Wednesday, November 12, 2003

A few things: the main "allegations" the British press can't tell you about are that George Smith, a former royal servant, claims that Michael Fawcett, until this year the head of Prince Charles' household, raped him, and also that Fawcett was seen in bed with Charles. There is also another royal servant who claims to have been raped - this was in fact reported on the BBC website a year ago - and various "dynamite" tapes made by Princess Diana, etc, etc.

Prince Charles was in bed with Michael Fawcett, and Fawcett raped a royal servant. That's what The Mail on Sunday can't tell you, but The House at World's End *can* (as has the Murdoch-owned Fox News, transmitted in the UK via satellite, interestingly). Because this is the internet, you see. They can't block websites at customs like they've blocked every continental paper which has run the story. Nor is the internet subject to legal intervention by establishment forces who think they don't have to work by everyone else's rules.

Fuck David Blunkett. Fuck ID cards. Fuck New Labour. If ever there comes a time when you need an ID card to get a job, or treatment on the NHS, I won't be living in this country.

In one of the private conversations which have taken up much of my time since I last did this, I suggested that Andre 3000 of Outkast was in a lineage going back to Jimi Hendrix, ie African-Americans existing outside the lineage of their "own" cultural territory - it's not so much that I'm much of a Hendrix fan myself, but the very great Paul Whitehead (of the Wye Valley trek / 70s rural resettlement stuff on the old site) suggested that JH was influenced by John Clare and Emily Bronte. I think that statement might be the single greatest indication of the gulf between the hippie-bohemian idea of pop music and the R&B-imports-into-Mod-and-hip-hop-into-garage-and-all-that-stuff idea of it; for the hippie-bohemians it's never quite been enough for pop to be defined entirely in its own terms, it so often has to have justifications from earlier, wider territories (this I think is the big reason why hippie-bohemians sometimes get accused - whether by old Northern Soul fans or old punks or young grimy kids - of being conservatives in disguise; the "Rowan Williams factor" is surely strengthening this tendency right now).

For the racially-mixed working-class-to-lower-middle-class continuum (and those from the higher middle classes who have joined it since the boundaries came crashing down, most obviously Tim Westwood - Joe Strummer represented an earlier and, to me, less likeable meme which was nevertheless part of the same process) such comparisons have always been at best irrelevant, distracting from the point of what they're doing, "elitist middle-class bollocks - this is for the people, this is for the streets", and at worst genuinely politically dodgy (for Dizzee Rascal or 50 Cent a comparison between an African-American musician and a poet whose sadness over the Enclosure Acts was recently reported in The Times' Saturday supplement would be irrelevant, for Westwood it would remind him of the part of his life he wants to forget but wouldn't put him off his course, but for Chuck D or Asian Dub Foundation or Nas or the more articulate So Soliders and probably for someone like Roots Manuva it would be actively offensive).

Anyway, the comparison was apposite because a subsequent Guardian interview with Andre revealed that he wants to play Hendrix in some kind of biopic - and that's the key; no way would Big Boi have such ambitions. Let's say ...

Andre 3000 = Jimi Hendrix (the hippie-bohemians who exist in a wider cultural continuum than that of black pop or even the whole of pop music ... their reference points are limitlessly wide, and sometimes that keeps them from a mass audience; not in either of these cases, though, and that's what makes both of them important, although there's still a gulf between Jimi and me)

Big Boi = Atlantic / Stax (the raw Southern playas)

Neptunes = Tamla Motown (the astonishing thing about Pharrell and Chad is the way they've managed to incorporate in their music the equivalent to practically every move Motown made over a whole decade, but in far less time and with a fraction of the number of people involved ... "In Search Of ..." is their "What's Going On", "Lapdance" their "Cloud Nine", "Frontin'" their "Still Water (Love)", "Caught Out There" their "Nowhere To Run" ...)

Beyonce = Diana Ross: The Vegas Years, and in her ballad mode an aspirational Whitney Houston substitute (although "Crazy In Love" is "Back In My Arms Again", at least)

Last Saturday night I noticed that Tony Blackburn was on three different radio stations available on Sky Digital on Saturday night simultaneously with Westwood on Radio 1 (Classic Gold, Jazz FM, Real Radio) - they were all playing different records at exactly the same moment so presumably TB either has more than one pre-recorded show being broadcast at the same time, or the same show is syndicated to several stations but they don't all broadcast it at the same time. Anyway I was wondering whether Westwood owed more to Blackburn or to John Peel (all three of them coming from what Wes Butters and NME hacks might call "un-pop" social backgrounds, although Wes surely wouldn't understand that phrase - Blackburn and Peel at least were public school, TW I *think* went to one of the old direct-grant grammar schools, and Blackburn was quite possibly the first British DJ who was told specifically by his bosses to drop a public school accent, when he joined Radio Caroline in 1964; I'd *love* to hear recordings of TB when he was at Millfield!). I reckon Westwood has more in common with Blackburn for the reasons that come through stronger than ever in the Andre-Big Boi polarisation; Peel has never played the commercially dominant black pop of the day, he started off with pretty much the whitest playlist on Radio 1 (and briefly Radio London), and although he's played much great black and black-influenced music, it was always either bohemian or, more likely, street-level and defiantly refusing to "cross over", from reggae to jungle. Although his shows go out at Peel-time, Westwood is as much the arch-populist as Blackburn was (TW represents the New Populism - vast lucrative niches which are neither "underground" in any meaningful sense nor The Nation's Favourite), and Westwood has no trace of Peel's modesty and disdain for ultra-capitalism - quite the opposite, in fact. And the hip-hop Westwood plays right now is where Tamla Motown was when Tony Blackburn promoted it so strongly in the UK in the 1960s; the commercially dominant black American form of the day (an undie-rap show would be comparable to Peel; Westwood can't be, it's just too in-yer-face and commercially driven). It doesn't have any consciousness or knowledge of a wider cultural world whatsoever, and that's why it's so thrilling - so much a Great Pop Unorthodoxy that Works - that Andre 3000 has brought his vision to so much of its core audience.

On top of that, if you accept the idea that Tim Westwood's entire career is some kind of reaction to the Church of England, then there's now a direct link between Peel Mark 1 and the very top of that institution via the Archbishop of Canterbury's liking for the Incredible String Band. I can't imagine Rowan Williams having much time for Tony Blackburn or any of the music he played, then or now ... I'm not sure whether RW becoming Archbishop equates to a full-scale appeasement of "cultural traitor" TW, because even the Anglican establishment types who thought the ISB were filthy and weird very often had a root sympathy with their nature-worship; it's black pop they've always had the *real* problem with, and I get the feeling that hasn't entirely gone (how many Motown or Northern Soul fans are clerics at any level, let alone Anglican bishops? Genuine question). The cultural problem with black pop is less than it was, though, and Williams' appointment is undoubtedly an important moment in British cultural history, and yet further proof that Ian MacDonald's "Fabled Foursome, Disappearing Decade" is the greatest piece of writing on the 60s ("since middle-class Christians tend to conceive a spiritual crisis as being something that happens only in the best of taste ... it was hard for them to realise that much of what appeared to be profane in Sixties youth culture was in fact the opposite" - that might be very slightly misquoted, but doesn't it get right to the heart of the relationship between reactionary clerics back then and those they'd have taunted as "un-Christian", one of whom went on to be Archbishop of Canterbury? And written a decade ago, too ...)

Isn't the Bee Gees' "Odessa" (1969, of course; that year can't leave me, however much I might want it to) a fucking awesome album? Amazing to think they were planning to release the seven-minute-plus title song as a single before chickening out because they were worried about being accused of copying "Macarthur Park" and "Hey Jude" (and, arguably, "Eloise" and "Those Were The Days") - it might have altered mass perceptions of the Gibbs forever, although in which direction I really don't know. "Say goodbye to Auld Lang Syne, say goodbye to Auld Lang Syne ... who is the girl at the window pane ... Edison came to stay ... Melody Fair (title!), remember you're only a girl ..." And then there's "The British Opera"!

Fuck Blunkett, though. Fuck him and all he stands for. And FUCK ID CARDS.

And we remember the Criminal Justice Act 1994, Mr Howard.

"You'll never see my face again", though ... probably the Gibb brothers' finest moments, almost enough to make one forget every unpleasantness that might be thrown up.
A welcome return. Or not?

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