Monday, October 29, 2012

Why do rock fans pretend they've *always* been into things?

I watched "Last Orders", the BBC 4 doc about Chas and Dave.

It must be funny being them. They've played the same music for over forty years. Sometimes they've sold a lot of records, sometimes they haven't. Sometimes they've played big halls, sometimes they've played small ones.  During that time they must have been aware that their star rose and fall according to the public mood.

Now they find that the music, which has never changed, is suddenly acceptable to the people who decide what's acceptable. Hence a BBC 4 documentary full of talking heads talking about how most people didn't realise that Chas & Dave have been acceptable for years. A clip is shown from a Jools Holland New Year's Show in which Ben Elton and Hugh Laurie enthuse about them with the shifty expression of men who suspect that the wind has changed in the last ten minutes. Even Pete Doherty is hauled out to perform his own fuddled benediction. Are there really people who would have their minds changed about music on their say-so?

The show is so full of people who apparently liked them all the time that you wonder where it got its revisionist zeal from. You wonder why the people who used to do them down aren't represented. If the film is all about presenting them in a new light, wouldn't it be natural to look at them in the old light for a minute or two? I suspect that the old light would have been the same light in which all British working class entertainment is seen as corny while working class entertainment from Louisiana or Lusaka is regarded as edgy and cool. In many ways this version of the cultural cringe would have been as interesting as Chas & Dave themselves.

Of all the arts pop music is the one in which people change their minds most often. Why is it also the one where they're least likely to admit that they do so?


  1. Surely the worst example of this is Abba? Back in the day I can't remember anyone who liked music rather than image doing anything other than revile them. Now it seems the chattering classes all agree that they produced wonderful pop.My view is unchanged - they produced banal lyrics over uninteresting tunes, and were succesful because of how they looked, not how they sounded.
    And don't even let me start on Chas and Dave.

  2. I always liked Abba, and the Bee Gees, and Burt Bacharach and KC and the Sunshine Band for that matter. It used to be a lonely position when surrounded by fans of 'real' music like Dire Straits and the Stranglers, but now DH is right, 'everyone' apparently got it.

  3. Is this any different from people like Weller bigging up the Quo in their movie?

  4. Good observation on Chas and Dave, but...anyone who thought then or thinks now that ABBA produced 'uninteresting tunes' needs a hypothalamus transplant. That's my mature and considered opinion.

  5. I first heard them on the Charlie Gillett show.
    Then I tracked them down to a pub in Canning Town and asked them if they'd do a commercial.
    My boss thought they were good, so we changed the words and made Gercha.
    I don't think they did themselves any favours after that, doing all those Mrs Mills type Xmas albums.
    The songs Chas wrote himself were always much better than that.

  6. They jumped the shark with Snooker Loopy and the Mrs Mills K-Tel Christmas albums. But, hey, if BBC 4 suddenly think you're cool, then you must be cool.

  7. I'd like to thank Danny Matt above for his comments:

    For years I've hated Abba

    For years I've suffered from Cluster Headaches

    It is thought that cluster headaches are caused by Hypothalamus dysfunction

    Therefore Abba have obviously been causing me all this pain over the years

    I'll tell my neurologist!

  8. I would like it on the record that I have never liked Abba or Chas and Dave, but did like the early releases of Dire Straits and the Stranglers. OK, there's the next article: "I used to like them before everyone else did".

  9. I know you're making a wider point but...

    I remember as a kid really liking Chas and Dave and I still like them now, I was even at the gig featured in the programme. But it's pretty clear why they dropped off the radar. I remember, about the mid-80s, my dad brought home a Chas and Dave album. It was one of their triple album Christmas Jamboree efforts. It was bloody awful. A stinking great pile of medleys of other peoples songs knocked out in record time with little apparent care or interest. You'll notice this Sing-a-long-a-Max part of their history was entirely avoided in the documentary, by the way. After this they went and toured seaside towns and, to the best of my knowledge, didn't release a single record of any interest for the rest of their careers.

    Surely this is the nature of pop music: it is a voracious beast and requires constant feeding. If it doesn't get fed, you get forgotten about. But that's OK because the great thing about pop music is that a forgotten pop song is just as good as a new one. And a partly-forgotten pop song with the faint glow of childhood nostalgia is a pretty powerful combination.

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  11. It shows how the catchment for revisionist history has changed. You can now be the subject of a celebratory obit/study and not bother with the actual misery of doing any dying

    Should you shuffle off - expect a parade of scandal and skeletons.

    Apart from the gigs with Alf Garnett - and some hammier happenings I'm for Chas and Dave. I bought 'Strumming' in 78 (aged 12) after hearing it on a sick day from school, the Christmas medley albums in the mid 80s and saw Chas playing at a local pub twice last year.

  12. Anyway Chas and Dave must have been cool at some point - I saw them supporting Led Zeppelin!!

  13. The interesting (well, moderately) thing about Chas and Dave and also Status Quo is that they've spent decades just doing what they do. We've always known where we were with them. What we saw 30 years ago is what we get today. I think there's something comforting in acts like that being around. They're the latterday equivalent of Sandy Powell's extending arms.

  14. I've always put it down to: "There's nothing like 30 years of hip-hop and rap to make (Soft Cell/Mickey Gilley/Debbie Gibson) sound like a genius".

    Also I was into David Hepworth back in . . .

  15. Fair comment 'tuttle' but this programme shows us the nature of pop music but also the nature of Nathanbarleyesque BBC producers.

  16. Can I be the first to say that I've always been into the Nolan Sisters.

    (You never know)

  17. The difference between Abba and Chas n' Dave is the Swedes didn't knock out crappy novelty singalongs when they had the talent to do other things.

    Barry White is another act brought back from the realm of naff.

  18. Is it a status thing? For instance I feel compelled to tell you my own early experiences with these artists.

    As for their merits, I do play Abba from time to time still, but C&D and DS have been filed and not listened to since the seventies.

  19. Well the Geordie next to us at Knebworth in 1979 when we were lying in the sun in the afternoon waiting for Led Zep to headline certainly isn't in the list of secret lovers his quote was "Why don't these two just **** off and play to the cows in the field next door!"

    He assumed we'd love them being "Cockneys" we gave up explaining we were from Kent and that doesn't make us Cockneys by any stretch of the imagination!

  20. Wasn't me!

    (former "Geordie" who was at Knebworth, now live in Kent!)