Heartbreakers and Cruel Cuts May 24, 2010Posted by markswill in Media, Politics, Schmolitics, That's Entertainment.
Three recent t.v. documentaries and a party on Saturday night celebrating the life of a friend who succumbed to cancer some years ago inevitably casts a skein of nostalgia over this morning’s scrawl. The docs all dealt with rock bands, or rather two bands and a trio of, erm, ‘sound artists’ – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Stones and Heaven 17, the first two still robustly extant after several decades and still looking and largely behaving like bad boys of pop, the latter now fat, balding, soberly attired and mighty full of themselves.
The Petty/Heartbreakers film, directed by Peter Bogdanovitch no less (Mighty. Fallen. Oh. Etc) was a fascinating account of their ups, downs and the enduring appeal of their music and as someone who championed them in the face of the punk movement in their early days – my Melody Maker front cover feature briefly appeared on the screen – I felt proudly vindicated by footage of their recent performances which, if anything, were far more rock’n’roll than those of the Stones. The making of Exile of Main Street, a somewhat Babylonian affair at Keef’s South of France villa offered little insight as to their enduring appeal but said a lot about the excesses of the times which by the vaguest of associations, some of us aging farts remember fondly.
The same couldn’t be said of the H-17, or the portentiously known British Electric Foundation which spawned them (and Human League, whose once foppish singer Phil Oakey now looks like a bald bank clerk – most unsettling). Produced to celebrate the (almost, but not quite) 30th anniversary of their “groundbreaking” and “hit-laden” Penthouse to Pavement album and (two-thirds of) the group’s first ever live staging of the entire album earlier this year, I watched it after returning somewhat glum after Saturday night’s celebration and needing some diversion. What I got was an unrecognisable Glenn Gregory and Martin Ware poncing gratuitously around Sheffield where BEF began – and they’ve long since abandoned – and waxing daft about a record that only went to #14 in the charts and dumped just two singles into the lower end of the Top Forty.
By way of contrast, Petty & Co and most of the Stones still look, talk and perform like rockstars and give some of us hope for a future without stairlifts and Zimmer frames, which brings me to the meat of this piece. As the world eddies even further into uncharted economic disaster, I sense that we are all quietly yearning for the certainties of the ‘70s and ‘80s as a sop to the spiritual fear and loathing that increasingly seem just around the corner.
This rash of t.v. docs, the popularity of period drama on both the small and large screen and both fiction and non-fiction books supports this contention, as does the buoyant market for classic cars and bikes and modern cars and bikes that look like them. (As a huge fan of the original, I’m rather hoping that Lockheed will start re-manufacturing their L-1049 Super Constellation airliner whose turbo-compound piston engines would be conveniently untroubled by volcanic ash).
My friend Terry Kreuger, ex-bike journo colleague and now vicious critic of Obamarama, just sent me a link to a New York Times article headlined ‘Payback Time: Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits’ which cogently summarised what drives this nostalgia and began by rather dismissively referring to the Euro-zone as the “lifestyle superpower” and noting that “The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.”
It then adds that “With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.”
All of which is true, if not now, then very shortly. Some months ago I predicted that the banking crises, or rather its consequences, could prompt violent social unrest and what we have already seen in Greece is exactly that. Whether or not it will migrate here, I’m not sure but unions are already flexing muscles that will bulge with fiery veins once public sector jobs cuts runs into the tens of thousands as well they might, and arguably should. (At least if you read some of the stats recorded in my last blog).
Terry, who in his e-mails contends that the Tea Party Movement that has emerged in response to what they see as some of the Obama administration’s unconstitutional manoeuvers, is “Contrary to the media bullshit, composed of middle-class people of all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. An amazing groundswell of voters with no real leadership. The media should remember they are named after the Boston Tea Party and you know what that did to the (then) existing government.”
Indeed. It will therefore be interesting if not instructive to see whether the fall-out from the budget cuts the Cleggerons are about to dole out (sic) spawns a similar grass-roots opposition because No Labour, under whichever mendacious journeyman – or woman – eventually leads them, should have the gall to oppose remedies to a plague largely of their making.
And if the consequence of that is a clawing back of the wilder excesses of welfare state and over-arching quangocracy we’ve become inured to in the last 30 years as the fiscal muzak to our escalating, uncaring affluence, maybe that’s no bad thing. And as Micky The Jaguar crooned on Exile’s standout track, it’s probably time to Rip This Joint.
Please pen a comment, read previous blogs, sign up to get ’em automatically and/or access my website using the links on the right.