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.


  1. Was a wonderful evening by the sounds of it, shame I couldn't be there.

  2. I'd love to hear Danny in person, but no Irish dates on his tour. The books (all 3) have been really entertaining, the podcast was great (possibly cos he feels free to swear?). Thanks David for having him as your guest.

  3. To be fair, Garry, Danny is a reluctant swearer and only did it in this case because he was trying to reproduce Hughie Green's vernacular. Glad you enjoyed it, anyway.

  4. That Hugie Green story. Brilliant!

  5. I have enjoyed every WIYE evening I've been to (only ever missed due to holiday or sickness). I may not always be especially interested in the subject going in but always come out saying "well, that was fascinating" or "I never knew that..." (Randy Newman's uncle wrote the MGM fanfare, the phrase 'mini-evil Nico' still gets a laugh in our house) but selfishly I would be happy with 120 minutes of WIYE with Danny Baker every month. I'm not generally given to gushing but he's a very special human being whose self-awareness, humour and unapologetic take on life is always a joy to hear. The move from laugh out loud to the brutal description of his fight with cancer was hard to listen to but compelling. It was also good to see you laughing uncontrollably along with the audience member and note that DB spent acres of time with each person who he signed a book for. A top night.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. I think part of the problem is that the compartmentalization of radio that’s increasingly taken place over the past few years. If Radio 1, for example, only plays music aimed at the yoof across a narrow range of - ugh - genres (despite claims to the contrary) and is obsessed with NOW (the sound of 2018 etc etc), this only encourages a way of thinking in which the past is a foreign country in which funny people listened to stranger funny music and aren’t we lucky to be living in the era of Ed Sheeran and other contemporary giants. I don’t think streaming helps either as it’s one thing having every record ever made at your disposal, it’s another being comparatively ignorant of the context and culture surrounding popular music in all its forms. In the days of yore when I would pour over old copies of the NME, an ad for a Charlie Louvin concert might arouse my curiosity and I’d say “Who’s he? Where does he fit in the scheme of things?” I’m not sure that is any longer the case.