Friday, 8 May 2009

Ahead of the game

Sometimes, of course, I'm caught out.  Like when I cited two particular grime MCs in the early days of this blog who have since had crossover hits which in three out of four cases (I'll still stand up for "Take Me Back") are excruciating or worse (Elton John is by far the most bearable bit of the new "Tiny Dancer", and even he, even when he first recorded that, was just another shell in the end).

But more often, I actually think, I can lead the way in terms of inventive thought.  In 2004, I was posting extensively in various places - few of which I'd particularly want to revisit now - about the way those who had historically been part of the traditional elite had jumped on to pop music in the 1980s, and that this had had long-term ramifications for both pop and the society it exists in. Anyone could say that now and nobody would bat an eyelid.  But I was saying it before even I, let alone anyone else, had heard of David Cameron.

That is why I fear my current predictions may be correct.  To a substantial extent, I think I foresaw Cameron, and what he would mean for whatever his territory may eventually be, before he rose without trace in a way nobody else I have read did.  I hope I am not doing the same for future developments now.  But I fear I am.


  1. Yes, a lot of music formed a precursor...

    It would be interesting to see an update of the Vox Pops in the NME of the week of the 1983 General Election for when the next GE takes place. If it did happen (and that would be unlikely in a media which diverts from the big picture at every stage), it would be interesting...

    I doubt you would get the sort of Labour support in the music world you had then (and even then it was splintering). There was clearly a lot of complacency in '83; Peel - 'what I think we are witnessing [...] is the collapse of capitalism' and Edwyn Collins: 'I'm going to abstain from voting this year as there is no Marxist candidate for the borough of Hackney and I feel it would be a personal compromise to vote Labour.'

    That in the year that Labour were the closest they ever got to being a Marxist party!

    Of course it was culturally better to have so many criticising from the left and not voting for a reason (Linton Kwesi Johnson, even Steve Harley with his seemingly One Nation Toryism: 'the Alliance is too far left, the Tories are heartless and cruel, and you can stuff socialism.'), whereas today you would simply have apath in many cases. But, it is strange to see that so many grasped the seriousness of the situation in '83, but so many didn't also.

  2. Glad to see you received the magazines I sent.

    The Dec '92 S&S should be interesting as well ...

  3. Thinking about your above posting again it is exceedingly unlikely that the NME will cover the next GE in any meaningful way, though that might be because it wouldn't want to admit that, as never before, many/most of the bands it covers fit perfectly with Cameron's vision ...

    When capitalism achieved its most decisive triumph, an astonishingly short period of six and a half years later, Peel commented in the end-of-decade Melody Maker that while he'd always regarded Hungary and the then Czechoslovakia as the intellectual core of Europe, and would be pleased to see them less dominated by an overbearing state, he was worried that there might now be less geopolitical counterbalance to the US, even if that counterbalance had been more authoritarian than he'd have wanted. I would also doubt whether he'd have regarded those countries' current NATO/IMF/World Bank mortgages, and resultant cutbacks in public services in some cases beyond even Thatcher's, as a particular increase in "freedom". The crucial thing with Peel, even when he was naive (and, as in 1983, he quite often was), was that he didn't pretend that the cultural position of American music when *he* had been young still applied, as so many others deluded themselves into believing so as to maintain their own pseudo-rebellious self-image. In 'The Nation's Favourite' (still the best book about how pop culture became elite culture in Britain during the 1990s) he talks fairly predictably about the excitement of hearing "Heartbreak Hotel" as music almost from outer space, but he prefigures that by saying (as most of his contemporaries would not have) that "it sounds idiotic to say it now" - he was under no illusions about what American music had become in Britain, and he was (obviously, and unlike most other Radio 1 DJs in 1983) not in the business of promoting predictable and played-out meshes of Elvis cliches as though they were radical.

    I must admit that when a friend of mine speculated the other day on whether anyone had complained about the Council Collective's "Soul Deep" being played on the Top 40, I had a horrific vision of an 18-year-old Cameron (not that that's a particularly good record in itself, it's more important for the fact that it existed and charted than for what it actually sounds like; the best work of Weller's career came in 1988, when he knew socialism had died and sheer mourning was the only way out).

  4. Cameron's vision - or lack there of... :)

    I would love to see members of the public, journalists and indeed Conservative Party members and MPs quizzed on what they would *like* to see in a Cameron Britain, or indeed what they expect to happen if he took over...

    Whilst I am strongly opposed to the current govt. in most things (royal mail privatisation the key one, though of course the 50p tax rate should be supported as a permanent and not merely a temporary measure), it must be said that the Tories have received an *exceptionally* easy ride from the media since Brown's aborted election - far more so than Labour in opposition under Wilson, Kinnock or Blair. One hopes - presumably in vain - that this cannot last.

  5. Well yes, my use of "vision" was heavily ironic :).

    Blair's first three years of leadership, especially in the period immediately before the 1997 election, was probably the one time Labour *did* receive a comparatively easy ride from the media when in opposition (I have some mid-'90s Daily Mails which would prove my point if I could bear to look at them), but only because it was clearly apparent that they were going to provide a more efficient and well-managed version of Thatcherism than Major could.

    Did you receive my emails on Monday night / early Tuesday morning?

  6. Yes, only just finished the reply.