Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Journey Into The Past

So there I was sitting enjoying a beer or two with a mate on Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining and the yummy mummies were on their seventh bottle of vin gris and the conversation came round to the fact that the whole capitalist system was imploding and disappearing up its own arsehole. My friend mused on this and we both wondered whether or not the impending social fall-out would give rise to some good music.

A lot of people confuse the chronology of punk. It's quite common. There's the idea that punk happened during the winter of discontent and that it was the restless, revolutionary youth who helped bring down the corrupt and hidebound Labour administration and then took on the Tory fascists waving the flag throughout the years of mass unemployment. On paper that looks pretty good; but it's not true.

The purists argue that Punk was all over by mid-77. Others claim that it staggered on for a couple more years. Others say "who gives a fuck!". When The Specials released the epochal Ghost Town in 1981 unemployment hadn't even reached its peak. A year later it hit three million. There were no jobs and Tory politicians continued to demand greater and greater repression of the unemployed; demanding they find non-existent jobs in a moribund economy.

Well here we are again. There's a looming crisis, only this time the unions are emasculated and the cause of it lays at the feet of bankers who owe more to Rumplestiltskin than Keynes or Friedman for their economic philosophy. That said, if we are to compare the times then punk will have passed by now and we are in some grim industrial post-punk world peopled with bands like Prag Vec.

There are projections of six million unemployed in the UK by the end of the year, which is absolute bollocks; but a recession is upon us and can we all hope for some fantastic surge in music to complement these new old hard times. Well let's look and see what the soundtrack was for the last one....


Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Kajagoogoo, Phil Collins. It was a world of Anthony Price suits with the sleeves rolled up, of young bepermed men sitting on yachts and that great left wing thinker, Paul Weller, forming a band called The Style Council. In a word the last recession gave us some of the most insipid, spineless music that our music industry has ever come up with. Limp pop stars conspired with the most repressive government we had ever had (until Blair came along) to sell us an idea that somehow we could all live the dream merely by wearing nice suits.

They sold us out then and they will sell us out again. Anyone who dreams of some pop singer to deliver a coherent critique of the current political malaise is deluding themselves. If Das Kapital can be compressed into three verses and a snappy middle eight then we might get somewhere. There have been moments when bands have articulated the intense feelings of the age and the moment, but these are happy coincidences. Those bands who have ploughed that furrow have only been recognised as visionary many, many years later.

The reality of the moment is dictated by the charts and these were the charts in the dark days of 1983. Makes you feel proud doesn't it?

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