To The Finland Station – Domino Theory

Home made paper sleeve printed by Islington Community Press? Check. Record stapled inside sleeve? Check. Full and transparent list of costs associated with record? Check. A statement eulogising the independent ethos? Check. Links for information on cooperatives and “Yankee Crimes”? Check. An address for the El Salvador Solidarity campaign? Check. A slagging off of national radio and a list of pirate radio stations where you might get to hear this record? Check. A list of dialectical statements? Check. Grainy photos of the band and cartoons illustrating the political points? Check.

If ever there was a record in my collection which sums up the DIY ethic of the early eighties, this is it. But what a record! Everything about this record is political from the name of the band to the method of the record’s production to the content of the song.The band’s name was taken from the book of the same name by Edmund Wilson which traced socialism from the French Revolution to the arrival of Lenin at the Finland Station in St Petersberg. The title of the song refers to the idea that if one country falls to communism then surrounding countries are susceptible and will follow in a domino effect. The central idea behind this song is that America is using this theory to justify their attempts to destabilise the government in El Salvador.

From the very first words of the song (“Russian troops on the Polish border”) we realise we are unlikely to be troubled by anybody’s baby leaving them. By the second verse, Julian MacQueen is having such difficulty fitting the words into the structure of the song we wonder whether Richey Manic has had a hand in the lyrics. By the third verse (“The junta and the westernised elite / Is bound together with US forces), we’re left wondering how this was ever replicated on stage. There is both optimism (“I see final victory / Imperialism will be defeated”) and anger (“US interest/ Shoot people like cattle/ Counter insurgency / Euphemism for torture”). The song ends with the then current situation in El Salvador. The US had denied any involvement in trying to destabilise the newly installed Socialist government but the song rightly concludes (and history proved them right) “American arms in El Salvador.”

Now all this earnestness in the lyrics may lead you to believe that the song itself is going to be ponderous. Nothing could be further from the truth. The song rattles along at a furious paste with fantastic backing vocals which recall women yodelling in the Appalachians (honestly better than it sounds). Julian MacQueen’s vocal is right out front and gloriously articulated. The tune itself is one which will linger in the memory, much like the atrocities committed by US forces from Vietnam to El Salvador to Afghanistan.

All pop is political but some pop is more political than others. Any fan of early Manics should love this. The crime is that hardly anyone was listening then and they’re certainly not listening now.

Here’s a link so you can hear it for yourselves:

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4 Responses to To The Finland Station – Domino Theory

  1. I’ve been looking for anything about this record for a while, after it dawned on me that there really had been a band called ‘To the Finland Station,’ and I hadn’t just imagined it. I must have heard it on John Peel at the time, and vaguely remembered that it was a good record ever since. Unfortunately i can’t find any more by them, on youtube or anywhere else. This is a good blog, you write about a lot of good music.


    • Thank you for the compliments. My dad actually saw To The Finland Station at a free open air festival in Clissold Park. So they must have had the songs for a full album but it doesn’t look as though they ever released one.


  2. deang

    For some reason, this song popped into my head a few days ago. I hadn’t heard it since the early eighties, when it was played sometimes on an “underground” radio show out of Dallas, Texas, (of all places) where I lived at the time. Now, I need to look for other songs by this band. Haven’t had much luck finding any so far. Thanks for posting.


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