Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Pop's changed circumstances, and how to cope with them

A few years after 1989, at the height of Nirvana's impact, it would have been easy to guess that come 2009 Radio 4 would commemorate the 20th anniversary of the year's political changes. It would still have seemed unthinkable that, when that time did come, they would throw in a retrospective of Nirvana's first session for John Peel, right next to Nigel Lawson's resignation as Chancellor, all the more so if - as is the case - the programme was presented by John Tusa, the very same John Tusa who spent most of the Birt era condemning every action the BBC made to shake off the legacy of Reithian cultural hierarchy, and accusing the new government in 1997 of showing a bias against "anything that could be called high culture" (I don't actually disagree with this, but would view this as an inevitable byproduct of any market-led ethos of government, a world NuLab, for all their faults, were given and didn't make).

The fact that this has happened will undoubtedly make certain people shudder with accusations of cultural theft, but for me it's something to respond to constructively - something to make us realise that we have to reinvent what pop can be if we are not to be bound up to a new establishment even less democratic and accountable than the old one was. It should be the starting point for a whole new burst of creativity. I fear it won't be, though.

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