Friday, 16 July 2010

Those were the days, where are they now

I've never heard of Gilberto Gil or Caetano Veloso: Brazilian psychedelic rockers. Thought they sounded interesting, and it's nice to read someone putting in a good word for Blighty, albeit half-a-century ago:

"Lisbon and Madrid were out of the question as Portugal and Spain were under a heavy dictatorship. Paris had a boring musical ambience. London was the best place for a musician to be."
'''together they frequented museums, art galleries and football matches, and learned to love Monty Python's Flying Circus – Veloso says its surrealism influenced some of his more experimental music.
"But London is one of the most interesting cities in the world, and I am lucky to have lived there."
"We arrived the week the Beatles released Abbey Road, we saw the Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse, we jammed with great musicians, we met great people, we heard reggae for the first time," he says. "The fact you could walk up to a policeman and ask directions – in Brazil that just doesn't happen!"

Smashing stuff chaps, quite a place post-war Britain. Bulging with joie-de-vivre, creativity and originality and a time when you could say 'football matches and art galleries' with no irony. Ah, but what is that I see at the bottom-right corner of the page, like a bunch of Gargoyles bordering a verdigris basilica? What do I see like a raincloud behind a sun-drenched meadow? Could it be the worst crime ever committed against popular music?

Why it was the most important story last evening:

There was one thing I'll say about Take That: it was a hub for deeply untalented musicians. That might not be a good thing, but at least it stopped Robbie Williams and Mark Owen from pursuing solo careers. Owen's career seemed to grind to a halt at one point. Don't know if it was because he went thin on top or developed a spare tire or simply started snorting charlie. I would love to think that even the British people decided his music was so crap they wouldn't buy it. But in my heart of hearts I know that's not possible.

Still, I don't think that Take That was given priority by Te Graun for its damage limitation effect. I think the priority they've given it says it all really, and in a weird way highlights the strange paradox of modern British liberalism. There is a pseudo-nostalgia for a time when popular art was subversive, whilst really they live intensely in the petit-bourgeois present of pop music. It is sad that this broadsheet expects their readership to recognise the slogan 'Back for Good'. But in a sense it is sadder that I got the reference given that I'd rather eat my intestines with vinegar than willingly listen to Take That.

Last time I looked, they've taken the Gil and Veloso article off their front page. Take That are still there though.


  1. If they arrived the week the Beatles released Abbey Road, they'd have arrived about seven weeks before Murdoch bought The Sun, i.e. the starting point for the death of everything that was good about the post-war settlement. Says it all.

  2. A very telling vignette again, summarising where the Guardian and by implication some of their readers are that.

    People being happier to immerse themselves in stuff they already know - however worthless - rather than take a risk and investigate wider cultures (whether European, South American, our own!). I know this misrepresents some, but reflects that there is a broad demographic the paper is trying to keep on side by having prominent Take That articles and hiding away the Gil / Veloso stuff...

  3. @Robin

    Interesting Murdoch was around so long before anyone took his views seriously.

    I'd say the thing is that the 1960s-late 1970s was quite a remarkable time for innovation and it was interesting in that many people from lower income and ethnic minority backgrounds contributed to it and that so many different countries contributed to the overall culture of pop/rock music. Yet Take That stand for the exact opposite of all this being as parochial and petit bourgeois as marmalade sandwiches.

    However, the curious thing is that I don't think the Guardian even sees things in these terms.