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Sunday, February 29, 2004

EXTREMELY BRIEF ARCHIVAL TV THOUGHTS

MINDER (Paramount, was Granada Plus a couple of years back)

Doesn't the London of this series look so *pre-modern*? (sorry, I'm struggling to find the exact words for its aesthetic, and I know I haven't got it at all right ...) There's something evocative about even the tiniest details - Acton Central BR signs, you know the kind of thing I mean - which makes it fit very well into the Great Cafe Wars. Can you imagine what an elderly Arthur now would say about Starbucks? The last couple of series from the early 90s - you know, the ones without Dennis Waterman where the minder was supposedly Arthur's nephew - were heading that way, especially Arthur's reaction to EC passports ...

MAPP AND LUCIA (UK Drama)

1985 and the heritage boom and "sitting around and looking elegant" and pretending to be concerned about the working classes vs not hiding your prejudices and claiming that if we give the proles baths "they'll keep POULTRY in them" and "Au Reservoir" and all that sort of thing. Great fun if you can stand thespian love-ins. I think I prefer Lucia, even if she's really just as obnoxious as Mapp; she just knows better to hide it.

VH1 / VH1 Classic

Would it ever, ever be possible for people with the hairstyles and physical appearances of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson to get to number one now? In the "I Know Him So Well" video they look positively *scary* and square-faced at times, almost like they're about to coldly say "finishing school training" a la Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton (bloody UK Gold, eh?). Would Alasdair Milne have survived if the BBC hadn't been so successfully populist - working against the agenda of those in government who wanted to turn it into an equivalent of PBS/NPR, only less sceptical of the New Right - in 1985/86, culminating with the release of Nick Berry's "Every Loser Wins" on its label? Isn't the "Every Loser Wins" video a classic example of "let's try and light the Paddington Canal so it looks like Venice?" cut-price Brit thinking? Wasn't Man Utd's "Come On You Reds" an incredibly old-fashioned record for '94? Who are the other rubbery 1986 politicians apart from Neil Kinnock in the Spitting Image "Chicken Song" video? Doesn't the Communards' "Don't Leave Me This Way" sound better all this time gone than I thought it would?
I think I hate those who will still defend Blair now more than any other group of people because they are neither radical nor romantic-nostalgist; I can't hate anyone who is one and/or the other, but these Blair / Iraq war apologists, they're so fucking *middle-ground*, so *nothing*. What's most offensive, of course, is that what they defend is far from "nothing".
I think it was Enrique in *that* ILM thread who wanted to see me writing about "European culture" as a general concept. Weeelllll ...

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The best-remembered, most loved and most contentious song to have been released in May 1995 includes the line "pretend you never went to school". When I was fronting in social circumstances (I don't think I'd ever do it now, but even last summer I was capable of it) I'd pretend I *did*. Well, "pretend" maybe isn't the right word, because I had plenty of lessons in plenty of educational institutions, but if I was asked if I "went to school" in the accepted sense (ie a minimum of 11 years regularly attending educational institutions) I'd be lying if I said yes.

May 1995, then. Sitting on the edge of a heatwave summer, but it cooled down for the moment after the 80-degree hysteria of the VE Day commemorations. I'm a Philip Mullen type (sorry, ultra-ultra-in-joke), a conservative-minded teenager who thinks my country is going to the dogs because of all that ghastly Americanism (I still believe this, sort of). My favourite columnist is Auberon Waugh. Later in the year I'd change utterly, radicalise, transmute and transform myself, and a year from now I'll be planning to destroy Eton, Winchester and Oxford. But for now I am a fetishisher of old Englishness and, perhaps beyond that, High Central European Culture, all its fading idiosyncracies (small boarding schools being closed down by the screw of market modernity were two-a-penny in the Dorset of the mid-1990s). I may not seem like a Natural Labour Supporter, but at heart I still am, just, despite Blair, despite my conservative leanings, because my inherent anti-Americanism puts the Tory government of the day utterly off-limits (cf Auberon Waugh, again). I may be the only Natural Labour Supporter who dislikes Blair more because he wants to further erode the world of Thatcher's Enemy Within than because he feels no affinity to Thatcher's Enemy Without. My interest in pop music (which I'm rather sniffy about anyway) scarcely goes beyond the non-mainstream, I don't listen to Westwood or Radcliffe, and as late as August, the month of the Britpop wars, I'm going to record a Radio 3 series about light classical music popular in Britain in the 1950s. I am, in short, a decidedly curious individual.

Up at the local comprehensive (nine years later it's a trendily New Labourfied Arts College) I'm "experimentally" being "phased in" to attending lessons regularly (needless to say, it did not succeed in the long term). It's a weird early summer, some of whose media ephemera now seems like at least ten years earlier (Ron Jones was still reading out the cricket scoreboard on 5 Live Sunday Sport! Norman Cuddeford was still commentating on Wimbledon!), but something in the school is still too modern, even though it's very 1984 chic, very Alphaville, very "99 Red Balloons". It's the German room, five or six of us in a classroom built for 30, vast gaping gaps that almost feel like the 1950s - somehow it's the quietitude that does it. And I don't know who Raekwon is. But still it's too modern. It's a poster of German teenagers, German kids, German pop groups, functional housing estates in German cities, you know the kind of thing, the trendyvicardom of latter-day language teaching ("Nous sommes Les Feux Rouges!" - ultra-obscure Tricolore reference for 80s / 90s kids), which has proved so stunningly successful that language teaching has now fallen back to where it was well before the National Curriculum was introduced (if you tell a 13-year-old kid how big his favourite band are in Germany, he won't think "Great! I need to be able to understand them!", he'll think "well, they share my culture already, so they'll know my language, so why do I need to know theirs? I don't listen to German-language music").

But that is a side-rant. What counts in my personal context is that I went and tore the poster off the wall. Just like that. The profound self-assurance of The Asperger's Child, utterly unconscious of Rules and Authority. Thinking he can do anything and get away with it - a lot like my comments about Dave St*lfox, when you think of it. More to the point, I was a cultural dreamer. I wanted it to all be Lubitsch and Ophuls, Stroheim and Sternberg. I was totally out of the loop of references of my contemporaries. I'm sure I was an unbearably snobbish and unpleasant individual. But I'd picked up a vision of "European culture" and I'd run with it to the very top of this fucking mid-Atlantic institution and its deculturalised inhabitants, damnit!

Of course I was humiliated. I put the poster back where it had probably been since at least the Milli Vanilli era. My pompous explanatory note to the school was responded to with a polite "yes, but our aim is to teach our students functional French and German, not marginal high-cultural stuff which is really for A-level" sort of comment, the kind of thing nobody as contemptuous of The Mass as I was can even begin to accept (in fact I don't think I even *understood* it).

Round about the same time, the lucky ones who were at the school *full time* used to sing pop songs of the day whenever the teachers weren't listening / were out of the room. With devastating hypocrisy, I took a fancy in May 1995 to (gulp) "Scatman" by German-based fiftysomething US Army veteran Scatman John, a man whose background alone placed him firmly in the post-war continuum that has done most to undermine my hopelessly purist, 1930s idea of "European culture" - it was American Forces Network Radio which did most to spread rock'n'roll into Germany (and led to martyrdom in the East of the country). All this time, I was being told how much things had changed - Elvis in the Army, Beatles in Hamburg, yada yada - but I deliberately closed my ears to it for the same reason that those who think the BBC is full of lefties deliberately close their ears to the statistics showing that BBC news bulletins relating to the Iraq war, even pre-Hutton, were more trusting of the government line than any other major network; I was so hellbent on enforcing a specific ideological position that anything which challenged it had to be Not Even Thought About, a blindness worthy of the neocons.

Anyway, the morning after the Scatman's TOTP appearance (take note, Andi Peters) one of the kids in my class was singing his hit. Of course I took offence, because School Is For Work Not Popular Culture and why can't they bring back Top of the Form? But somehow the specific irony of why I might disapprove of someone singing that song - especially considering that I actually liked it myself!!! - was lost on me at that stage.

Later, when June had come around and the heatwave was about to burn down, the moment which, in retrospect, best sums up the absurdity of my idea of "European culture" occured. Girl behind me in English is singing "Right In The Night" by Jam 'n' Spoon. My reaction was something along the lines of "how vulgar and horribly modern, in all senses". But one of that nefarious duo (I think it was Spoon) would be immortalised in Simon Reynolds' "Energy Flash" for his dodgy-as-hell comments in an interview with, of all people, MTV to the effect that black people had hip-hop and white people had techno and that was the way it should stay. And, quite apart from my almost Sabben-Clareian objection to the idea of singing in classrooms, I thought this whiter-than-white Mitteleuropean Autobahn ride of a pop song was no more part of my Lubitschean idea of "European culture" than Robson & Jerome or Oasis or Montell Jordan were. Oh dear.

Of course I changed. By late summer and early autumn I'd discovered the music press and then there was no turning back. A new world opened, and I took the plunge forever (it should be remembered though that even in the summer of '95 I despised Robert Henderson's racial separatism, though I'd never have dreamed at that time that I'd grow up to regularly converse with the cricket-loving antiquarian, let alone find common ground with him in opposition to a US administration). One of the reasons why I abandoned my Authentic European High Culture ("European" in that sense could include British, but only if it was Powell & Pressburger or similar) slant was that I knew it had always been the rankest hypocrisy. By mid-'95 Eurodance was pretty much played out in the UK for the time being ("Right In The Night" was a reissue from more than a year earlier, 2 Unlimited had gone down the dumper, Ace of Base's second album bombed), but in its golden period of '93/'94, just before we left Estuaryland for the South Coast, its lacerating (when you're that age) beats, helium female vocals and ultra-cheesy raps were like gold to me, the highlight of the Sunday afternoon Top 40 rundown every week without fail. Culture Beat's "Got To Get It"? Your life rushing before you in a Dusseldorf fairground. Their "World In Your Hands"? A devastating tear in the eye. MC Sar & The Real McCoy's "Another Night" and "Runaway" (actually released in the UK after we'd moved)? The final moment; it's now or never for the rest of your life. Haddaway's "Rock My Heart"? Never has life seemed more obviously like a chance for pure *excitement*.

All this stuff was inherently born out of the German-American alliance that Bush has done his hardest to destroy (remember though that when Eurodance hit the Anglosphere a decade ago, we'd just got Clinton and the US was getting pretty Euro-friendly, not that it was ever as *hateful* towards Europe even under previous Republican administrations as it has been under the neocon stasi). A hell of a lot of the stuff I'd grown up listening to on the charts since the very late 80s involved artists who'd come to Germany through the US forces and launched their careers in Europe - Sydney Youngblood, Turbo B out of Snap, Captain Hollywood (Twenty Four Seven and, of course, his Project), even bloody Terence Trent D'Arby. If my parents and teachers had but known of it, pointing this out to me - pointing out that I taped the first UK number one after Sweden joined the EU, that great statement of support for European social democracy and attack on the US Republican Party that is "Cotton Eye Joe" by Rednex, off the Top 40 and played it to death for fuck's sake!!! - would have been a far more valid pointing-out of the narrowness of my position than period icons like Elvis or the Beatles.

And you know what? I still love the fuck out of 10-years-ago Eurodance (apart from 2 Unlimited, strangely). I still hate the fuck out of Bush and the neocons and I love the fuck out of France and Germany for standing up to them. I don't see this as a contradiction because that era of Eurodance evokes a better, more positive world than this, a world where the mood of reconcilation that followed the collapse of East European Communism and the defeat of Bush in '92 never ended. I wish it could have been. I dream it can still be. The oceanic intro of the Real McCoy's "Runaway" - a US Top 3 hit! - reminds me of everything I loved about the Republicans not being in power there anymore just as much as "This Is How We Do It" getting to number one there does. That's why I hate the US-Europe rift more than anything else; IT DOESN'T HAVE TO EXIST.

That said, I don't believe "the Franco-German axis" ultimately holds much water - before the madness started in the US, Germany was always pretty close to the US on foreign policy, France much less so. The French establishment instinctively want to oppose the US for the sake of it, even when it's not acting like it is at the moment; the German establishment don't have that gut instinct at all, and before January 2001 this caused plenty of rifts at the top of the EU and its predecessors (this is why the recent Franco-German rift caused by the German elite supposedly getting too close to Blair over enforcing economic modernisation - ie US-style "free markets" - and greater support for technological innovation - which may mean good things but may mean the GM lobby shouting louder and louder - doesn't surprise me; I always saw it as an inevitability when Bush went, but it's even happening while he's already there ... essentially the German elite can cope with the constraints imposed by modern capitalism and its French equivalent can't). When the romantic anti-American Francophile Auberon Waugh cited Sweden as the worst European country, I instantly thought of "The Final Countdown" and "The Look" - in reality, he'd surely never heard of those records and was probably thinking of its strong belief in the idea of the socialist state as opposed to his own belief that The State, as a concept, bordered on evil, but his affinity to France above all other European countries and his affinity to the concept of "Europe" as a means of destroying the influence of American culture upon Britain very obviously went hand in hand.

Personally, all I care about is stopping the allegiance with Bush. Lil Jon is in the German Top 20 now. It *is* possible to oppose the neocons and their disregard for international law, the planet, and humanity itself, without turning blindly into what I was nine years ago. That's why both the "Freedom Fries" mob and European fascist groups (plus a few European orthodox conservatives, mainly French Gaullists) have got it wrong. Yes, I'll hate Blair and his refutal of his initial promises for "open government" to such an extent that we are now faced with a tightening of the Official Secrets Act and such persecution of Clare Short for daring to breach all that bullshit "state protocol" that it's as if we're back in the political impasse of 1995, only a million times worse because it's OUR OWN SIDE which has let us down and also our "allies" are far far far worse than they were then. But I won't apologise for listening to Culture Beat more often than Asian Dub Foundation while I'm feeling that hate.

We are European, you see. The denial of our destiny for the time being is the single greatest tragedy of the last 18 months. But I'd never again define "European" as I did in the spring and early summer of 1995. If I did, then in a twisted sort of way I'd probably end up being closer to George Bush than Robin Cook. And wouldn't that be "ironic" (in the mid-1990s screeching mid-Atlantic sense), don't you think?

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Dave ... I really am sorry. It frustrates me all the more because I know we potentially have a hell of a lot in common. Your dislike for the ILM clique, in many ways, echoes mine.

It is just that I have *bigger things* to deal with at the moment. And, yes, protest about. These will always be my main concerns, above all pop-cultural ones.

All that being said, I hope we can continue to talk privately, because there is common ground emerging - we may not hold similar beliefs for the same reasons, but it seems the beliefs are pretty similar all the same. I hope I have learnt something from all this bullshit, of how to deal with social relationships in the adult world. When I have fully matured on that front, Asperger's Syndrome will no longer come anywhere near defining me; I will, for the first time, fully define myself.

I have learnt a lot this week. Thank you, Dave (genuinely). I may have written some bullshit at times, but the response from the bullshit helps me more than it logically should.

(hey, isn't saying that something can be the case even though it isn't logical overcoming Asperger's *right thurr*?)

(p.s. the below stuff about Don't Wait Up etc. was OTT ... I wrote it before I read Dave's email which explained things better and seemed to corral with my views much more than I thought it would ... I won't remove it, because it reflects my feelings at the time, but I won't write anything like that again ... yes, it was an OTT thing to write. Growing up in public, you see. That is the very nature of my - unavoidably - behind-schedule adolescence.)
big up somedisco once again; although alluding to the Great Cafe Wars of Feb '04, his claim that "wasted elegies for elegant old tings can be all aestheticism" relating to me could also describe my (i suspect) much-misunderstood euology for Antonia Forest last December; my fascination with her and her world was purely borne out of interest in details, anachronisms, curiosities, seen through a deeply ambivalent sociological perspective. my politics have always been, i should imagine, much more *fundamentally* antithetical to hers than a preference for Pret-a-Manger would be to a liking for old greasy spoon caffs (somehow, whenever I think of the latter, Del Boy saying that Chelsea "should never have sold Greavsie" comes to mind - this would be 1982 OFAH from memory, so itself throwing up an interesting comparison when you think of bloody "Yuppy Love", etc, let alone the current multinational Chelsea side - i hear what you're saying, Scott, they didn't deserve three points off Man City!).

ahem. to answer Simon R's question on this matter, incidentally; the decline of faith in "standardisation" as a de facto good thing is essentially the same thing as the decline of faith in The Future as a concept. in pop's early years, as Simon hints, opposition to "standardisation" was mainly to be found on the most anti-pop ideological fringes, the Priestley / Hoggart puritan socialist tendency (up in Wimborne on Monday seeing all these annuals for American TV shows published by the Daily Mirror in the Macmillan-Gaitskell era - Champion The Wonder Horse, Circus Boy, Wagon Train et al - reminded me again how strong the divide between the main working-class Labour paper and leftist theorists was circa '59 / '60). in Brit popcult, the first emergence of "standardisation" as something to be wary of rather than celebrate uncritically really came from one of the many subcults which emerged after the crushing of the unified optimism of the mid-60s with the pirate radio ban in August 1967 - it may seem crushingly predictable for me to say this, but I really do think it was the ruralist wing of hippiedom which broke the mould, anticipating the great loss of faith in The Future, the great increase in nerves and worries about big changes on the horizon, which rapidly took root from around 1969/70 onwards, hurtling utterly into the black hole by the mid-70s.

in the early 60s, "standardisation" was seen as a good thing even by some romantic Tories, not by Betjeman or Michael Wharton obviously, but read what Malcolm Saville was writing about changing farming methods and, although essentially a romantic-ruralist, he's as in hock to the great god of technological advance as any railway modernisation plan film (the journey that took us from here to the period i tried to reflect in my Elidor piece on The Changes was analysed pretty well by Julian Pettifer in a recent Radio 4 series). ever since that great loss of collective nerve some time around the early 70s, the idea that Things Will Get Better has proved irrecoverable, partially because we just know So Much More about the downside of multi-national capitalism (the British public circa 1960 were unbelievably ill-informed by modern standards - this applies also to the hard-Left who knew only what they were told, which was very little and highly romanticised at that, about life in the Eastern Bloc, let alone about the fact that East German teenagers could be shot dead for listening to rock'n'roll on American Forces Network radio from West Germany). if we knew as little about the nastier elements of Big Capitalism as we did circa 1960, if we were as subservient a people and as closed-off an island as we were then, i have no doubt that the movement against the big chains would never have got off the ground.

clap clap clap was onto something last December; when you have serious political crises, most of all *this* one, cultural details such as those Southall and myself debated in agonising detail ultimately mean nothing, and you're wasting time and energy speaking about them as though They Really Mattered, as though they were the biggest divisive factors around, let alone the greatest outrages. that is also, incidentally, one of the key reasons why i was silent here for so long; it all seemed pointless, clutching-at-straws, arguing-over-nothing in a time when sheer anger born out of impotence and fury (to get it down to the simplest possible terms, breaking social and cultural boundaries is not comparable to BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW - if my country hadn't been involved in the latter i might well feel that the former was more important than i do). when ClearChannel are adopting what can best be described as pre-emptive censorship as a means of outpuritaning the FCC, post-Nipplegate and the onslaught of hypocrisy and backwardness that has followed it, and when you can now see their name on a billboard in an English seaside town, and when your country's reputation for following international law is hitting new lows among the countries it should be sharing a currency with by now, it's hard to get worked up or really care at all about a middle-aged white man getting rather sillily overexcited about YoungBuck, tedious and dull though the latter's flow may be.

as a final word to Dave, there were other remarks that may have influenced me at least as much as the Norfolk-grime one, specifically your wariness of filesharing / p-2-p culture and the way it allows people to buy into musical movements knowing nothing about them or their cultural contexts, and your specific reference to Pinner, which had thoughts flashed through my mind along the lines of "what's the alternative? do you really want people to live like the characters in BBC suburban sitcoms forever?", and yes, that had me thinking that it could cross over with a small-c conservative desire to utterly insulate suburbia, to institutionalise its narrowness forever (i can't actually recall such a sitcom being set there at the moment, but they all might as well have been; it is an archetype and a mention of it as such will always push certain buttons with anyone who's grown up in Britain, apart from kids younger than me who have no recollection whatsoever of when that archetype was still strong - i'm only 23, yeah, but fucking "Don't Wait Up!" carried on into the 90s for fuck's sake!). i think i should have said that some of your views COULD BE SHARED BY old-school Tories rather than BNP people, because whatever anyone thinks of the Tories or small-c conservatism as a whole, drawing such a comparison doesn't bring anything like the same level of shame that a BNP comparison does. but all this is past, now. please go on blogging and posting to ILM. we may not really be on the same cultural wavelength, but i don't hold that fact in itself against anyone.

oh, and i think Gareth is right that my strengths and weaknesses are the same thing; whether you see them as strengths or weaknesses is dependent entirely on your own ideological and social position. but just because people's positions differ from mine doesn't mean we can't appreciate each other - if i hated everyone whose position differed from mine i'd have gatecrashed Antonia Forest's funeral and pissed all over the church while playing "Damn" by YoungBloodZ at top volume and screaming "FUCKING BIGOTS". i'd have done that when i was 15 or 16, probably, if i'd had the guts. but i am now both an emotional and intellectual adult. if Dom Passantino showed himself as such we might eventually be able to respect each other.

Friday, February 27, 2004

God, I have stirred something up, haven't I? Maybe it's a sign of my essential immaturity that I still think you can do this AND GET AWAY WITH IT, or at any rate not offend anyone. I was testing the water. Maybe I wanted to break the ties with the ILX clique once and for all. It's probably done that, but was it worth it? At this time I am genuinely not sure.

Certain things from the mammoth ILM thread should be clarified, though:

I only mentioned York University because it had more "60s liberal" tendencies when Greg Dyke was there than Oxford would have done when Lord Hutton was there. My family bought a piano mainly for me to play in 1987, but my father's pay went down in real terms during the Thatcher era - we spent many of those years struggling to get by. The closest we ever got to the Algarve was a day in Dunkirk while we were on holiday in Broadstairs. Oh, and my grandfather was on the Jarrow marches in the Depression of the 1930s - as a child, he fucking well knew poverty like very few before or since. My family has been around. That I don't regard my ancestry and class as my ultimate touchstones - they'd be the tastes, ideals and values I have *now* and for the future - doesn't mean they're meaningless to me. That I may appear to regard the upsurge of privately-educated artists in the pop charts as something positive-by-default (although actually I don't see it as good or bad, I merely see it as inevitable 20 years on from the New Right takeover) doesn't mean I don't fucking hate the public schools and what they stand for (anyone who saw me roaring "Non-stop to the 14th Century!" at Waterloo on 1st November 2000 when a train was about to leave for Winchester would know that) - it's just that I don't hate everyone who's been through an institution / stratum of society just because I hate the institution / stratum of society itself. That, above all else, is where I part company with Dom Passantino.

I find it hard to relate to my political writings of a couple of years ago because they give the impression of someone much more confident that he could change things, much more certain and secure in his ideology. Now I'm more cynical than ever, and more to the point, more than ever, I don't even know what I think most of the time (which is perhaps the biggest reason why I have made mistakes with postings which suggested clear, unequivocal, uncontradictable political views - I'm fronting for the sake of argument much of the time). Enrique may well be right that I trusted NuLab too much until recently, but then so did many of us (Iraq/Hutton and all the aftereffects have been the final straw - *of course* I was thinking differently even two years ago, as were innumerable others who now share my views). By the same token, I haven't been to the Labour Animal Welfare Society site in months and I'm almost past caring about it, but if they still say I wrote "Racism of the Countryside Alliance: A Historical View", they're wrong. I did write the piece that goes on about Elton John and Tony Blackburn, though.

Big up Sterling Clover. You came through at the right time. Yes, of course I've made some exaggerated statements at times, but what you said about me-on-Juelz hit home at the right time, and the stuff about me being inspired by the European intellectual tradition as opposed to the more mid-Atlantic position of a lot of the British ILXors (Dom = Andy Humphries defending "Sex Lives of the Potato Men" in the Guardian - his owning Jackass DVDs confirms the extent to which the gap between us is total, unbridgeable, permanent) is absolutely spot on - if I didn't come from that European tradition, with its wariness of overt popism and distance from the essentially American pop-cultural tradition, none of the disagreements between me and Dave, Nick, Dom or practically anyone else on ILM would ever have happened. "A thicket of sprawling parentheticals and desperate connections", Mike D? I couldn't disagree with that. That's why I'm aiming to get back to proper writing on here - stuff that non-ILXors could understand and comprehend - pretty soon.

Big up Ethan/Trife; I don't always agree with you, and I almost always think you've exaggerated something stupid, but I always understand where you're coming from, and I understand your context and its vast differences to mine. What you say about the nastiness creeping into nu-ILM is also the reason why I rarely post there these days, although that is NO justification for the inferences that could be read into my comments on Dave St*lfox (of which more below).

*Of course* Westwood is pure comedy. That's where the sociology lies (that native RP slipping further and further back in, the phrase "grown-arse", etc, etc). He has always pissed me off a lot of the time; to tell the truth, I defend him purely because the alternative strikes me as worse and I'm worried about being aligned with those who'd dislike him for racial/authenticity-related reasons, rather than because I particularly like him. His own personal values are the antithesis of mine (not even I can argue that his use of "arse" while Socialist Worker recently said "ass" makes him more quasi-Socialist than them in this instence; 1959 Gaitskellian linguistic Americosceptic I may be, but I know the limits of such theorising).

The "Pump It Up" chant is from the admittedly not-that-good (but it worked in the context) "Pump It Up" by Joe Budden, cf one of the WW1 fallen named in Wimborne Minster also being called Budden.

And, please, don't go, Dave. I have nothing against you. My actual inspiration on the Norfolk-grime thing came from an ILM posting of yours (the one where you went on to refer to the popularity of country music nights in certain rural areas of England - I didn't really like the implications of that because it seemed to suggest that the full-on culture war which has riven the US is going to do the same to Britain, and the main reason for that was typically my own nervousness, ie I FEAR IT MAY ACTUALLY BE HAPPENING AND THAT YOU MAY HAVE BEEN RIGHT, although I hope you're not). But the reference to a fascist political party was right out of order. I apologise no end for the possible inferences that some may have read into it, and I have - as you asked - made your name ungooglable. Carry on with the blog, Dave, and carry on posting to ILX. Please. I wouldn't have wanted to shut anyone up, even if I found most of their views utterly toxic and poisonous, and it should go without saying that the vast vast majority of your views are a million miles from that. Asperger's Syndrome brings on a fucking short temper sometimes, and I've shown this. I hope, with a certain amount of trepidation, that it does not do damage as serious as it might.

"A symptom of some fundamental psychological problem"? Somehow I feel I'm back half my life ago and I've just been told, for the first time, I have Asperger's Syndrome. The tendency to take statements literally and draw the most literal conclusions imaginable, the obsession with everything fitting together, the repetition of certain themes ... that's Asperger's, alright. If you can't live with it, you don't need to read this blog. Nobody has to. In fact I doubt whether anyone not from ILM *is* at the moment. That will change, for sure.

Dom and I will never, ever get on. That might possibly be true of Nick Southall, but things may change - Nick's background and mine are actually freakishly similar (both with family from Old Labour areas but now living on the South Coast, both the same age, both inspired as teenagers by that MM book of old interviews published in April '96), and I sense a possible common ground there that can simply never exist between me and Dom. But things have got too rough, too divisive. Like someone once said, now is the time we should unite. Those (and I'm really only thinking of Dom here) who are too caught up in their ancient battles and grudges to acknowledge this never will, but the vast majority on ILM *can* acknowledge it, and I know Dave is as capable of it as anyone.

Will this olive branch break? I can only say that I offer it with sincerity. Above all else, Dave, don't feel cowed into submission. I will feel truly ashamed of myself if you do. Nothing that inspires someone to feel that fucked off and fucked up and paranoid can be justified in any way.

much love,
---------------
rpc 28/2/04

Thursday, February 26, 2004

i need some sleep.

luka and the joycean chap alike, i wuv u.
Oh God I am SO CONFUSED at the moment (ha I do like that 2 Play song ...)
Oh but Enrique - for all your faults (I can't really put it in words) your claim that all grime threads on ILM should be called "pop vs folk" is probably the most accurate thing anyone's ever said.

I still wuv u, u bastard.
Or, to put it another way, I've changed a hell of a lot in the six months and a bit since I started doing this. Those Who Know always say that for those of us with Asperger's Syndrome, emotional maturity (as opposed to the abstract-intellectual kind; that usually comes, as it did with me, at a very young age) comes agonisingly late, sometimes when you've resigned yourself to the thought that it may never come at all. And so it is with me. I should imagine that the moments of heightened hormonal insecurity I'm going through at the moment come to most people some time in their teens; at any rate, having thought hard and long all my life, I'm now having to deal with the actual emotional business. Tense? Hell yeah.

So inevitably what I say here may seem somewhat unbalanced to some; much of my earlier writing now seems extremely unbalanced to *me*. But I think it's worth doing. I mean, I could be writing about singing "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" (the Manfred Mann version) and a medley of Hollies and Wayne Fontana hits while watching an old BICC film about the West Coast Main Line electrification (first line: "This man is witnessing the destruction of an era": WILSON LANDSLIDE!!!!!!). But that'd be boring. Almost a self-parody (even though I actually did it!) Been there, done that. Of course I'm doing my growing up in public, and many years behind schedule as well - it goes with the Asperger's Syndrome territory. Of course I'm ideologically obsessed and obsessive, cf my interpretation of Dave's Norfolk/grime remarks, and probably that pisses a hell of a lot of people off. But at this time - both for me and for the world, somehow they seem to come together - I see no feasible alternative, and it has to be a lesser evil than the opposite extreme, surely?

It's OK. I'll get back to writing about Kanye West tomorrow.
I am the most serious-minded person I think I've ever met. That's why I feel I'm not One Of Them when I read ILM at the moment. I have no idea yet whether this is good or bad, but I have no problem whatsoever with feeling this way.
The Katharine Gun affair in a nutshell: the government didn't want to disclose Lord Goldsmith's report on the legality of the Iraq war because they knew they'd be exposed and publicly humiliated again, but they couldn't let the trial proceed without disclosing it to her legal team because then she'd have been able to claim - quite fairly - that she was being denied a fair trial, which would have caused a whole other problem for the govt.

Doesn't that show the extent to which they haven't got a leg left to stand on?
St*lfox you bounded mind! The whole point of my posting was the idea that there are no such thing as "innocent observations" about music, or at any rate no such thing as observations which have no possible political implications - EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD is potentially political on some level. I'm not offended by a few harmless incongruity jokes, but Dave went over that line - he made a clear, unambiguous this-is-what-I-believe statement, and if you make such a bold assertion that a predominately black-originated music does not AND WILL NEVER "fit in" to an overwhelmingly white area, then you *are*, like it or not, stepping into the same cultural territory that the far-Right specialise in. If you want to live a narrow compartmentalised life where no influence can ever meet another - cf Nick Southall's really rather amusing outrage that I dared to suggest that the thought of the Neptunes fucking with Norman Wisdom film music, cf that tingling bell driving the song along, made "Milkshake" more complete (i.e. the idea that they were fucking with the sounds of their cultural enemies) - then by all means go ahead. Just don't expect me to join in.

That's it, for now. I hope.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Where did the first two months of 2004 go?

Well, we know how fucking sickening the events of late January were. The climax of New Labour's turncoatery, their subservience to the elite they once promised to replace (cf the absolutely disgraceful torpedoing of an EU proposal to quash vast CAP handouts - considering the constant calls by the govt to reform the CAP over the past few years, combined with the seemingly permanent shelving of the hunting issue, it seems all too obvious that the landowning elite have nobbled the govt somewhere, and it fucking stinks). But I'll never forget the sheer anger and disgust of the end of January. Britain turned back decades, back to - at the very least - the sickening mood of early 1987 and the police raid on the BBC's Glasgow studios just at the time when Gorbachev was stopping jamming of the World Service, "The Music Of The Night" stinking up the Top 10, and the sorrowful injustice of Alasdair Milne's political removal. But really back further. In the context of the Hutton report, and all it inferred and still infers - an unelected, now-retired Shrewsbury / Oxford educated establishment yesman effectively telling people who worked their way up from nothing (cf Greg Dyke's background of grammar school and York University, as much an inspiration to those of us who believe in meritocracy as this is a crushing blow and a serious threat to the right to dissent and challenge and question) that they must never question what they are told by their elders and betters, and that they risk being forced out if they do - I concede some of the points that were made to me in December and January by those who had me down as some kind of Portillista, a believer that All The Battles Were Over and that we could all just sit back and listen to Lil Jon remixes forever and never think again. I exaggerated. I was over-optimistic. I was wrong, at times. Andrew Gilligan admitted as much. Would that the "British" state - which I now feel more strongly than ever *doesn't want me*, has effectively declared me stateless - had been willing to accept that. It is all a deep, profound injustice, and I just hope (against hope) it goes no further. Fuck the governors, especially Ryder and Hogg. At times, it has felt like we're stuck permanently, thrown back into everything we hoped we'd left behind.

A month has gone, and the edges have cooled (though they will doubtless be heated up again soon), but in the current climate I can't be doing with ILM much; at a time like this, talk of a "community" of Big Mac eaters AS THOUGH THAT'S A GOOD THING (Scott Seward's phraseology, I think), just seems like Bush-campaign talk, and moaning about Wire journalists who have the audacity to diss Bush seems like the dead end of popism, a mood conceived in the late 90s, when the time was right, but now being used almost fascistically as a means of quashing dissent, of ridiculing "outsiders", a fascinating aesthetic turned in on itself and gone very, very wrong. Maybe my standards are too high, maybe I ask too much (in fact you should probably ignore the maybes there), but I can't really be doing with people my own age who use dead, meaningless caricature words like "toff" and can't walk their Americoscepticism like they talk it, cf reading Heat and using the word "d00d" thus spelt (sorry Enrique, you are lovely and you have a great if wayward mind and you have a great future - greater than mine, as it stands, but I'm not bitter at your relative privilege, because the only reason why I don't have what you have academically begins and ends with Asperger's Syndrome - but you let yourself down with the assumption that the Sex Pistols getting played on Radio 1 by Bruno Brookes meant that no old Tory would be offended by the "Never Mind The Bollocks" cover being on the front of the Times Weekend supplement; as a child I was taken to our poshest family friends, quintessential Weekend country-pursuits readers, at their home in the Kent-Sussex-Surrey borders one Sunday afternoon, and it was made eminently clear to me that I wouldn't be able to listen to Bruno's Top 40 countdown in their house, that the irresistible force could not meet this immovable object; endorsement by him no more equated to their acceptance than endorsement by Rinse FM or the like would, and I'm sure the same would apply with - cough, splutter - "Wes" today).

And I'm not going to apologise for my belief that Nick Southall's "own class heritage" line was more conservative than most of the last 25 years of Tory policy, or that his response to my Westwood-centric thinkpiece, while an absolutely brilliant polemic and superb if you hold a certain ideology (I don't, but crucially I CAN UNDERSTAND IT - many can't, and they're your real enemy, Nick, not people like me) was ultimately flawed because it failed to acknowledge the length of time for which this cultural interchange has been going on; those who want to diss the Beatles' entire recorded output for musical reasons can go ahead, and I certainly won't be the one calling "BLASPHEMY!" (I'd disagree, of course, but that's beside the point), but those who'd say it's all worthless because Brian Epstein went to public school and they didn't and so he EXPLOITED them (the ultimate inference of Nick's argument) will get short shrift from me, I'm afraid; if pop is dead judged by those criteria, then it died with "A World Without Love" 40 years ago this coming spring, or maybe it was never alive at all when you think how many frustrated homosexual managers from public schools fucked about with the pre-Beatles boy rockers (the first and only generation of British pop stars who actually were universally proletarian, before things really got complicated). If you want to challenge Hutton's bullshit, you need to have THE PEOPLE HUTTON AND HIS ILK FEEL PROTECTIONIST ABOUT challenging them in public. Talk of people's "own class heritage" right now just makes me think of retired Shrewsbury masters saying that Old Salopians who believe in the right to journalistic independence and that Hutton's assumptions that officialdom is Always Right are overtly one-sided and should certainly not lead to enforced resignations are "letting the side down", and that is *not* the kind of thing that progressive people should be inferring, even accidentally.

That said, Nick had a point in that the actual phrasing of my article was unfortunately ambiguous on my part, a touch of the 6.07 am Andrew Gilligans perhaps - I didn't make it clear enough that I do not approve of what New Right economic theories have done to the NHS and public services generally, I despise the influence they have had on New Labour, I loathe the selfishness those theories have engendered among the more affluent and I utterly deplore the tabloid press culture those years have left us with. But I would still stand by a modified version of that piece, rejigged to acknowledge that I believe that the New Right have increased economic inequality and created a permanent underclass and far too many people living below the poverty line - if anyone thinks I *don't* think this, they have the wrong idea altogether (I think that some people thought of me as a conservative in disguise after reading my Antonia Forest and Auberon Waugh appreciations, failing to realise that if I'd shared the worldview of those two writers I'd actually have *agreed* that the middle and upper classes should Leave Popular Culture Well Alone). I won't change my view that the greater cultural interchange facilitated today makes for a more interesting cultural climate, though, and I won't change my view that a minority of the Left have unwittingly conservative ideas hiding behind their well-meaning opposition to the New Right (cf David Merryweather's utterly reprehensible belief that Cheryl Tweedy's racism was somehow justified because Girls Aloud have "prole energy" and the Asian law student was "jealous" and Tweedy was showing her what she was made of and telling her to Stick To What She Knows; when pop-cult-as-class-war blogging extends to defending the use of racist language Because It's What Working Class People Sometimes Do, then you know it's fallen well and truly over the edge, from mere polemics that I don't agree with into destructive personal neurosis and defence-of-the-indefensible because She's One Of Us, the absolute lowest possible point of the class-war school of writing).

And I certainly feel no reason to revise my opinion on some of Dave St*lfox's attitudes - at his best he's a fine writer, and he's certainly realised such things as the now almost total racial integration of the speech of young Londoners (watching the repeats of Minder on Paramount, the pure Jamaican accents of the black characters amid all the old-school cockney voices are what separates it most clearly from today) which the BNP and their ilk would never bring themselves to countenance, because it would undermine their belief that people of different racial groups can never get on and interrelate ("And?" responded Robert "David Irving is not a Holocaust denier" Henderson, in full James Sabben-Clare stylee, when someone pointed out that young black people in Britain don't sound as "black" as they did 30 years ago and generally have the accents of the area they come from. It's this enlightenment that makes it all the more frustrating that he can say things like "there's no place for grime in Norfolk" (paraphrased); OK it sounds good in the context of a certain kind of sociological popcrit, but once again it's that ILM living-in-its-own-world tendency and total ignorance of the very real battles being fought out there which makes it unpalatable for me; a few weeks after Dave said that, a BNP candidate stood in a rural East Anglian council by-election. If asked whether he thought there was a place for the music that Dave means when he says "grime" in rural East Anglia, do you honestly think he'd say "yes"? Do you honestly think he'd disagree with Dave to any meaningful extent? It is of course an unintentional crossover, but the importance of not being seen having *anything at all*, except perhaps opposition to GM crops (cf last Friday's quite extraordinary Daily Mail) in common with the BNP is so great at this moment, when all the confidence and zest of the late 90s seems a universe away and the climate is ripe for a bitter, insular, protectionist party to find a niche, that it should overwhelm any other priorities; at this time of all times, we need to *unite*.

Wimborne Minster on Monday this week was really quite magnificent, and not just for my unconscious Freudian slip outside the Minster where I called the Archbishop of Canterbury "Rowan Williamson"; the Minster itself made my heart stop several times (especially the children's Sunday School - do they still call it that? - drawings in the crypt; nothing makes me contemplate how transient we are like the thought of such youth amid such antiquity, and nothing makes me remember how much Antonia Forest's world was *not* mine than the contrast between this and the Christian Socialist Methodist church where I used to scribble Top 40 predictions when I should have been drawing Bible scenes), the Stour was flowing (under Julian's Bridge!) like the Torridge and Taw, February was at its crispest and brightest and coldest (always the weather in which market towns look their best, their most institutional, their most permanent). Oh, and when I noticed that one of the Wimbornians killed in the First World War and named on the memorial was called Budden I started doing the "Pump It Up" chant. In Wimborne Minster. The night before Westwood DJ-ed in Bournemouth. And I didn't feel guilty about it.

Nor did it stop me reading "End of Term" in the town centre and, these 45 years gone, still being able to clearly identify the Wade Abbas described therein, still absolutely picturing in my mind the path Nicola and Patrick took on their ponies, still being able to place where Charley's Cafe would have been, to know exactly what all the shop signs looked like and how the town *smelt* in 1959, helped by the fact that compared to Weymouth and Portland the town's aesthetic has hardly changed at all, the *feeling* can still easily be caught (all further contextualised by the Daily Mirror Circus Boy and Wagon Train annuals in the Minster second-hand bookshop, which reminded me that the old official culture was crumbling even in the late 50s and therefore stopped me mourning some short-term erosion). Once I'd done the Joe Budden thing I'd made it clear that I was definitively *not* part of Antonia Forest's world, yet Wimborne could *still* mean all that I'd dreamed it would; the "Pump It Up" chant made the dress of the kids seem irrelevant because, having done that, I was RIGHT DOWN THERE WITH THEM - yet, somehow, the strong outline of the frost-and-fog-bound pony trek where Patrick Merrick chilled Nicola Marlow to the bone with his recitation of "Lyke Wake Dirge" survived it all. Something seemed to work out in Wimborne on Monday; at any rate I managed to avoid the endless self-torture I'd feared would come out of it.

Back to music next. Let us waltz as the ship sinks ...

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