I can be critical and evaluative as will be immediately apparent from my other posts on this site. Certainly, as one who seeks to cultivate that cool beloved of writers, I like to come across in my prose as ironic, objective and knowing. The result of this affectation is that it is sometimes difficult for me to reveal other (perhaps more genuine) aspects of my personality. This difficulty is nothing cognitive or philosophical – it’s emotional. The truth be told, it’s foolish embarrassment. In a writer’s world where only knowing irony is respected highly (or so I believe), I’m sometimes a little ashamed to be my other self.
The creation event of twentieth century popular music – its big bang if you like – can, to my mind, be traced back to a singular event in January 1865. That moment could be characterised as a dark black explosion, the shock waves of which reverberated for the following one hundred and fifty years. Despite the myriad creative ways in which this basic story has been retold by the powerful and the political, it is, to me, a tale of slavery, of freedom and of novelty.
In this piece I’m going to ask you to suspend the accepted narratives and to think hard about the origins of what we now call pop music. Through this I hope to arrive at some conclusions about the trajectory of music – and society – in this the second decade of the twenty-first century.
I’ve been working in Manchester of late, doing the seven-fifteen shuffle across the peak district – it is so dispiriting sometimes that it has been known to inspire poetry!
There must be something about commuting at this time of year that leads to polemics. Last year I wrote a fairly heartfelt post railing against the commercialisation of Christmas. And while this year the corporate feeding frenzy seems to have been toned down a bit, you can bet your penultimate pound that they are working hard to manipulate us in a myriad of subtle ways.
Anyway to revolutions, beds and the like. Stumbling off my commuter carriage into the murk of Manchester Piccadilly station, I was struck by the multitude of ‘revenue protection agents’. In an instant, modern society seemed clear to me. All this effort goes into protecting revenue – not a man shall cross the threshold between platform and concourse without their purchase credentials being checked. Continue reading →