The annual get-together of the Trades Union Congress, coinciding with the onset of autumn, tends to make one feel a little nostalgic for times past. So here’s a song from 1974 that was looking back to a bygone industrial world even when it was first released.
Alan Price’s album Between Today and Yesterday revisited his roots in the mining communities of the north-east, and produced perhaps his best known solo single, ‘The Jarrow Song’. The timing was deliberate, of course. The album was recorded at a time when the trade unions were coming into direct conflict with the Conservative government of Edward Heath, and Price – unusually for a rock star of the day – knew which side he was on.
The real standout on the record, though, is not the hit but the song ‘Under the Sun’, a beautiful, melancholic composition with an arrangement by Derek Wadsworth that echoes the brass-band tradition. It is not perhaps obvious, since Price’s lyrics are deliberately sketchy, but the song is a lament for miners killed in a pit disaster, and deals with the grieving widows at their funerals. Bear that in mind when listening, and you’ll find it heartbreaking.