Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge – Photo by Montag
Have you ever seen the once-familiar in a whole new light? Looked really hard at something (or someone) previously taken for granted, and regarded it/them completely differently?
It happened to me once at junior school. I remember staring at one of my then friends. It was strange. It was like I was doing so for the very first time. A train of thought alighted upon me: Who is this person? Why am I hanging around with him? Why is he my friend? I stopped being so chummy with the lad shortly after that. It wasn’t that he’d done anything wrong. It’s just that awakenings can do that to you.
I had a similar episode regarding the concept of broadcast news a while ago.
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.
2014 is certainly in the realms of that which in the nineteen-sixties and seventies we used to designate as “the future”. We’ve long passed Arthur C. Clarke’s milestone of 2001 (nothing remotely HAL-like existed then), and all except the last date point in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles are already in the past (the date yet to come is the title of the final chapter in the Bradbury novel, April 2026).
We now exist in that tomorrow we used to eagerly read about as children. It’s extremely interesting therefore to revisit Isaac Asimov’s predictions for 2014 made in 1964: flying cars, robots, videophones, enforced leisure.