Friday, December 17, 2010

You're always more popular when you're past it

I’ve been reading about this year’s reunion of Suede. The band, who were a going concern between 1992 and 2003, announced at the beginning of 2010 that they were getting together for just one show. This was so successful it turned into a full tour, much of it in far bigger venues than they would have played back in “their era”.

The excited reception they’ve been given by their fans, many of them now in their forties, reminds me of the way that 60s heroes like Eric Clapton and Neil Young became far more popular in their middle age, when they were past it, than they were in the first flush of their creativity. When Neil Young was writing “After The Gold Rush” he would have been lucky to sell out Hammersmith Odeon. When he was putting out “Fork In The Road” he was headlining Glastonbury.

This is because the market gets bigger all the time and you can’t achieve mega-fame if you’re only appealing to one generation. Time means your original constituency is joined by later generations of heritage kids, the people who weren’t on board first time round and the people who want to see you because you’ve finally achieved legend status. Add in the fact that a middle-aged audience has more money to spend and less entertainment options and you’ve got the reason why Suede ended up at the O2 and acts like Take That sail blithely on into middle age.

But there’s another factor. It’s not just the scale of the reception. It’s also the fervour of the reception. No crowd is quite as passionate as a middle-aged crowd celebrating what used to be before it’s too late.


  1. It's a sure fire bet that had Graham Parker called it a day sometime in the 80s and then announced his comeback 5 years later, he too would be reaping some of this generational adulation. Instead of 'doing an Anvil.'

  2. One of the curious factors is that of "growing out" of certain types or phases of msuic, abnd then realising that you don't necessarily grow out of these but come back to what attracted you in the first place, hence the nostalgia. Where Suede - and many others suffered - was in the ever changing marketplace was that they were obselete, old, and embarassing,to be disowned as a child or adolescent plaything, when they were nothing of the sort. The most recent shows have ben equal tro any of the time : what is worrying is the threat of poor new material that will devalue the original work. With time, I think people see what the band was, and not what they thought it was at the time.

  3. I was only thinking of Graham Parker the other day, as in "whatever happened to...?". Busy man by all accounts, which is good to see...

  4. The biggest example of this big-after-the-event is surely The Clash. To read about them now you'd thing they were larger than the Rolling Stones in the late seventies. But at my school there were only three Clash fans in my year – most middle class teens were still worshipping at the altar of Zep/Floyd in 1977 – and we just walked up and bought tickets on the door for their gigs at the Music Machine.

    If Joe Strummer was still alive – a big if, obviously – and they got back together today I should imagine they would come close to outselling that 02 Zep appearance a few years ago. And Kate Moss and Tracey Emin and the rest of London's glitterati would be in the mosh pit. Well, the VIP bar.