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Posted on Dec 30th, 2009
Rock Is Dead, Pop Wishes

(Soundtrack: A lot of mumbling and coughing as I am in the Library)
It is dark and pouring down out there. Bridie and I just spent a really nice, quiet Christmas in London having cancelled plans to head North at the last minute due to illness. Probably our last Christmas in London I would guess, but we shall see. It is New Year’s Eve tomorrow and we are pulling together our Top 100 movies of the year, which I will share with you, as I am sure you are interested. Or are you? Si said I may as well text him these entries, as so few people probably read them. But Bridie does, and her folks do (thanks for the t-shirts!). I am not sure whether we should finalise the list straight away as there are some films we still haven’t seen, such as The Informant, Bright Star, The White Ribbon, that are sure to make a dent in it. On the other hand we already have over a hundred great films as it has been such an amazing year for movies.
A few years ago I would also have been compiling my Top 100 albums of the year, but not any more. I am sure the great albums are out there, but there are probably only ten or twenty from this year that I have discovered and really rate. I have found this to be the case the last couple of years and assumed this is because I am at an age where I start to listen to more older music and keep up less. I saw the NME’s Top 50 albums of the Noughties listing, and I read it with enthuiasm, thinking that it would lead me to the great albums I have missed recently. It is the first time in those ten years that the NME has held my attention for longer than a minute. I expected to not know most of the records on their list, but in fact I knew them all. A lot of good albums on there, but as a showing for an entire decade it is pretty uninspiring. It got me thinking about “Rock” and its lifespan.
I came to the conclusion that Rock is in fact dead. Not just pining for the fjords, but deceased. Think about Classical music. That had its day. I am sure there are still great pieces of Classical music being composed now, but nobody would dispute that it is music of the past. Jazz was alive and kicking and a real movement from the twenties to the sixities. After that, great Jazz albums continued to be made, but they were either meldings with Rock or Funk, or retro takes on previous glories. In other words Jazz had five decades as a real movement, and then it was over.
I contend that the same thing happened to Rock. Its five decades were from the fifties to the nineties and it is now over. Don’t get me wrong: people will still make fantastic Rock albums for years to come, but as a vibrant, innovative, living movement, it is over. And Rock was a *movement. *As I grew up, it was how you would express yourself. It could change people’s feelings, set their moral code, it could actually change the world and it was what you did if you had something to say or something to protest about. Different phases inspired new fashions and slang and gave personality to each decade. Of course, The Beatles, Bowie and Punk all happened in a world in which there was no Beatles, Bowie or Punk. After 50 years of this music, artists either have to replicate the past or purposefully steer clear of it – it is hard to just ignore it. We are now making music in a world that has five decades of Rock n Roll. Elvis wasn’t.
The albums on the NMEs Top 50 list are a collection of magpie-like refreshes of previous styles. None of them changed the world, or even said anything about the world. This decade, kids with anger, energy and something to say went onto Facebook. Rather than queue up for new release seven inches they queued for Games, which now sell even more than the singles used to. The Noughties has been about technology, reality TV, the internet, social networking and gaming. It was not about music. I am not grumpy about this. Social networking is not my cup of tea, and there is more than enough wonderful music to delve into from those five decades to ever need any more anyway. And there will be more great records. There will be enough of us out there making albums, like those soldiers in the forest who don’t realise the war is over, to guarantee a few corkers.
I have always been a passionate defender of what has been happening each year in music. I don’t like it when people say things are not as good as they used to be. They have been saying that all my life and they have always been wrong. If I am now talking like that, the likely explanation is that I have been watching too many movies and not listening to enough albums this year to realise the exciting things that are actually happening. If that is the case, then I look forward to hearing that music. But I stand by my theory – I am not saying things aren’t as good as they used to be, I am just stating that Rock is dead.
Speaking of which, we finally met up for our Pop Wishes evening after a couple of postponments. The boys were on good form and there was much toasting – 2009 has been a good year for Spearmint. We are dead proud of the Shirley Lee and Telley abums, our tours of UK and Germany, the “A Week Away” re-issue, the “LIfe In Reverse” EP, the book of graphic interpretations of our songs, and the ICA show. We opened up our Pop Wishes from a couple of years ago and we had achieved seven and a half out of thirteen of them. Not too bad. We then came up with some new ones, only five actually. Along the lines of doing the next Shirley Lee and Andy Lewis albums and getting going on the next Spearmint one. They have been ritually sealed and slipped inside a Burt Bacharach album, to be opened in two years time. This time they are inside “Make It Easy On Yourself” rather than “Hitmaker” to see if Burt can rustle up any extra magic.
So here’s to 2010. I hope it is the year you wish for…


Keep these entries coming if you can, always find them interesting and entertaining, just like your tunes.
I read a while back a quote or comment along the lines of ‘ your ears get wider as you get older’ and it really resonated with me, as I find myself listening to and searching for music that years ago as a younger listener, I simply ignored or turned my nose up at for not being cool enough. On that basis, there is plenty out there for me to continue to explore without any new releases. That said, I can remember the impact of the first Strokes album on me, and Definitely Maybe, Sound Affects, Rip it up, etc, so heres hoping these continue and we get great new stuff whilst mining the huge existing vaults.

• Posted by Tim at 12:26 pm on Jan 4th, 2010

Well that Strokes album was this decade, and it is a cracker!

It is constantly surprising how you learn to love music which sounded awful when you were younger. Neil Young’s voice made me cringe as a kid then one day it clicked into place and I became a fan. I used to share an office with a guy who insisted on playing John Coltrane and it drove me crazy. Even when I requested the mellower, listenable end of his music, he would play me this wild, jarring noise that put me on edge. Yet now, I have a dozen Coltrane albums and I love them all. Not sure if I just haven’t yet got to the crazy stuff this guy used to play, or whether my taste has changed and it now makes sense to my ears…

• Posted by Shirley at 2:08 pm on Jan 4th, 2010

same with me for Neil Young….I shared a house in Leeds with a guy, and he played him non-stop, from Harvest to Arc, drove me nuts…..a few years later I heard ‘Rocking in the free world’ and am now the proud owner of umpteen albums by the man and regard him as a genius… where is my copy of ‘A love supreme’…must give it another go.

• Posted by Tim at 5:47 pm on Jan 5th, 2010
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