Sunday, 17 January 2010

Susan Sontag said

that the harshest recognition the Left ever had to face was the very real possibility that someone who had only read Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970 might have known more about Communist states, and how they mostly actually worked in practice if not in theory, than someone who'd read The Nation and the New Statesman.

I think the harshest recognition those of us who had our lives changed by pop will ever have to face might be the remarkably similar possibility that someone who only read either The Daily Telegraph (and therefore was told, however many lies against the post-war settlement doing the same thing - summed up in one of my old sparring partners' sly comment about the old municipal establishment, as represented in 1960s football club chairmen, thinking Communism and the Rolling Stones were somehow on the same side - this was interspersed with, that popular culture would eat away at the very ideas of learning and knowledge), or especially the Daily Worker and after 1966 the Morning Star (and therefore was told that rock music could only ever be bourgeois and counter-revolutionary, and would eat away at the very ideas of collective socialist endeavour), between about 1960 and about 1990, might have known more about pop, and how it mostly actually works in practice if not (at least back then) in theory, than someone who read NME or Melody Maker.

I think if the coming years teach us anything it will be this profound truth. But by then it will be too late.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Amazon skewed logic in action

Because I bought series three of Monty Python's Flying Circus, thinks I might like Punch the Clock by Elvis Costello (fine, if I'm right in thinking "Pills and Soap" is on that) and, eek, The 1954 British Hit Parade Volume 3. Would anyone in the world, ever, of any description, actually want to hear both those albums?

Because I own Mummer by XTC, it thinks I want to hear the Grateful Dead.

Because I own several Jennings books, it recommends Animals by Pink Floyd. I actually already like that album a lot - for me it's far and away their most-satisfying "post-weird" work - but why the equation? It's not as if "Another Brick in the Wall" and "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" (songs far more evocative of the mid-century prep school experience than Buckeridge's semi-socialist fantasy) are even on that album - I can only assume it's because of the probable truth that a great many people who ended up liking Floyd had begun their lives in the world Buckeridge painted as far rosier than it actually was.

At least Animals is a decent album. The same cannot be said for the multiple generations of shite it recommends if you bought the complete series of The Adventures of Black Beauty, from Love Thy Neighbour to Hannah Montana - someone needs to tell Amazon that it isn't just cholerically nostalgic 50-year-olds and horsey little girls (only now in a mid-Atlantic-type-way) who can recognise a great series when they see it. Or indeed that it isn't only horsey little girls who ride, or would if the weather that kept them out of London the one weekend they really, really needed to be there allowed them to.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

I'd never have watched or listened to him - but I'm still worried

I never bothered with Jonathan Ross, either on radio or television. I always found his shows tediously smug and self-centred, musically either actively bad or just plain irrelevant. But I am still nervous about the implications of his departure, because it represents a victory for a section of British society which simply does not understand the concept of mutual tolerance, which alone has kept the BBC going since Reithianism became untenable. Dacre's mob genuinely appear to resent any of their money going to anything they do not personally like, a frightening level of intolerance which I don't think is shared, on the whole, by those on the other side (of course you get posts on certain forums opining that Radio 3 should be axed, but I don't think it runs to anything like the same extent). Quite apart from the fact that the people who think "their" newspapers want to save at least a high-cultural, hierarchical idea of the BBC simply don't understand that those papers are in fact owned by market fundamentalists who, if they had their way, would end all funding of the sort of broadcasting they pretend to care about. And they, riddled as ever with lies and contradictions, have just achieved a major victory, which will render them far more confident to destroy at some future point - or at least fatally marginalise - those who genuinely are culturally and politically subversive.

Jonathan Ross was not even remotely comparable to anyone on 1Xtra - his shows, unlike those on that station, were full of the new elite and its footsoldiers. But that does not mean that those involved with 1Xtra should not be frightened.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The new establishment defined beyond perfection

every last detail is perfectly programmed - in order: the albums which set the tone for Blair and Cameron respectively, the Blair generation's adolescent grasp at artiness and androgyny, the Blair generation's definitive regular-rock experience, the Blair generation's grasp at shire escape and worn-out post-hippie retreat (check that last episode of All You Need Is Love: the Marches the perfect setting for Oldfield's removal from the turmoil of the day because they had been shielded from both collectivism/socialism and individualism/pop culture, so the great battles of the mid/late 70s could just about be forgotten), what the Cameron generation desperately want us to believe they were listening to in their teens, what the Blair generation were actually listening to as they planned their Project (certainly several teachers at the school whose fringes I moved on in the mid-90s were), what Guido Fawkes might just have been listening to in 1991 but the Cameronites would never have touched (but want to jump on to save the Union, because avoiding geopolitical chaos is more important for them than strengthening their own majorities), every bourgeois liberal's idea of radical chic at the beginning of the neoliberal era, and every bourgeois liberal's idea - future Blairites the lot of them - of radical chic a decade earlier, as Murdoch wormed his way in and the seeds of neoliberalism were sown by the vicious fallout from the 60s, the seeds of rock music itself.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

1960 to 2010: or one entrapment to another

1960 - village teashops
2010 - McDonald's

1960 - Eric Coates
2010 - Elvis Presley

1960 - quasi-aristocratic small ads on the front page of the Times
2010 - Warren Beatty bullshit on the front page of the Guardian

1960 - steam-hauled branch lines; the worn-out appeals to wartime "community"
2010 - the atomisation symbolised by the universal car

1960 - living on dreams of our own dying empire
2010 - living on dreams of someone else's

1960 - Old Etonians who were unknowingly economically strengthening pop but still came from an entirely separate and previous world
2010 - Old Etonians who are inherently bound up with pop, became what they are entirely off its back and to whom pop is no threat whatsoever, but rather the strongest possible institutional backup

1960 - control by a paternalistic local autocracy
2010 - control by an unaccountable global elite (we came close to true democracy in between, but it never really happened)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The complete collapse of all journalistic integrity in broadcasting even before it's been officially approved part 34621

ITV News on Saturday night began with fast-cuts of David Cameron appearing to repeat the word "change".

And there are in this country people who think party political broadcasts no longer exist other than at election time.

I note also that the latest Presley wankfest - an ever more desperate reminder that, for our rulers, what were in fact the British state's greatest missed opportunities in the last 100 years were in fact great and wonderful things because their long-term legacy allowed our current rulers to shape and define themselves and the whole neoliberal agenda - is all over BBC Four, as well as everywhere else. I don't recall it being so five years ago this month, when amid terrible, unbearable desperation we at least had the best Dennis Potter season ever. Never forget: "choice" is a chimera. I know how much DVD has boomed and how much Blu-Ray will, but in many ways they merely give the elite the excuse for greater control of everybody else.

Just one other thing: I know downloads of individual tracks are the dominant force now, but the top two British acts on the first album chart published in 2010 are both Scottish (I've no love for either - Nutini is in many ways far more aesthetically offensive than Boyle - but still). The top three English acts all come from either private schools or the West Country, until the shakedown of the last decade just about the two most un-pop environments in England. I think that might give some idea over who will in all likelihood come out best from the decade to come. And, of course, who will come out worst.