Sunday, 5 March 2017

The story was quite clear

When I was young (about 1979 in case you are wondering), there was, as in most provincial, semi-rural English villages of the time, a youth club. What a ghastly concept that now seems. But there you go. Because there was nowhere else to go in the seventies and early eighties if you were 15, unless you count park benches or gravel pits. The seventies were, as we all are about to find out all over again, totally shit on so many levels.

Anyway, in that youth club was one, single, solitary record-player. Which played these things called records. Circular and flat pieces of vinyl, with a tiny groove that brought either validation, joy and meaning or pomposity, self-indulgence and ridicule. Depending on which camp you were in. Every week, because the wretched place was only open on Tuesday nights, there would be a turf war for control of the musical backdrop for the evening, between those that liked heavy metal/heavy rock/pompous rubbish, or new wave/punk/the only music that could speak for our generation.

Rush, Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Rainbow and Led Zeppelin were particular targets of scorn and derision, along with the long haircuts, denim patches and biggest horror of all, flared trousers of their supporters. Their music seemed old and for the old, irrelevant and interminably long, likely to go on for ever. For me, it was all about three minutes, three chords and the truth. Along with drainpipe trousers, spikey hair and lots of badges.

This particular song was on wraparound whenever I occupied the turf, summing up just what it was like in that tiny, provincial backwater. Maybe it was something to do with being born when I was, part of the generation that rejected the Baby Boomers' cosy little world, and was intent on smashing it to pieces before creating something better.

Then again, my generation has of course allowed the world of Marketing to run amok, painting pictures and turning the inherently simple and straightforward into impossibly stretched creative nonsense. Yesterday I was in a local branch of a famous Bank, looking for a Savings Account leaflet. Poor old soul, I had to have it pointed out to me that it was the one with the word "Wish" on the front.

I'd love to have seen the meeting that decided that was a good idea. "Yeah, the Baby Boomers will love it, because it'll hark back to their golden age of sexploitation, while Millennials will see it as a statement of female empowerment and freedom".

What's wrong with just printing "SAVINGS ACCOUNTS" in big letters for those with long sight.

A browse through the leaflet finds it full of other patronising and stupid pictures, culminating on their implicit view of their own customers.


 By and large these are the people now running the world, and they believe what they want to irrespective of the evidence. If they think this type of stuff is good for you, you are going to get it. Too much time and imagination and rewards in all the wrong places have created this. Behind it sits some very questionable ideas that people born in different eras are different from those that went before. If unchecked it gives free rein to all sorts of uncorroborated theories that are accepted as fact despite the complete absence of evidence.

Two ways of looking at the same thing, one with evidence, the other without.

The truth is, people are very similar, and share very similar concerns at the different stages of their respective lives. You think 15 year-olds never worried about their futures or how to break free of their parents? Or that kids in the seventies weren't self-absorbed and selfish? The only differences are around the periphery. Whereas we had record players and vinyl, kids today have downloads and apps. Apart form that, it's much the same. Don't let people who just want to make money out of you tell you any different. Don't take my word for it, Adam Conover's well-researched talk fills in the detail in a very entertaining way.

I'm not one of these people that decry the role experts should play in our lives, if anything we need more people who know what they are talking about, and I like to think that the Age of Reason is just taking a break right now, and will return stronger than ever.

When I was 15, of course I was angry. Angry with my parents, angry with Thatcher, angry with the Heavy Rockers, but most of all angry with myself. Which normal 15-year old isn't? Of course now I realise it was all about my perspective, and my life, rather than the place I was living. My brother still lives there and it is actually quite nice.

I like to think I've moved on a bit, and you know what? I'm also open to the use of new-fangled technology too. Like the Internet (I know that's not exactly new, but you get the gist) Thank God for YouTube for one. And when you hear Plant, Page and the rest talk about how they discovered music, they sound pretty much the same as me. Maybe we were just divided by a common language at the time, or the people running the youth club were creating their own entertainment by having just one record player.

The older I get, the more I want to be like Jimmy Page, especially as he clearly still doesn't give a monkeys what people think of him. I only wish I had his talent. It may have taken me nearly 40 years, but I now know it's OK to like Led Zeppelin. I fervently hope that somewhere in rural England is a 58-year old former Rush fan, looking at YouTube and saying to himself, "that Jake Burns really knows how to express himself".

1 comment:

  1. (Re. paragrapgh 4)
    Many argue that the Baby Boomers came in 2 waves. The first wave walked down Carnaby street in their flares & long hair whilst the second wave listened to punk and protested about the poll tax.
    2 sides of the same coin maybe?