Obits — April 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

‘Margaret on the Guillotine’: Revisiting the classic anti-Thatcher songs of the ’80s

Margaret Thatcher

As one of our readers noted this morning, Morrissey finally got the answer to the question he posed of Margaret Thatcher in his controversial Viva Hate closer “Margaret on the Guillotine”: “When will you die?” The former British prime minister passed away today at age  87.

As such, it’s worth looking back at some of the great music inspired by the divisive leader. Much like the American punk/hardcore/indie scene’s reaction against Ronald Reagan, the U.K. conservative inspired a host of classic protest songs, from the aforementioned Morrissey track — the title of which originally was considered for The Queen is Dead — to songs by Elvis Costello, The Specials, Billy Bragg and more.

Below, we’ve assembled a few of the obvious standouts, but please feel free to add your own — and your memories of the songs and the era —in the comments below.


Morrissey, “Margaret on the Guillotine” (1988)


The Beat, “Stand Down Margaret” (1980)


Elvis Costello, “Shipbuilding” (1983)


Elvis Costello, “Tramp the Dirt Down” (1989)


The Specials, “Maggie’s Farm” (1980)


The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981)


Crass, “How Does It Feel to Be the Mother of a Thousand Dead” (1983)


Madness, “Blue Skinned Beast” (1982)


Billy Bragg, “Between the Wars” (1985)


Kitchens of Distinction, “Margaret’s Injection” (1989)


New Model Army, “Spirit of the Falklands” (1984)




  1. Nice Update!
    They are rewriting history on other sites, but this music speaks true.

  2. Mark Miller

    Don’t forget “Sh**ting On Britain” by the Shamen.

  3. …or ‘Maggie’, by The Exploited.

  4. Dave Tripa

    Pink Floyd, “The Fletcher Memorial Home” (1983)

  5. … and the best of all?

    Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – Left Us To Burn – check those lyrics.

  6. How can you not include Dead Kennedys’ “Kinky Sex Makes he World Go Round?”

  7. Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds” … that song makes me cry every time!!

  8. Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds”

  9. Sinead O’Connor – “Black Boys on Mopeds”

  10. I was going to suggest this for your Dark Wave show. now its more appropriate…

    The The – Heartland

    • Spot on!
      The album that describes Thatcher’s legacy the best is The The’s “Infected” from 1986, IMO.
      Just go through its song lyrics and you’ll get everything perfectly fine.
      Matt Johnson is a true genius in all that sense. His ahead-of-time lyrics are as relevant today as they were the first time around, if not even more.
      Wish today’s music scene full of absolute drivel could spawn a lyricist as great as he was/still is.

      • Trent Rezor wishes he was Matt Johnson.

        Love is greater than Death got me through my Mom’s death. It was about his brother.

  11. The Cleaners From Venus – “Living With Victoria Grey”

  12. I’ll pick “Tango Atlantico” by Joe Jackson:

    Can you imagine this
    The general and the lady dance
    She flashes victory signs and smokes cigars
    He shines his medals up for one last chance

  13. Don’t forget “Stand or Fall” by the Fixx

  14. The Blow Monkeys with Curtis Mayfield, “(Celebrate) The Day After You” (1987):

  15. She was only a grocer’s daughter by The Blow Monkeys.

  16. A playlist here I put together on Spotify that’ll refresh a few forgotten/important tracks Thatcher inspired.

  17. Scott Stalcup

    A bit later, but given that Pete Wylie sprung from the same period as Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch (as well as the rest of the Bunnymen), gotta include his “The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies.”

  18. Rob Oviatt

    Swervedriver’s “Harry and Maggie”

  19. Shame that you forgot Sinead’s “Black Boys On Mopeds”.

  20. The mighty Chameleons – ‘Singing Rule Britannia (While the Walls Close In)”

    And the equally as mighty Adrian Borland and the Sound – “The New Dark Age”

    Both absolute classic tunes.

  21. Blue by the Fine Young Cannibals
    “life would be better if I never had to live with you”

  22. Happy Hour by The Housemartins

  23. Francis deBlanc

    “Madame Medusa”- UB40

  24. Other Person

    Tht Pop Group ‘We Are (Still) All Prostitutes’

  25. Mr. Important

    Nardwuar’s “Welcome To My Castle”!!

  26. Heaven 17 – “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” (single, 1981)
    The Police – “Invisible Sun” (single, 1981)
    UB40 – “One In Ten” (single, 1981)
    Cabaret Voltaire – “Red Mecca” (album, 1981)

    …are there as well.

  27. The most explicite statement about MT was “Mighty Wah’s”: the day Margaret Thatcher died”.

  28. Even though I supported any political statement and any anti MT / RR song about their “we don’t care about you your families and your jobs” politics, today’s article in NME about recent no1 in UK selling charts is low and it disgust me. I’ve never had good opinion about dancing on the dead man’s grave. Fight them when they are alive.

    • [QUOTE]
      I’ve never had good opinion about dancing on the dead man’s grave. Fight them when they are alive.[/QUOTE]

      Wise words here, Toni. All those destroyers of the societies/countries should be fought when they are alive indeed. Nothing hurts as much as when you’re alive. The dead don’t feel anything. Dancing on the dead man’s grave is morbid even when your worst enemy is included in.

  29. Here’s some apt images set to Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – LEFT US TO BURN. Enjoy!

  30. Money’s Too Tight To Mention – Simply Red

    Sad to see her go. She was a rare principled leader.

  31. Style Council: The Lodgers (Or She Was Only A Shopkeepers Daughter) / Our Favorite Shop. Basically the entire album was anti-Thatcher.

  32. Thatcher is more punk than punk will ever be.

  33. greg morrissey

    “Kenneth Baker” by Bill Pritchard

  34. “free World” – Kirsty MacColl

  35. Where in the hell is all the great music that should be inspired by the Trump presidency? Ronald Reagan inspired some of the best music of my 20s and I damn well expect the musicians of the day to do more than sit on their hands during this shitshow.

  36. The Specials’ “Maggie’s Farm” is actually a cover of the Bob Dylan’s 1965 song of the same name, long before Thatcher was PM. The song is an appropriation of the traditional song “Penny’s Farm,” first recorded by North Carolina’s Bentley Brothers in 1929.

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