"All them people — I can't see where they end." A pre-teens boy perched on his dad's shoulders stared open-mouthed around Brockwell Park at "all them people" — Lambeth Council's official estimate was 150,000, ITV News said 60,000, take your pick. Either way there were more there than even Vicky Park.
The music at moments like this, although cementing the proceedings together, is secondary to the event itself and its politics — the only politics that matter, the politics of living.
The event had begun hours before as an estimated 50,000 gathered in Hyde Park to politely listen to speeches from labour movement bigboys and, more enthusiastically, to Tom Robinson's message that the real battle starts when today has ended. Then the crowd filed off-like some huge festive snake, winding its colourful path over Vauxhall Bridge and down to Brixton.
20 teenage Londoners, embryonic Jilted Johns to a man, decided to forget Gordon for the real thing 'Webster is a moron' they sang, and 'Disembowel Enoch Powell'. Everywhere people were smiling, laughing, dancing, happy.
"All them people," giving the lie to those cynics who try to paint the ANL as some sinister Socialist Workers Party plot. "All them people," a wide-ranging celebration of solidarity for freedom and against uniformity and bigotry — fired by the same spirit that fires dissidents in Russia and trade unionists in Chile.
'They will try their tricky device / Trap you with the ordin'ry / Get your teeth into a small slice / The cake of liberty' (Ian Dury)
Miles away the forces for uniformity and bigotry managed to prove how they're the 'real voice of the nation' by rallying a whole 1,200 (police estimate) Gumbie Theatre drop-outs and slithering past deserted office blocks outnumbered by coppers and a 3 000 strong ANL contingent. (Sociologists note: Their march included only 50 skins, Brockwell Park saw close on 1,500, including the welcome return of the Afro Boys).
Meanwhile, back with the human race, rock made its stand again as groups threw professional considerations to the wind to play on the backs of lazy-fan-laden lorries; including veteran punk music-to-march-by exponents Crisis, the Boots And Braces Band, Southall's own Ruts, four numbers from those mighty suburban rockers The Members (whose generator ran out of petrol) and cheerful white reggae from China Street (their fine single 'Rock Against Racism' hits your store next week).
Stiff Little Fingers had already begun their set as the tail end of the marchers reached Brockwell Park. I came in on their passionate version of Marley's "Johnny Was." Everything you've read about this group is true. They rank amongst the most impressive new punk bands around.
SLF don't just sing about Belfast streets, they live on them and their anti-racism grew from arguing against the orange/green divide, But they're not humorless polities as their doo-wop Beach Boys spoof "Barbed Wire Love" ( 'Ba, ba, ha, barbed wire love') showed.
They encored with the strong new single 'Alternative Ulster' before dashing off to Cardiff to support TRB.
Wish Viv had been with me for the next band as know as much about reggae as Tom O'Connor knows about comedy. Misty reggae is very urban. The bass sound especially is harsh and aggressive. But it was perfect relaxing sunny park music (reggae always works better in festival atmosphere than punk which, after all, is late night sweaty club music).
Jimmy Pursey came on after Misty to show he wasn't bottling out to appease his minority of racist fans (he's under so much pressure — you bastards are killing him). "No one's gonna tell me what I can and can't do," he hollered, "I'm here 'cos I support Rock Against Racism". And the group wasn't because he sincerely believed the tension he could have caused would have wrecked Carnival.
Elvis Costello And The Attractions didn't cause tension but they did up the excitement quota and for many (me included) they were the musical highlight of the afternoon. Elvis stood there, red drape, black collar check shirt, black cords and belted thru 16 songs, powerfully and professionally, starting appropriately enough with "Night Rally" (he knows what they're doing and he wants to do more than look) and ending with the new single "Radio Radio."
"Welcome to the black and white minstrel show, 'ow about jumping up and down against racism," he grinned and proceeded to smash out a non-stop, bitter-sweet procession of songs of love and revenge.
"Radio Radio" was an uptempo rocker, but not as instantly commercial as the other newie "Oliver's Army" with its strong poppy tune and a hookline: Oliver's army is here to stay' that'd warrant an instant terrace translation and be a sure-fire hit.
Aswad, the militant yout's from the Grove who played that first major RAR gig with the Adverts, ended RAR's biggest event so far totally convincingly. Their music is more sophisticated than most homegrown acts and they've established themselves as one of Britain's foremost reggae bands. Tony
This ain't 'alien rhythms' — this is our culture. Brinsley Ford was pretty overcome, "This is ire, ire that there's so many people here today" he was saying during 'Natural Progression' before starting its chant of 'One love, one aim, one destiny'. What an end to a beginning.
How do they do it? 'Divide and rule / Split em up, spit 'em out / Keep us out of sight' Menace)
How do we do it? United against the Nazis, the racists and the cynics. That's the way it's got to be!