wrong.
Concerned citizen that I was I also joined various anti-fascist groups all of whom seemed to really enjoy counter-demonstrating at NF marches, this meant that I was catapulted from spending Saturdays lazily lying around in bed followed by a spot of academic work in the library, to being chased around various grim town centres in the North of England by packs of baying skinheads intent on separating my long-haired head from my skinny torso. Good move, farm boy! But that’s all a story for another time.
Anyway out of all this that I remember we had various rabble-rousing interviews and tracks from, my new heroes, Manic Street Preachers, Transglobal Underground, Marxman, Huggy Bear, Chumbawumba, Blaggers ITA, Cornershop and other concerned chaps and chapesses of varying degrees of interest to me. Credit To The Nation were one I really took a bit of a shine to. Partly because I rather like MC Fusion, or Matty I think his real name was, a little shaven headed chap from Birmingham who always talked a good game and more importantly could put a damn fine tune, or two on wax. I saw them open a show for Manic Street Preachers in Leeds and really enjoyed it too* and I already had a couple of singles of his by that point.
‘Call It What You Want’ is about racism, which we learn during the course of the song is a bad thing. Actually I’m being an arse, it’s strident and simplistic as any properly rabble rousing track needs to be but it’s also funny, particularly when he’s listing everything white and black people can do ‘Walk like you / Talk like you / Jump like you / Play like you / Dance like you … Hmm, well maybe something’s differ’. The Nirvana sample drives the song, but Public Enemy’s ‘Welcome To The Terrordome’ is also pretty prominent in there too, it really can’t do any wrong for me. I remember various DJ’s would tease you with the opening chords of ‘Teen Spirit’ and you wouldn’t know whether it was the real McCoy, or ‘Call It What You Want’ – who cared? it was all just a good excuse to get sweaty.
Skipping over the remix which conforms to the 3rd law of 1537, we have ‘The Lady Needs Respect’ as the B-side, a really good track about sexism and respect, making a few cogent remarks about the overuse of the word ‘bitch’ in hip-hop, without hectoring us too much; which really is the skill of protest/political music when you think about it. Basically I see the whole point of it as getting that balance entirely right between tune and message, if you don’t crack that then it can be a little like sitting next to a man with a megaphone reading the paper to you on a train.
Like I said, not enough people know about Credit To The Nation. Regardless of political content, this is a great tune.
*one of my fave gigs ever, a real lifesaver, but I’ll bore you about that one later.