Cost of living: Squeeze and Bruce Springstein's response to crisis shows ageing rockers can still give us food for thought – Susan Dalgety
But when we arrived at the Usher Hall last Wednesday to see Squeeze we were greeted, not by hoodies emblazoned with Cool for Cats – arguably their biggest hit – but by a Trussell Trust banner. And the band’s website urged fans to bring food donations to the gig or make a cash donation on the night.
“It's terrible and wrong that so many people have no choice other than the help that food banks provide to feed their family,” the band’s lead singer, Glen Tilbrook, writes on their website, adding that it’s a disgrace that so many people have to choose between food and heating.
Tilbrook and his song-writing partner of nearly 50 years, Chris Difford, have put their money firmly where their mouths are. Their latest single, released earlier this month, is Food for Thought. Profits from the record – which is available digitally – will go to food banks across the country, and its lyrics are clear about who they blame for the terrible situation that sees thousands across our city depend on charity to eat.
“Politicians with no shame… pay less taxes, ditch red tape, cosy contracts for their mates. Cutting help right to the bone, empty stomachs, freezing home,” sings Tilbrook. Food for Thought may not be quite as brilliant as their 1979 hit Up the Junction, a plaintive tale of love and poverty in 1970s London, but it is significant that in five decades, nothing much in our society has changed.
We may have traded phone boxes for smart phones and chats down the pub for social media, but beneath the 21st century fake glamour is a country in crisis.
A survey by Edinburgh marketing agency The Union published a few days ago shows that nine out of ten Scots are seriously concerned about the cost of living. The report suggests that people are being “pushed to their limit”. “It’s also about how a whole nation have had to change their spending behaviours to cope…” says Adam Swann, The Union’s chief strategy officer.
I hazard a guess that most of the audience at Squeeze’s Edinburgh gig last week will never have to use one of the city’s food banks. If you can afford £50 a ticket to see a band which last had a top ten single when Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister, you’re probably not going to be in need of a food parcel. But you will be in a position to help those who do.
Bruce Springsteen, who has supported food banks since the early 1980s, recently gave permission for Fulfill, a New Jersey food bank, to use his words and name on a t-shirt to raise money for the charity.
For once a rock star’s merchandise is worth every penny, as one T-shirt alone will pay for 50 meals. The T-shirts bear Springsteen’s memorable phrase: “Remember, in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins.” Food for thought for all of us.