Epiphany: wasn’t that a pop group?
With an almost full head of hair and virtually complete set of faculties, Beverley Minster’s Neil Pickford tries to prove he is still young.
I know all about old people – they were everywhere when I was a wee slip of a lad. They’re still about now, of course, but they’re different. In the old days they used to sit in the corner, smelling of mothballs and sipping sherry at Christmas time. Once the happy-juice had kicked in they would utter banal observations such as: “It’s tuned out nice again for the time of year, hasn’t it?”
This statement could be in direct opposition to the facts, but it didn’t matter. In the Bristol Cream-filled world of Yule it was enough that the cliché be uttered, be responded to with the correct cliché, (in this case, “Yes, but I’m glad I put my hat on,”) and space was made for the next cliché to be slotted into the dull stretch between arriving and saying goodbye. .
Quite often further ‘conversation’ (and I use that word in its loosest sense) then revolved around The Youth Of Today – how their behaviour was a disgrace compared to their own immaculate youth, it was our fault we had given the British Empire back to the fuzzy-wuzzies and what each and every one of us needed was a quick dose of National Service: “That would show you what’s what!”
As National Service had been abolished about five years beforehand I never did have the chance to find out what ‘what’s what’ was all about, and I’ve been missing it ever since. However, I’ve managed to struggle on without it.
Another area of elderly consensus was in the world of music. The only good music was boring stuff created at least 50 years before. One unpleasant variant they seemed to enjoy, (and ‘enjoy’ is also quite a loose term in this context) was created by males and females squeezing out shrieking close harmonies. Another was elderly American men droning on in a tuneless monotone while several hundred brass and string musicians ‘swung’ noisily behind them. Or, even worse, old British men producing rubbish impressions of this.
No, the old people had very firm ideas about the sort of stuff we youngsters should be listening to: “none of this beat rubbish – you can’t hear the words,” and their control of the media made sure we got very little exposure to it. Just about the only form of music we were allowed was on “Childrens’ Favourites’.
Childrens’ Favourites, my bottom.
Apparently, what we really wanted, old people like ‘Uncle Mac’ or ‘Stewpot’ told us, were musical whimsies involving young boys killing wild creatures or humanised brass instruments that felt sad. How fascinated, we weren’t, to hear (for the 100th time) about mice infesting a Dutch windmill or Doris Day being lively.
Yet even as we were being fed this pap British pop and rock music was conquering the world – the US had succumbed to the Brit invasion and continental Europe just played wall-to-wall Britpop indiscriminately, with the occasional disaster in their own language to prove they couldn’t do it. We ruled, but I couldn’t hear any of it on BBC except for a few acceptable acts who were given the chance to be patronised by Jimmy Saville on Top of the Pops. Apparently the Boring Broadcasting Corporation thought we’d be convinced by the sound of enthusiastic youthful whistling when the Jo Loss Band covered some particularly terminal piece of Tin Pan Alley fodder and give up on our foolish fad for guitar-based bands. Or, if we must listen to them, then that nice Master Clifford Richard and his Shadows would satisfy our daft demands for rock’n’roll.
Ha! Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Dave Davies, Peter Green, even Roy Wood proved the BBC wrong, but tracking down this form of music was almost a furtive pursuit, like spies communicating vital intelligence during a war.
Oh, apparently there was something called Radio Luxembourg, or 208 as it later became, but that was no use to me. The scenic Cotswolds, of which I am so fond, unfortunately blocked out all signals from Free Europe. It was only when the pirates came along, especially Radio North Sea International, that I could hear the stuff I wanted – and that was in German. It was like, ”humfty wuffty, Rod Stewart, huffty woofty Rolling Stones, eine kleine THE MOVE!!!” On with das musich.”
So, as you can see, getting to hear contemporary music that I liked wasn’t as easy as it is now, when it’s quite acceptable to have modern beat-based stuff pumping out all around us.
Sadly, having won the battle to listen to modern stuff I now seem to have lost the war about what I can hear..
These days it’s just wall-to-wall mffff-mfff-mfff-mfff and it’s rubbish.
Oh, I know that’s exactly what the oldies used to say back in the 1960s so I’ll probably be accused of sounding like my Gran but there’s a big difference. Back in my day we had The Beatles, The Move, The Who, The Kinks, Pink Floyd and hundreds of almost-as-good wannabes. Then, following the muse of guitar-based rock, my interest was kept alive through the decades by Status Quo, then boosted by Nirvana, The Prodigy, Placebo, Muse and Rammstein,. It kept me young at heart and I thought the music of my youth was keeping itself fit for the next generation to enjoy. How wrong I was.
Nowadays the kids are being forced to listen to rap and bump’n’grind. And the poor fools don’t realise what they’re missing..
These thoughts were prompted by the music at last Fridays Youth Café in the Minster. I was trying to hear what came through the speakers in the south transept, and failing. Somewhere underneath the overwhelming mfff-mfff-mfff-mfff I could just make out a recent Prodigy song (that I had bought, actually) along with another of my favourites from the 70s, Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag. But it was almost obliterated by a superimposed beat
Now, I know it was the beat that the oldsters hated about my music in the 60s and 70s, but they were wrong. But this is a different beat – and it’s rubbish.
Ha, kids of today, eh? What they need is a spot of discipline, a spell in the virgers. That’d sort them out.
There was a lot of blabber coming from the stage as well as the MC and various others mouthed into a microphone and the sound just bounced around the south transept – completely unintelligible.
Except that when someone said something that I couldn’t make out everyone clapped or laughed as if they understood it. Something else was then uttered and everyone moved forward as one to see something on stage. They were laughing, chatting dancing, having fun. They were understanding it, even if I wasn’t. And suddenly I realised that, despite all my efforts to enjoy the musical inspiration of my youth for as long as possible, the world had turned.
My music was of my time and for my time. Some bits had been borrowed from my stuff and inserted into the new medium and that was fine, in fact it was slightly reassuring to know that a few of my favourites were appreciated by people 40 years younger than me.
I had my epiphany then and there – I am middle aged with middle-aged tastes – and that’s fine. I mustn’t condemn the younger generations because they are different to me, but judge each person by how they really are – which is one of the lessons of Christianity, after all.
The teenagers in the Minster last Friday were well-behaved and had a good time out without annoying anyone (much). Many of them stayed on afterwards to tidy up so, in the words of one of the most exciting of the 60s rock artists, The Kids Are All Right.
Mind you, their music is still rubbish.
First published November 2009