Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

About initials

The recent BBC coverage of the 50th anniversary of the (partial) decriminalisation of male homosexuality has offered a number of variants on the modish label for those whose sexual and/or gender identity is at variance to the norm; most agree on LGBT, but then they go off in a number of different directions, deploying various combinations of Q, I and A, and disagreeing on what they mean. I am therefore grateful – and not for the first time – to our friends in Canada for letting us know exactly how to define lovers of musical theatre/ladies in sensible shoes:


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

About Warhol


Alice Cooper has discovered a version of Andy Warhol’s Electric Chair print in a locker alongside some of his stage props. I was initially amused by the comment from his manager, Shep Gordon, about a discussion the then-drunk rock star may or may not have had with the artist: 
Alice says he remembers having a conversation with Warhol about the picture... he thinks the conversation was real, but he couldn't put his hand on a Bible and say that it was.”
Which is something that would doubtless have tickled Andy. But I’m not sure how he would have taken another of Gordon’s reflections:
“Andy Warhol was not really ‘Andy Warhol’ back then.”
I suspect what Gordon means is that Warhol didn’t command the vast sums on the art market that he can attract now he’s safely dead – which goes for any number of big names. But it seems oddly appropriate in that ‘Andy Warhol’ (as distinct from Andy Warhol) was his greatest work, the spectral, silver-wigged entity, umm-ing and gee-ing and generally being, blurring the lines between art, business, performance and celebrity. In fact, by the mid-70s, it’s possible that Andy Warhol had ceased to exist and only ‘Andy Warhol’ was left.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

About OK Computer

The anniversary bandwagon chugs on; I talk to Greenroom about OK Computer, Naomi Klein, Emmanuel Macron and stuff like that.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

About nostalgia (again)

So, the 20th anniversary of OK Computer approaches, with the inevitable special edition reissue and all that entails. Thom Yorke has grumbled about the backward-looking nature of the whole Britpop phenomenon that dominated the cultural scene while he was recording the album but, as others have pointed out, it’s a bit rich to sneer at nostalgia when you’re celebrating the birthday of your own product.

To be fair, Yorke was actually attempting to do something a bit different with his third album, even if the Pink Floyd and JG Ballard references loomed large. But if he really does object to nostalgia so much, he’d better put his head under a pillow for the rest of the year. There’s the whole Sgt Pepper phenomenon, of course, which is a veritable babushka of nostalgias, packing any number of Victorian and Edwardian references in among the hallucinogens and Mellotrons. I heard David Rodigan lauding Bob Marley’s Exodus last night and, also from 1977, we can expect any amount of old punks getting wistful as Never Mind the Bollocks gets the same treatment later in the year.

Now I’m nearly 50,  a proper old fart, so all this stuff is squarely aimed at me; but what about the young folk for whom even Britpop is just a wispy rumour, something their parents did in the old days before Snapchat? To get an approximate idea, I picked up a copy of NME, a publication that probably stopped trying to tickle my own cultural tummy around the turn of the millennium. The first thing I saw was a wraparound cover promoting movie iterations of Baywatch (a TV show first shown in 1989) and Transformers (a toy line launched in North America in 1984). But the real front page doesn’t say much more about 2017; a moody shot of Liam Gallagher, a man in his mid-40s who had his first hit records 23 years ago. Moreover, the whole design of the cover, with Gallagher in a parka and a jaunty target logo hovering by his grumpy head, seems to be echoing the Mod revival of the late 70s/early 80s, which was in turn a nod to the social and musical eruptions of the early 60s, before even Sgt Pepper hit the racks.

So, has it all ended? Have we really drained the cultural well, so we can only sustain ourselves with echoes of echoes of echoes? Or, in the midst of all these old men looking backwards, is something going to pop up and surprise us all? Can’t see it myself...



PS: To contextualize the idea of Liam etc on the cover, it’s as if, when I first read the NME in about 1984, its exterior was adorned with Adam Faith, and films based on Dixon of Dock Green and Play-Doh.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Seven thoughts about #PepsiLivesMatter


So Pepsi made a commercial in which Kendall Jenner, who is apparently a Kardashian, sort of, shows up at a political demonstration and calmed everyone down with a can of fizzy drink and some people didn’t like it so Pepsi said, yeah, fair enough, we’ll pull it.

  • It’s just a classic example of recuperation, the tactic of reclaiming radical, transgressive  images/tropes in the cause of capitalism. The flipside of the Situationist tactic of détournement. Every time your favourite old punk anthem shows up in a commercial. That.
  • Until this thing happened, I honestly thought Kendall Jenner was a boy.
  • Everyone’s so clean and groomed and pretty. Is that what demos are like now? Blimey.
  • An Iranian friend has pointed out that the placard with supposedly Arabic text on it just contains random characters that don’t mean anything.
  • We’re all talking about Pepsi now.
  • And Kendall Jenner.
  • Right now, Coca-Cola is working on something bigger and better/worse.
PS: Also, this: