David Thompson
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April 16, 2008

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David Davis

David, I congratulate you, for articulating all that I have thought about these people, for, er, about 35 years.

I'd like to be able to write like you do. I try, but it's not quite as good. One day? Maybe.

The Thin Man

"Smash the System" - how quaint of Mr Cock(er).

Can I suggest that we re-title Glastonbury to (and please forgive the language) "Cunts are still attending Music Festivals".

We should gas them all like badgers.

Ario

Socialism may be an adolescent phenomenon, but it strikes me that counterculturalists are extremely conservative at heart. Glastonbury itself seems to see itself despite the blandness and lack of musical innovation on display in the tradition of Woodstock. Similarly most Guardian writers hark back to an idealised fantasy of 1968 rebelliousness. It is just so damn nostalgic and reactionary and *safe*, never mind utterly cliché and devoid of originality it is almost laughable. If it weren't so sad that this is what contemporary mainstream culture amounts to.

TDK

The ersatz rebelliousness of youth culture has long been noted, particularly the rock festival variety.

"The workers have struck for fame, 'cos Lennon's on sale again"

My wife likes these kind of events, and to be fair I once did too, so we still go occasionally but not to Glastonbury.

I particularly like the sales stalls. I am reliably informed that, wooden stalls or tents arranged in rows to sell food, clothing and souvenirs to festival goers, show us a better way to live. Right!

TDK

Let me add, that despite the image of young adults at these events, the audience contains a vast number of people in their 30s and up. My brother is 55 and goes most years. This is a baby boomer phenomenon. Young people have far less interest in rock music and where they do, it has little of the importance that my NME reading generation ascribed to it.

David

Well, I think there’s a whiff in the air of that old chestnut, “authenticity”. Presumably, Williams feels that free milk and cheaper tickets would make Glastonbury more righteous and “authentic”, though I fail to see how. Just as I fail to see how standing in a muddy field with dubious toilet facilities while listening to Jarvis Cocker is in some way daring and radical. It’s a pastime for young people – and fine, if you like that kind of thing. But counter-cultural? As Ario says, Williams’ sentiment, which is common, is actually rather quaint and nostalgic. I’ve often thought Socialism among adults was a bit like being nostalgic for the music of one’s youth. The dynamic seems much the same.

And it’s hard not to marvel at someone whose career has been possible thanks to free market capitalism denouncing the very thing that gives him status, comfort and a platform from which to opine. Being unworldly, kids will suck up this kind of thing and even believe it, and we shouldn’t judge them too harshly. The adults who peddle such sentiments, despite all contradiction, are harder to forgive.

Lovernios

It's ironic, this nostalgia for radical chic, comes at a time when the Communist Party failed to win one seat in the Italian Parliment.

Perhaps, the Italians are growing up at long last.

datadave

eh, you're taking this way too seriously.

And she was only noting the mud as a characteristic. And there is nothing wrong about bitching about overpriced tickets. That's capitalism.

David

TDK,

“My wife likes these kind of events, and to be fair I once did too, so we still go occasionally but not to Glastonbury.”

I’ve nothing against Glastonbury or music festivals per se. What’s absurd is the assumption that they are, or ought to be, countercultural, which apparently must mean anti-capitalist. It’s the attempt to imbue a pop festival with political gravitas, and the subsequent disappointment, that’s ever so slightly odd.

georges

I can't see that Zoe Williams, Jarvis Cocker etc have much in common with Clement Atlee.

Stuck-Record

Is this the same Cock(er) who famously mocked the 'authenticity' of rave culture (at Glastonbury):

"Oh, is this the way they say the future's meant to be?
Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?"

––'Sorted for E's and Whiz (Different Class)

Pots, kettles, cake, eating etc.

David

I think it’s a case of juvenile politics getting in the way of the music. The more overtly political it becomes, the less interesting it is. I vaguely remember a Pulp track called “Cocaine Socialism”, the gist of which was, I think, that Blair and his enthusiasts were inauthentic Socialists and were fond of the odd line. The implication being that “authentic” Socialism (the details of which aren’t quite specified) is preferable to the hypocritical, well-heeled variety. While I’m happy to mock the pretensions of middle-class lefties, the “authentic” version of Socialism, which I guess Mr Cocker has in mind, strikes me as *more* deplorable, not less.

georges

The only slogan-type political song that I think is a great pop song is "Free Nelson Mandela". The groove and the music are just so irresistible. Danny Manners says at the time many people who bought it went to the counter assistant and said "where's my free Nelson Mandela?". The song probably helped change that ignorance, make people more aware of who Mandela was.

"Shipbuilding" is a great song, especially in Robert Wyatt's performance. The point is, rather than stand on a soapbox and attack the Falklands war, Elvis Costello creates a personal story of a father and his son. It's the emotional pull of that story that moves. Pretty well every other political song that works for me does something similar.

Bowie's "Heroes" uses the backdrop of the Berlin Wall for a story of two lovers. The song still works, even now the Berlin Wall is gone. Will "Cocaine Socialism" endure, or will it seem stuck in a moment, like a campaigning song for Michael Dukakis?

David

Georges,

Yep. The music should have its own reason to be, as it were, rather than serving as just a delivery method for a naff political announcement. I quite like Pulp’s “Common People” which is, I suppose, political, but couched in more engaging terms. Though William Shatner’s rendition takes it to a whole new, um, level.

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

Georges

Oh gosh, David. That Shatner album is wierdly, inexplicably good - and not in the "so bad it's good" way his "Mr Tambourine Man" "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" performances are.

IanCroydon

I always think of Ben Elton's play "Gasping" whenever I consider how socialism is applied to the music industry, just take Elton's underlying theme and replace "air" with "sound" (which are technically the same thing), it's as far removed from socialism as you can get.

You are paying to listen to air vibrations, that's where the money is made, the whole "performance" and "artistic" side is peanuts, most artists would struggle to make a decent wage if they relied on performance alone, it's the ultimate capitalist product.

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