Saturday, December 16, 2017

Two old gits push back against the tyranny of now

I've forgotten exactly how we got on to it but at some point during my conversation with Danny Baker at this week's Word In Your Ear he talked about the misconceptions about pop music lurking in the breasts of most of the people who make programmes about it. The recording's here.

A certain amount of this is only to expected – what with some of them not having been born when most of the events they're documenting were taking place – but it's made more misleading by a view of the past which can't help being condescending.

In this linear view of events each chapter of pop history has to be another staging post in a journey towards our present state of enlightenment.

In this view progressive music (boo!) must always be slain by punk rock (hooray!).

In this view nobody is permitted to have heard of reggae until the arrival of Bob Marley.

In this view all TV comedy in the seventies is an orgy of -isms which we blush to think about.

All the trousers must be either tight and narrow or extravagantly flared.

It's what somebody called the Tyranny of Now.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The podcast way to do history

I read about the Sharon Tate murders not long after they happened. I followed Watergate as it unfolded. I've clearly forgotten enough of what I picked up back then or missed enough of what memoirs have subsequently brought into the public domain to be fascinated by two recent podcasts devoted to them.

You Must Remember Manson is a spin-off from You Must Remember This, Karina Longworth's acclaimed series of looks at the seamy side of what she calls "Hollywood's first century". Recited by the author in a characteristic style, as if from the depths of a chaise longue situated beneath a slowly revolving fan, Longworth's Manson series devotes whole episodes to looking at people like Dennis Wilson and Terry Melcher who were more than incidental figures in the story. It's fascinating to hear the story told from a showbiz point of view.

Slow Burn is a newly-launched podcast about Watergate which sets out to tell the story in pieces, which is the way it first came to light. It starts with the amazing and sad story of Martha Mitchell, the loose-tongued wife of Nixon loyalist John Mitchell, and continues with the saga of Wright Patman, the Texan populist whose committee first set out to prove a link between the money found on the Watergate burglars and CREEP, the Committee To Re-Elect The President. Where there are parallels with what's going on at the moment with Trump and Robert Mueller, let's say they don't resist them.

This is obviously the way to do history via the podcast medium - not so much by drawing the threads together as by separating them, seeing where they lead back to and treating them as a collection of life stories.

It seems to work.