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|Saturday, December 27th, 2008|
|the last, and first
to alert anyone who still looks to see if anything has been posted here ...
i will be posting from now on to 'Sea Songs', which can be found here: http://in-the-cage.blogspot.com
ten years after i first gained home internet access, the next phase of my life now begins (i hope)
|Friday, August 8th, 2008|
|Why I haven't posted much (if anything) recently
You shouldn't think I don't have things to say, things to think. I just find it hard - as I have for as long as I can meaningfully remember - to get them down.
It's not so much that I've grown tired of holding the views I do - that very nearly (note the "very nearly": i.e. not quite) every article written, every argument expressed, every position articulated about pop and its position in the wider world pre-Blair (and still clung to by those who can't psychologically cope with the world Martin Jacques foresaw 20 years ago) simply doesn't translate now, that pop needs to admit that it can never again be an oppositional culture and that it is now an elite tool and that it must therefore reinvent itself fundamentally, etc., etc., etc., - indeed I hold them more strongly than ever. It is more that I've grown tired of repeating them over and over again. Also, I don't think I've ever represented myself properly online. Repeatedly, I've failed to give a true impression of what I actually thought and believed. My true self has been hidden, disguised now beneath hysterical rants, now beneath false promises. Time and time again, others have articulated what I was thinking better than I could - or, perhaps I should say, *led me to an articulation that was beyond me*. Still, there's an abiding sense that I have failed in my life so far.
Only in the later years of Run Away Home have I really said precisely what I believe, and said it with the articulacy I have always had within me. However many crises of confidence I suffer, I'll always have *that*. Now the time for serious writing has come.
|Sunday, July 27th, 2008|
|Saturday, July 12th, 2008|
|another ESPN Classic post
June's "The Only Place Where Brits Play Football" season had plenty of unexpected frissons - the most dramatic for me was an Irish fan making an obviously political pitch invasion during the Republic's 1976 match against England at Wembley (played the same week AF's 'The Attic Term' was published, just after the heatwave broke and a few weeks away from the IMF loan) and David Coleman implying - for you-know-what reasons (the Irish being, essentially, the Muslims of the 1970s) - that it couldn't be *quite* the friendly match that it officially was.
But somehow it was the England-Scotland matches that stood out. Rooted in ancient history (it had been played annually since 1872), this fixture became, in its last decades, ever more meaningless to the English - few of whom bothered to turn up even when it was played at Wembley - while being a key focus of frustration for the Scots, who every other year could be relied upon to take over what until about 1978 was still officially the Empire Stadium. It was a classic example of master's indifference to servant, servant's desperation to get one over on master.
The 1970s matches have - in the context of the Callaghan government's fatally compromised and failed (like most of its actions, if we're honest, but how could it have been any other way?) devolution plans - a resonance far beyond football. Certainly, it's hard to see Wales and Scotland's wins at Wembley in the run-up to the Silver Jubilee of 1977 as anything other than a conscious counteraction to the very nature of what was being celebrated and perpetuated, in sheer defiance of reality, and the grand-scale pitch invasion by Scottish fans on the Saturday of Jubilee weekend - collapsing goalposts, carved-out patches of turf and all - have a potency that survives their endless (and trivialising) reshowings. The fixture became a kind of political pitch battle between decaying former power and putative nation in waiting, which reached a ludicrous climax when the 1979 version (in which England came from behind to win 3-1) at a Wembley filled almost entirely with Scottish fans, played three weeks after the election and three months after the deliberately almost unwinnable Scottish referendum, was guarded by soldiers in full Buckingham Palace / Camberwick Green garb.
In the 1980s, its last years as a regular fixture, the match became even more meaningless to the English (and this was, lest we forget, a time when English football itself was perceived by some to be in its death throes, with American football overtaking it in popularity among the Thatcher generation before the fundamental Americanisation of the English game's presentation that came with Sky). The Home International Championship, in which England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland simply played each other every year, home and away in alternate years - having already become, in deference to the disappearance of the Colonial bit of "Home and Colonial", the British Championship - disappeared altogether in 1984 (it had already been compromised in the 1970s, with Northern Ireland often unable to play at home, and was left incomplete in 1981 when England and Wales, clearly more concerned about their end-of-season World Cup qualifiers, refused to travel to Belfast during the Maze hunger strikes), with the England-Scotland match being played for its remaining years first as a one-off game and then as part of a three-cornered tournament also involving a South American team (which started off well with Brazil, but then steadily declined with Colombia and Chile).
But in this era the game developed an even greater political importance to the Scots, feeling more and more like a powerless colony, controlled by a government that to them had no legitimacy. And the English elite knew it, and tried their hardest to keep them back - moving the match to a Wednesday night, banning Scottish fans from coming to Wembley, even moving the 1985 version from Wembley to Hampden to avoid such an "invasion". To the Thatcher government, those responsible for the biannual takeover of Wembley were every bit as much the enemy within as striking miners were.
The last renewal (other than the Euro 96 and Euro 2000 qualifying versions) of the oldest international fixture in world football came in 1989, the day after *that* Arsenal win at Anfield. In the end, it was the reinvention of football as international big business that prevented the match (and, even more so, the erstwhile Home Internationals as a whole) from returning, rather than the game's quite different problems of the Thatcher era. I wouldn't want the Home Internationals back, under whatever name - the last thing the current England players need is three guaranteed matches every season against players who know even less about football than they do - but I would not be surprised if the political changes which I still believe will follow the next UK election may inspire a partial revival. Perhaps England vs Scotland might even become an even bigger political grudge match, when it's Dollarzone East vs Eurozone North.
|Corrections and clarifications
To clarify my below post (though Francis Beckett does a lot of it for me), I think there was a fundamental conflict (which could not have been fully understood at the time) between 60s/70s pop culture's supposed (but compromised more often than not) aim of absolute, unequivocal freedom for all and the full implications of the mass Americanisation it also called for. It all comes down to the point Reynolds made years ago - in a Neil Young review, appropriately enough - about the multiple and conflicting meanings of the word "freedom" (how can a word beloved both of 60s leftists/revolutionaries and of those such as Kenneth Williams who ranted against "the futility of the mixed economy", let alone his unnamed friend who called for a military coup against the Labour government in 1969, be anything but elusive and ambiguous?). And I also think of a rather different Melody Maker alumnus, Chris Welch, using the terms "Nanny State" and "1984" in MM in 1967 about Wilson's anti-offshore-radio legislation (the key issue where the supposed Old Labour conservatism which was nevertheless far more progressive than what followed is concerned) and the general old-elite attitude to pop at the time - I would *love* to know what Welch made of Thatcherism.
I think - whatever anyone else says - that it would perfectly fair, and probably perfectly accurate, to say that when Blair denounced those opposed to the Iraq war as "conservatives" (or when John Reid said the same about those opposed to the quasi-privatisation of the NHS) he was making a mental equation (as opponents of his idea of "progress" - confused, of course, but then this is the man who used "anti-science" as an insult, when condemning the anti-GM movement, yet allied himself so closely with as anti-science an administration as we're likely to see in the West) between the entire anti-war movement, whether leftist or Old Rightist, and the people who told him off for listening to "All Right Now" at Fettes (and see also the way Ian McEwan used the term "parochial" to refer to elements in the anti-war movement, a sure sign - especially in the light of 'On Chesil Beach' - of the way boomers often *subconsciously* equate wholly different forms of Americoscepticism today with the anti-pop fogeys of their youth).
I also think it would be perfectly fair to say *now* that the boomers were excessively determined to break away from the certainties of the post-war settlement and did not realise either the good that settlement had done or the bad that future leaders would do in the name of that very anti-statism. But I think it would be equally fair to say that *they didn't know*.
|Friday, July 11th, 2008|
|the truth about Thatcherism, pop culture etc
as rarely spoken in the mainstream media (specifically the second and third paragraphs):http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2289218,00.html
At last, a journalist who understands that Blair's entire agenda - and specifically his foreign policy - was as it was *because* he was raised on rock music, not despite it. I get the impression that Francis Beckett would understand entirely what I mean when I describe Paul Rodgers as a murderer-by-proxy of all British troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq (whereas Polly Toynbee and Martin Jacques, still stuck on their Luxy-under-the-bedclothes dreams, never would).
|Friday, July 4th, 2008|
|Friday, June 27th, 2008|
|'Sulk' (or more specifically "Nude Spoons") ...
... has just very nearly rendered me literally incapable of speech (part of me wishes the "very nearly" wasn't true). And I've lost count of how many times I've heard it, and yet still ... *that's* what it does to me.
The only other song to have such an extreme effect - I instantly recall the night it rendered me incapable of coherent speech for a good five minutes - was "We Can't Lose" by Shells & Styles P. The moral is clear: the more unequivocally white European *or* black American music is, the greater its effect on me. Almost everything in between, I'm afraid, is merely sleep-inducing. Part of the reason for my disenchantment with much current pop may well be that, 25 years after Burchill popularised the concept, *beige* has never been more endemic.
|Wednesday, June 25th, 2008|
|missed this last week
The metallers' comments are hardly surprising, but what's most intriguing of all is the refusal of so many to even *discuss* it. This proves my recurring point - that these people are so desperate to retain the illusion of rebellion that, when anyone suggests to them that in fact their agenda is that of the elite (although there is still, even now, a grim irony in Eminem's use as such) they simply refuse to even respond, close their ears and eyes as if nothing is happening.
Of course the US has used rock music in such a context for some time now - I'm sure GnR's "Welcome to the Jungle" was blasted at the Vatican embassy in Panama in the 1980s' final days - but the transition between the MOR mentioned as being played in the early 1990s and the music being played now does, I think, indicate a serious change in precisely what the military-industrial complex Is Fighting For.
|Sunday, June 22nd, 2008|
|would you like some HONEST, PASSIONATE, DEEP sweets?
agincourtgirl posted last weekend that she'd been unable to listen online to Gold's Bottom to the Top (which featured the chart of 12th February 1969, albeit without Nina Simone's version of the second worst Bee Gees song of their first incarnation - such is the incompetence of UK commercial radio, though "I Guess I'll Always Love You" by the Isley Brothers twice over is musically preferable). Had she been able to hear it, she might have realised something I hadn't been aware of until now - that Saint Etienne's "Wilson" is based on a loop of the opening seconds to Wilson Pickett's version of "Hey Jude" (a record which Marcello once responded to with one well-chosen word).
It's hard not to see this as a sly, deliberate act of subversion, considering the ongoing Stanley/Wiggs contempt for Real Soul, Passion and that whole '87 NME / Cameronistas-preparing-for-government litany. And to think I had assumed for so long that the title must be solely a glancing reference to Harold ... now, it emerges as a potent double-edged sword.
|Monday, June 16th, 2008|
|rock'n'roll at gunpoint confirmed by Denis MacShane
I fear I may have neglected to give a definition of the phrase "rock'n'roll at gunpoint", perhaps the concept of my invention which I'm most proud of. Here it is, in simplified form: virtually all the places demonised by NuLab - France (at least pre-Sarkozy), Serbia (specifically in the late 1990s), the entire Arab and Muslim world, arguably (though much less so in recent years) South Yorkshire/South Wales etc. and also the Old Tory outer shires, certainly by comparison to the erstwhile "New Labour heartland" of the Hertfordshire/Kent/Essex eternal marginals - are, to a greater or lesser extent, places where the primacy of a regionally or nationally specific higher culture, the belief that *some things are better than other things*, the idea that a supposed elite might sometimes know better than the mass public, wariness of American-led mass culture, have continued to thrive. In other words, they are what Britain as a whole, including the south-east of England, was like before the Blair Generation, preceded by the forces of both consumerism and the relativist Left (the two movements of which NuLab is essentially a merger), took it over. The Blair Generation have always known that it was they who broke down and eroded the once widely - and, more importantly, *officially* - held beliefs mentioned above in this country. Their aim in power has been to do the same to places where they have survived, to globalise the changes they have already made to their own country.
The comments by HenryJacksonite Denis MacShane (elected as MP for the Old Labour heartland of Rotherham in a by-election one week before John Smith died, succeeding a former Sheffield steelworker whose political foundation had been 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' and who had only entered Parliament in 1992) that the resignation of the most unlikely hero of a Leftist such as me since I endorsed Waugh and Worsthorne's views on European unity, the sometime arch-Tory David Davis, were like "something out of an Italian opera" prove that everything I have said on the *political* importance to NuLab of American pop culture as a key part of The Freedom We Are Spreading is correct. For MacShane, there can clearly be nothing worse, nothing more antithetical to NuLab's twin tributaries, than "an Italian opera" (he is using these words pretty much exactly as Old Tories used to use "American rock'n'roll", and with every bit as much narrow and exclusive prejudice behind them). It is, after all, neither the choice of the consumerist masses nor ideologically sound to trendy-lefties (I have deliberately not used *those* two words here). More importantly, it's *old*. It's everything this rather pathetic old man still thinks is the elite, working against perfect lowered-Atlantic neoliberalism, purely because it could be heard more clearly than Radio Luxembourg when he was 15. It may still be a tempting argument to some. But it's as outmoded and irrelevant today as MacShane no doubt thinks the original idea of the NHS is.
Left and right - how quaint! - mean sufficiently little to me now that I can praise David Davis for taking the stance he did, with the usual regret that things have sunk low that it is someone like *him*, out of all the politicians in this country, I have to praise (though I think he may have been newly radicalised, at least to an extent, by the obviously class-prejudiced way the Cameronistas have treated him). If Kelvin Mackenzie is not prepared to stand as the knuckle-draggers' candidate, I have an idea. In the mid-1980s, all Unionist MPs in Northern Ireland resigned their seats in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, though all were soon re-elected in by-elections. In the three seats where no candidate opposed them, so as to avoid an uncontested election (which last happened in the UK at a 1954 NI by-election, and last happened at a general election at several NI seats in 1951) a dummy "For the Anglo-Irish Agreement" candidate was put up under the name Peter Barry, then the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ireland. By the same token, I suggest a dummy candidate stand in Haltemprice & Howden (if you think Haltemprice was Alan B'Stard's seat, you're right, but that shouldn't mean anything now) as "For Detention Without Charge". Perhaps this candidate should use a suitable pseudonym - "Rupert Murdoch", maybe, or possibly "Tony Blair", or perhaps - just for the sake of argument, you understand - "Elvis Presley". Then at least we could see precisely how many people are on each side in this fairly representative part of Middle England. It might be ugly. But I think we ought to know.
|Friday, June 13th, 2008|
|Thursday, June 12th, 2008|
|Wednesday, June 11th, 2008|
|Tuesday, June 10th, 2008|
|sent to Feedback re. the below
On his Radio 1 show this morning, Chris Moyles proclaimed - presumably purely because of their nationality - that the BBC's software providers, who happened to be (theoretically: software firms are global by their very nature) German, were "Nazis" because they had deleted some files. A pathetic apology was given, but no genuine remorse was audible.
Is the BBC aware of just how damaging to the nation this potentially is? We have already suffered seriously from our failure to commit to unity with our true allies. Moyles has a large audience which includes a significant number of young people, who have yet to form their views on these matters, and he appeals to many listeners who - without wanting to sound patronising - are largely ill-educated and often read newspapers which print this kind of inane bile (the German people today are particularly fastidious to distance themselves in every respect from Nazism) as a matter of course. Remarks such as this can have an influence on the vulnerable and gullible which by extension has a deleterious effect on the entire nation.
The newspapers which casually abuse a people as civilised, educated and rounded as the modern-day Germans generally are are at least in the private sector. But Moyles is doing this with *our money*, and therefore is the concern of everyone in this country except the very small minority who do not receive television broadcasts. This sort of thing runs the risk of alienating the most natural supporters of the BBC licence fee, namely people who believe that our place lies in Europe and want at least some protection from rampant commercialism. The people who are not offended by such abuse are mostly either indifferent to the licence fee or actively opposed to it - for them, abolition of public service broadcasting is a goal to be aimed at along with our withdrawal from the EU. The BBC should, if only for reasons of self-interest, be aiming to retain the support of its most natural allies, and allowing the broadcast of such remarks does the precise opposite.
I have no objection to public money being used to fund the popular music networks (for want of a better term). What I *do* object to is public money being used to fund racist abuse of our fellow Europeans (or any other group). I think it is time that Moyles and the BBC parted company - Radio 1 listeners, every bit as much as listeners and viewers to any other BBC service, deserve far better.
|the vilest man in the British media shows his vileness yet again
I despair, once again, at the level this country has sunk to, its refusal to make common cause with its true allies.
It's understandable that some of us who naturally support the BBC are in despair - that the only broadcaster that can possibly defend the European cause employs people who can casually do *this*. A completely commercial model would of course make things even worse than they are now, but this sort of thing can make even the most fervent supporters of the licence fee think it might not be such a bad idea to withhold it.
One thing's for sure: the usual suspect on Digital Spy who said that only Daily Telegraph readers would find Moyles offensive is a *cunt* to the power of a million.
|England, Platini and UEFA: a (not entirely flippant) challenge to all Murdochians
No doubt the Murdoch press and its allies are right when they rant about UEFA, and Michel Platini in particular, being biased against England. No doubt there *is* such a slant at the top of UEFA, and probably has been for decades. But they should understand some deeper truths. They might desperately wish otherwise, but the rest of us know that the organisation of international football at the top level has everything to do with international politics, and nothing to do with football. And it cannot sensibly be denied that - with the unswerving support of the Murdoch press (who, if given ipso facto rather than de facto power, would have gone far further) - the ruling elite in this country have, over and over again, denied our European destiny and treated the continent like shit. If it is acknowledged (as it should be) that these things are about politics rather than football, UEFA cannot be blamed for holding a sceptical view of England, and among the biggest reasons for this is, er, the Murdoch press.
I myself suggested some time ago that England players showed so little interest in qualifying for Euro 2008 that they might as well join the North American Zone of CONCACAF, alongside the nation where their cultural loyalties invariably lie. They would be happier there, far more in their natural element. Cameron will probably eventually bring it about anyway. I now challenge any Murdoch hack, or similar, to support CONCACAF membership. They'd be far happier that way. It would be the logical conclusion of their geopolitical agenda for England.
I am sure something could be arranged to ensure the elite clubs could continue to play in the Champions' League. As that competition more and more blatantly represents the de-Europeanisation of Europe, and the elite clubs have little if anything meaningfully to do with England now, it will no doubt eventually mutate into something with no connexion to individual nations. I still repeat my challenge the Murdoch press to support withdrawal from UEFA. After all, Dollarzone East FC might even be able to lose a qualifier to Cuba!
|Monday, June 9th, 2008|
|the RAR dream of pop crumbles still further
(c.f., among much else, http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/showbiz/a98353/winehouse-racist-video-surfaces.html
I would never normally comment on such things - let the redtops, who stir up and strengthen such bigotries, hypocritically feign outrage, and let the Graun drift further and further away from what it is supposed to be by reporting them as if they were news. But it is an important incident, if only because it confirms that - contrary to a myth of which I myself was once a misty-eyed adherent - white people who take from black musical sources, and people from Jewish backgrounds, are every bit as capable of racism as anyone else. Even the most stereotypical trendy-lefties will surely have to admit that there are plenty of people who believe in the primacy of high culture who would be as repulsed by this as they are.
Of course, Winehouse probably has even less awareness of where her style originally came from than Sun-reading (some things you just *know*) Brit rock'n'roll revivalists Matchbox did when they put a Confederate flag in the promo film to "Midnite Dynamos", and I cannot imagine that Judaism - or anything much, really - means anything at all whatsoever to her at the moment. Nevertheless, it is good to have my long-term suspicions confirmed - after Duffy's merely staggeringly patronising remarks to Estelle, we now *truly* have a new Eric Clapton in our midst.
|Saturday, June 7th, 2008|
|election pop (slight return): what happened next
No doubt many will remember when I posted the UK charts for every election week since 1955. No doubt most will prefer to forget them. But I still can't believe I haven't previously picked up on the fact that a song about an old-elite Cambridge garden party (come on, even if you've never heard any of their albums, or anything terrifying like that, you *do* know more than one Marillion song), however sardonic (and could it be anything else if sung by a supporter of the party whose current rule in Edinburgh will surely be the tipping point that ends the United Kingdom?), charted the week *after* the 1983 election. At no other time before or since could such a song have come anywhere near the charts, and a comparison between it and pretty much *all* summer '87 chart music seems an almost perfect analogy for the vast gulf between what Thatcherism, at the time of the '83 election, was still very widely seen as bringing about by both its admirers and its critics, and what it actually did lead to. Today, of course, the regrouping and (pseudo-)reinvention of the old elite through pop is an exact mirror to the political situation.
The more time passes, the more aware I become of an immense truth: that much of the best British music of 66-69 (Bonzos, Blossom Toes, Traffic before the US absorbed them, very nearly all of the early Bee Gees, some of Paul & Barry Ryan, in his own way Scott Walker) are not in fact about or of anything that ever actually existed, rather they are the pop of a parallel Britain that almost happened but never quite found itself, one where the old order was fundamentally thrown off but where it was replaced by something quite different from what actually replaced it (which was defined above all others by Rupert Murdoch, whose arrival in the UK coincides almost exactly with the end of this brief pop epoch). That is precisely why they tantalise, but also why they do something more than that: they *chide*, remind us of what would have been but for too many people's stupidity and inability to see the wider picture.
And I similarly become ever more aware of just how much riding has done to keep me afloat. I wouldn't say I *live* for it - that would be crass and simplistic - but it's still the thing I live for more than anything else, and the only thing which, once done, changes my whole feeling and perspective on things for some time afterwards: I invariably return home feeling that things can't go wrong, aren't going wrong. Utter defiance of reality, I know, but the level of *achievement* I feel, the sheer enjoyment, the realisation of what it would actually be like to have friends like "everyone else" always has ... to think I once said on ILX that one of my relatives could only ever, possibly, have taken up riding because she was a social climber! If there is one statement I've made which I'm profoundly embarrassed is still (presumably) in the public domain, that's the one.
"Rusholme Ruffians" fills the room. The Great Lie reclaimed (and the fact that Johnny Marr wouldn't have seen it that way makes it all the better). A solitary life has its moments, more than for many years.