Can collaborator, electronic guru, Liverpool ex-pat and all-round dude, Jono Podmore delivers his Getintothis alternative Christmas message. Just don’t look back.
Sometime in September I was sitting on the sofa at home – wife cooking in the kitchen, child upstairs quietly playing with some plastic figurines made by Chinese or Indonesian children her own age – domestic bliss.
Then came the announcement that Bananarama were reforming and any sense of calm was shattered. Objects (bottles, furniture) and abuse (shitbags! suck Satan’s corporate cock and drink down the black jism you whores!) were hurled at the telly.
The true horror of the last hideous dregs of the 80s being exploited by the ignorant and shit-scared, public school cast-offs that run the British music industry, was pouring into my living room like the flat-screen sewer had burst.
In tears of mourning for the culture and creativity of today’s teenagers that was being poisoned in the womb and replaced by the turgid remains of my childhood, I stormed off to console myself with my computer.
Gently dredging through my email I came across something odd:
Are you the Jonathan S Podmore that recorded Dry Hip Rotation with Peter Hope back in 1986?
Certainly am, squire, how can I be of assistance?
…let me say I absolutely love that album!
Good lad. Nobody’s even mentioned that particular avant-garde masterpiece from my more challenging days for over 20 years.
I am running a label called Klanggalerie and would love to re-issue this on CD. Please let me know what you think of the idea.
What I think? What I THINK!?! Bring it on, baby! Go ahead – celebrate the creative flowering of my youth! Let the world marvel once again at the genius of Peter Hope & the Jonathan S Podmore Method!
We’ll sell millions of the damn things and be praised to the rooftops as the undiscovered masters that we are!
I had to share the news – I dashed in to kitchen, fists clenched before my face – ‘Some Austrian geezer wants to re-release Dry Hip Rotation!‘
‘What WICKED album I did with Pete in ’86!”
‘Wow – brilliant!‘ – and then she looked at me with the penetrating mock bewilderment that only a spouse can summon:
‘But what about regurgitating the last hideous dregs of the 80’s? What about Today’s culture being poisoned in the womb? What about Satan and his black…‘
She had a point.
So I had to think long and hard about the differences (if any) between my re-issue and Bananarama/The Specials/Magazine/Blur/Whofuckingeverhalfdeadc*nts reforming.
Here’s a few:
We’re not turning the clock back – a classic is being unearthed.
This is pretty challenging and uncompromising music that might inspire current 20-year-olds to sink their teeth into the old order a little.
We’re not filling a market niche which should be filled by contemporary artists.
This is not a re-release on the basis of sticking to a formula that will bring in a fixed return, this is an independent release motivated by love of the music itself.
…I could go on. Fair enough, they’re not the most convincing arguments but I can sleep soundly. After a drink.
Despite the inherently fickle and timid shitness of the major record companies I think there’s actually something much more serious going on here with the endless retro we’re suffering from as a culture. There are many strands to this – here’s a few that I’ve been mulling over:
Perhaps the most prevalent style source of the 80s that’s now forgotten was the 50s. It wasn’t all cheesy synths and asymmetric haircuts back then, it was largely Grease, or cheerleader chic, or quiffs and brothelcreepers (Bros etc.), the styling of endless NME cover stars, graphics and cartoons – even Kraftwerk.
At the time the 50s were an exotic age of innocence and kitsch for those of us too young to have been there – but the reality of their popularity was down to one single fact – the 50s represented the lost youth of the 30-40 somethings that were the A&R men, journalists and tastemakers of the time.
Their nostalgia was being forced upon us – they’re innocent days before they were ripped from their parents and sent to be buggered in the dorm, they’re nostalgia for a time before failing to become the diplomats, politicians and captains of industry they were programmed to be and having to console themselves with running our culture. There is a tiny upside to all this – when the current fashion machine looks back at the gold mine that is the 80s it turns a blind eye on the all 50s memorabilia. So when it’s time to regurgitate the noughties in 30 years time we won’t have to suffer Bananarama or even La Rouxa a second or third time.
It’s official – culture has slowed down to what is almost a standstill.
I get mail and calls from young DJs looking for copies of mixes I did over 15 years ago without the slightest sense of irony or kitsch.
For them a somewhat dicky house tune from ’93 IS contemporary culture. If I think back to my 20s, the thought of ringing up some sad old hippy to get copies of his tunes from the late 60s was so utterly alien that it would only be done as a hideous joke.
Culture had moved on so significantly in the intervening decade and a half that it was unthinkable – but now??
How, when we are in the grip of such technological development, can our culture have stagnated? The technology is a big part of the answer. The internet has made all things available from all times at any time – and not only that, cultural niches are presented in formulaic short-hand.
The result is that development in the content of our communication has halted as the methods blossom.
There’s a parallel with language development. If you compare the English of Chaucer and Shakespeare there’s an amazing difference, basically there’s one we can read and one we need translating – but there’s barely 250 years between them.
Over 400 years later and Shako’s sonnets could largely have been written yesterday. What stopped the language developing was Caxton and his printing press. The language became formalised, older texts remained available and frozen in their form instead of developing in the process of retelling.
The internet is producing the same effects now. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing BUT if we want development and innovation in our arts we have to be aware of this and we have to fight just that bit harder for originality to be taken seriously.
In the late 90s DJ culture took a strange turn. Suddenly it was less about ‘spiritual journeys’ and novelty and more about the archaic rarities in your set.
The nerdish collectors had finally made centre stage and we all had to applaud some dopey old soul ‘classic’ they had found at the back of their Mum’s tights drawer. Blokes wearing dead men’s cravats were scouring through archives after unheard masterpieces that more often than not should have remained unheard.
A big part of the motivation for this was the collective Millennium anxiety. All this fabulous old tat had to be collected, preserved and documented before 2000 when, as we all know, NOTHING would fucking happen.
Nevertheless the process created a fashion for the past that we’re still suffering from today. Crumby old cast-offs had been elevated to the level of treasure and a whole ‘vintage’ business has been spawned.
Lastly, current, and largely implanted, economic fears are breeding a ‘good old days’ psychosis.
This is supported in advertising – supermarkets are reminding us of their ye olde worlde heritage so we feel more secure and comfortable about handing over the cash.
From the late 90s through the first half of this decade I lived in Germany. It was a constant source of bittersweet delight for me to witness swathes of working class Germans still proudly wearing the fashions of the 80s.
Shell suits, mullets, highlights, cowboy boots, shoulder pads, jackets with the sleeves rolled up, leg warmers – you name it.
The equivalent of council estates entirely populated by Germans dressed like extras from Miami Vice and Turks with their own anti-fashion fashion.
But this wasn’t kitsch, or even nostalgia – this was fear. In the 80s Germany was the richest, most stable economy in Europe and third biggest in the world.
Unemployment was negligible, wages were high, a man was a man and had a stupid haircut.
But then the wall came down, the economic miracle was over and manufacturing industry went into decline. Panic struck. So what the people instinctively did when everything was changing for the worse was to at least preserve some sense of opulence in their wardrobes.
For those seeking 80s nostalgia, working class Germany is a paradise – but for the people themselves it just never went away and their stretch jeans are hiding fear and despair.
Preserving the past is a way of staving off the fear of living which is so much a characteristic of our current culture.
We’re all going to die of Flu! We’re all going to die of the vaccine against the Flu!! We’re all going to die in 2012 anyway! PASS ME THAT FLOCK OF SEAGULLS CASSETTE!!!
So HAPPY CHRISTMAS everyone – and as 2009 ends and we usher in 1987 just try to remember what your uncle Jono says:
DON’T BE AFRAID AND LOOK TO THE FUTURE! But don’t forget to buy a copy of Dry Hip Rotation…