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June 15, 2011

Comments

Vinegar Joe

"Rock stars ... is there anything they don't know?" - Homer Simpson

Anna

Vaguely alternative pop music being all but impossible without a grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a squat to call your own.

I thought the classics of lefty pop music were written when Thatcher was in power? Doesn't the future of left-wing pop demand that we elect another Thatcher as soon as possible? ;)

Btw, tickets for the Isle of Wight festival (where Pulp played) were £175.

Class war!

Kerrari1898

"But with the decimation of the infrastructure that produced them, from access to education to arts council grants to the dole itself, has the British political and pop cultural landscape changed so much that a group like Pulp is now impossible?"

It's impossible for bands to whine about how "the system" is oppressing and marginalising them if "the system" isn't lavishly funding them to do so?

Um...

DB

Owen Hatherley: "But with the decimation of the infrastructure that produced them, from access to education to arts council grants to the dole itself, has the British political and pop cultural landscape changed so much that a group like Pulp is now impossible?"

Solomon Burke: "Get up and do something for yourself"

mr shifter

No mention of the fact that Pulp(and Suede)were elevated way too far above their station during the early nineties - by a music press desperate for the next-big-thing to fill the vacuum resulting from a prolonged no-show of The Stone Roses.
Astro-turfing, i think you might call it.

carbon based lifeform

More relentless class consciousness, I say. The kids can't get enough of it.

JuliaM

Jarvis Cocker..? Pfft! Doesn't hold a candle to Joe.

David

“More relentless class consciousness, I say. The kids can’t get enough of it.”

Well, quite. I’m not convinced a long-term interest in music can be based on working class “credentials” and being ideologically “correct” (i.e. class war boilerplate). Yet this seems to be an implicit ideal of Mr Hatherley. Aren’t tunes more important, and for that matter hairstyles? And the suggestion that a lack of Arts Council grants and a shortage of squats have somehow “cowed” pop music, perhaps irreversibly, needs no further comment.

If Mr Hatherley fears the end of the music he happens to like, perhaps that has something to do with the fact he’s no longer a teenager.

Horace Dunn

If Mr Hatherley fears the end of the music he happens to like, perhaps that has something to do with the fact he’s no longer a teenager.

Are you sure he's no longer a teenager? He sounds like a teenager.

David

Horace,

I gather Mr Hatherley is in his thirties, but he has written for the Socialist Worker and Socialist Review, which suggests a certain… arrestedness. And attempts to intellectualise pop music and graft on some rote class warrior significance do tend to sound pretentious and adolescent, not to mention whiny. It’s a bit like trying to explain a joke, only worse.

Jonathan

Doesn't he know that, even as we speak, fiery left-wing popster Billy Bragg is standing firm against the hated Thatcher from his modest village home?

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/851887-billy-bragg-targeted-by-hate-mail-campaign-in-dorset-village

Anna

from his modest village home

Why am I not even a little bit surprised?

David

Jonathan,

“…from his modest village home…”

Heh. A very earnest Mr Bragg once told Radio 4 listeners that he’d “learned all of his politics from pop music.” Which explains quite a lot, all things considered.

In other news, Bob “belly fire” Crowe, head of the RMT union, was spotted at Scott’s of Mayfair having a £650 lunch. As avowed socialists do, at least when they’re raking in £250,000 a year.

Trimegistus

This is something I keep coming back to: Don't musicians ever get bored being knee-jerk leftists? Why doesn't someone rebel against conventional mores and write a killer rockabilly number about smashing government regulation?

David

Trimegistus,

“Don’t musicians ever get bored being knee-jerk leftists?”

You’d think the shtick would be getting a little tired by now, a little embarrassing - the contradictions and dishonesties are hard to miss. As Anna says, we aren’t surprised by Mr Bragg’s hypocrisy (or Bob Crowe, or Polly Toynbee, or Lindsay Mackie, or Alan Rusbridger, or Laurie Penny, or any of the other figures mentioned here over the years). It’s what we’ve come to expect. The particular notes may vary slightly but the basic theme is the same. It’s just a question of exactly how cartoonish and dishonest these people choose to be.

But I suppose it’s easier to play the expected role. It’s showbiz, after all. Why devise a worldview of your own, with all the risk that entails, when an off-the-peg hustle will sell just as well and require much less effort?

sackcloth and ashes

DB, thank you for that awesome link.

Back on topic, the idea of 'real' music being killed by the soulless pap produced by capitalism is an old one. It is so 80s/70s/60s. The idea that there was some mythical age where good tunes with a political theme trumped mindless crap produced by studios is a myth.

Take, for example, the US charts in the autumn of 1969. 'Sugar, Sugar' is released by 'The Archies' at the same time as 'Fortunate Son'(*) by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is at the height of the anti-Vietnam protests and the counter-culture movement. Guess which of these singles got to number 1 for a four week period, and which one got no higher than No.14?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMUBWKJ5A_0&feature=related

(*) PS: This is how to write a protest song that (1) makes sense and (2) is awesome.

jones

Just give us yer fockin money.

Anna

I suppose it’s easier to play the expected role. It’s showbiz, after all.

If you're selling records to students you can't upset them with the 'wrong' kind of ideas.

sackcloth and ashes

Jarvis Cocker still gets some respect from me for his stage invasion during the 1996 BRIT awards.

David

“If you’re selling records to students you can’t upset them with the ‘wrong’ kind of ideas.”

There’s that too. It’s quite funny how so many students feel obliged to let you know, quite firmly, that they don’t approve of certain things, even when there’s no obvious reason for them to share this information.

My local polling station was recently moved and is now in the new student village. The first time the Other Half and I went there to vote we were wandering around, a little lost, and being amused by the usual paraphernalia displayed in the windows. Stop this, smash that, down with the other. Amazingly, we spotted a lone Vote Conservative poster in the window of one of the flats. We couldn’t decide if it was a prank or a small, strangely poignant act of defiance.

David Gillies

My nephew and his wife somehow managed to get VIP tickets for the 2011 IOW festival*. They're both as rock-ribbed Tories as one could hope for and they said the Pulp set was the highlight. And there's yer difference. Normal people can turn off the politics. For Lefties it's all class war, all the time. God it must be lonely in their sad little world. Having said that, although I suspect that Mr. Cocker's politics and mine are not entirely in alignment, his contention that the people running the world can be meaningfully compared to a bunch of ladies' front bottoms does not, in and of itself, seem too far-fetched.

* fun fact: I was born during the 1969 festival, about six miles down the road. If I get the timings right, Blodwyn Pig were on when we arrived at the maternity ward, and Marsha Hunt and White Trash were doing their thang while I was emerging. I actually saw the light of day just after it had wrapped up.

Kevin Donnelly

Didn't the Jam vote Conservative in 1979?

Jonathan A

Reminds me Of Serj Tankian, vocalist of lefty metal band System Of A Down, one of whose numbers is "F*** The System". Second home in New Zealand.

sackcloth and ashes

'a government waging naked class war'.

The British Army and Royal Marines have a drinking tradition called 'Naked Bar'. Is this something similar?

http://www.arrse.co.uk/wiki/Naked_Bar

BackwardsBoy

I like to hear musicians talking about politics almost as much I like to hear politicians sing.

CIngram

@Trimegistus
Why doesn't someone rebel against conventional mores and write a killer rockabilly number about smashing government regulation?

It's not quite rockabilly but will this do you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvaEJzoaYZk

Stuck-Record

Let's all smash the System! Would be wrong if the crowd start with Jarvis Cocker's house?

David

“Let’s all smash the System! Would [it] be wrong if the crowd start with Jarvis Cocker’s house?”

I’m not even sure what “smash the system” is supposed to mean. Stop being bourgeois and raise your children negligently instead? Don’t pay for things? Don’t plan ahead? Maybe it means disregarding property rights and personal liberties, at least those of other people. Certainly that’s the favoured interpretation of many “activists”; though they tend to get very indignant and upset if the favour is reciprocated.

Rob

Guardian columnists talking about the working class. Laughs.

ftumch

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13780074

The Specials: How Ghost Town defined an era

Yessss... 1981, rioting in the streets, Thatch and all that. Ghost Town spent 3 weeks at no 1, in July (I guess, but, would seem to be a seasonable low point in single sales). So, let's look at other songs from that era:

John Lennon - Imagine (vapid classic, 4 weeks, though he was dead then, so intant chart success), Joe Dolce - Shaddup You Face (3 weeks, I am always telling my boy to shudappa his face everytime I am cooking the linguine), Shakin' Stevens - This Ole House (3), Bucks Fizz - Making Your Mind Up (3), Adam & The Ants - Stand And Deliver (5), Shakin' Stevens - Green Door (4, good ol' Shaky), Adam & The Ants - Prince Charming (4), Dave Stewart With Barbara Gaskin - It's My Party (4), and, finally, xmas no 1 of that year, The Human League - Don't You Want Me (5)

Edgy 'n political Ghost Town may be, but hardly era-defining.

David

ftumch,

Heh. Quite.

I still like Ghost Town but it didn’t “define” anything for me. It was the quirky track at the school disco, the one with the unusual woodwind. But music writers often graft their grand sociological extrapolations onto anything that moves. The nostalgia can be seductive. Sometimes, like Mr Hatherley, they tip into absurdity.

Pop music is very good at reminding you of your earlier self. It’s much less good at explaining the causes of disaffection, change or “urban decay,” or whatever its political subject matter ostensibly is. There are plenty of songs, mostly bad ones, that rail against Thatcher as the Demon Queen and Root Of All Evil. I can’t offhand think of one that puts her in context and addresses the statist ossification and near-terminal decline to which she was a belated and necessary reaction.

But that’s asking a little too much of a pop song.

Min

I’m not even sure what “smash the system” is supposed to mean.

Act like a tosser and buy my records.

But mostly buy my records.

Henry

I have to say that almost all purveyors of bullshit, (literary critics, schoolteachers, etcetc) have to stand in unmitigated AWE of the all time champion of pretentious language and self-important trumpetings: pop music journalists.

But mix that with someone who also writes for the Graun and you get the most stomach-churning, horrifying garbage. And some excellent sentences

re ftumch's comments on 1981: What an extraordinary year that was for music..."Prince Charming" and "Don't you want me" stand out for me

Kevin Donnelly

Yes, Paul Morley used to be a bit of a specialist at that sort of thing. But it's pretty standard for a rock music hack like Jon Savage to throw in casual bullshit like "between the collapse of traditional Labour humanism and the impending cynical victory of Conservatism" while writing about Joy Division. Quite how anyone knew what going to happen is interesting in itself, especially as Labour were leading in the polls until late in 78 or early 79. But then music hacks are fond of just stuffing their own bigotries into art, which is a shame, because the art in question here is well-worth studying.

Gareth

Kevin, the Joy Division "dark clouds of Thatcherism" meme is even more baffling given that Ian Curtis was, according to his widow's account, a staunch Conservative throughout his (short) life!

Kevin Donnelly

Yes, she mentions in Touching from a Distance how he accepted a lift from the Liberal candidate at one election only to vote Tory!

Jamie

As Homer Simpson said. "Everyone knows rock n' roll attained perfection in 1974; It's a scientific fact."

Rob De Witt

"All Pop Music Will Henceforth Be Terrible"

Hell, I coulda told you that in 1965. I was right, too.

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