Anyone who has grown up with popular music has their own golden age, except for people who are in their musical moment now, most of these memories will be located somewhere around the mid-teens to mid-twenties when for the majority of us music played its most central role in our lives. As we age, and take on different roles in life, father, mother, worker, adult, music remains a constant for many but the hunger to source new sounds and artists recedes. Modern children though have grown up in households (well the ones with music loving parents anyway) where the range of music available will probably span several scenes and genres. My kids grew up with everything from the 60s to now, a major focus on punk, reggae and world music as well as soul, pop and heavy funk.
They hear the stories of music scenes that were found rather than foisted upon them, where word-of-mouth played a bigger role than a tweet or a Facebook posted track; the eternal quest for the "next big thing" (©NME) was not yet upon us - that arrived around 1984 with the rise of the Thatcherite pop era. They heard the records of their parents' youth, The Stones, The Beatles, The Clash, The Stooges; music that sounded different because it was different. It was being made without a map, it was recorded on tape so its sonic presence was different, indefinably different but the difference is there. The artists themselves genuinely offered a different way of living, of seeing the world, because in the UK and the USA at that time society's rules were still governed by a bourgeoisie that had no concept of an individual lifestyle. If you doubt this then check out Julian Temple's film The Filth and The Fury. You will be amazed by some of the talking heads in the film, figures who seem like they're from the 50s rather than the late 70s.
Now we live in a world where the individual's desires and needs are paramount. Not wishing to sound like some relentlessly nostalgic duffer I can't say this is a bad thing. As my teenage son has pointed out many times "these are the best days to be living" in terms of all round comfort and safety. But that said we are increasingly divorced from each other because of the technology that brings us together. Via the computer the youth can access horror, pornography, music and each other without leaving their bedrooms. So how can today's musicians be shocking save for the tired old tedious rubbish of bad boy behaviour. Our musicians have no history; very few reference influences other than bands who were also a mélange of influences. I can't remember who said it but it went something like this: "Talking Heads were influenced by art, by literature, by architecture, they were influenced by James Brown, by George Clinton, Chuck Berry and The Ramones but (Insert name of any band here) are influenced by Talking Heads."
Eric Burdon once said that no-one could be considered a real musician unless they were avid music collectors. Maybe mp3s have changed that, maybe not. To paraphrase Mick Jones' famous quote "Like iPod like brain". If the only music you're open to is like the music you make then you fall into some time loop; that seems to be where we are now. Pop music has always been with us. All of us imagine some golden age where the charts were full of challenging music but the reality is far duller. For every Pistols, Ramones, Suicide, Blur there was a corresponding Gilbert O'Sullivan, Rod Stewart, Bucks Fizz or Renee & Renata. Memory is the great sieve, we shake the dust of the past through it and we're left with the nuggets. But I digress.
Greedy publishing companies increase the cost of their magazines relentlessly as circulations fall they want their profits to rise. Editors come and go as they fail to stem this haemorrhage of readers; there are no Canutes out there. Where once just carrying a copy of the NME, or Melody Maker or Sounds, would define you as a person now we have websites on smartphones - not exactly the same thing.
Yes we have a huge market for festivals and major shows; some argue that this is merely a reflection of society's sense of dislocation, the need to gather together again to connect with like-minded people. Because these huge audiences aren't reflected at the gig going coalface. The Barfly, Fibbers, the smaller Academy venues, they're all struggling to survive because there is no excitement in the live music lower divisions. When a band like, say, The Vaccines appear there's no real time to develop. Because they generate a ripple from the off this soon becomes a tsunami thanks to the web, people become blasé quite quickly and even though the band are snapped up the pressure to deliver something, anything is immediate. No more is it enough to build support, hone a bunch of songs for the first album and deliver something just as real. We need the profits NOW, we need the junkie rush NOW we need something new.
Add to this the post-slacker, post-punk, post-humour attitude, the "everything I have to say is in the songs" kind of view then you get a really boring read. When we are young we need heroes, we need someone to hold in high esteem, someone who makes more sense of the world than our stupid parents who have never lived, never loved and don't understand anything. We used to get that from writers like Charles Shaar Murray, Adrian Thrills, Paul Morley or David Quantick. They moved on, like the bands, and no-one filled their shoes.
A young miner once said something about my band, in the kindest way, towards the end of our career that I think is completely appropriate to say today about our music papers:
"You used to be good - but now you're wank."