Category: How Value Happens

re-litigating the 70s: what we wanted, what went right, what went wrong, where do we go from here?

“During the Conservative government of Edward Heath there were five declarations of emergency under this Act [viz the Emergency Powers Act 1920], by far the most any government. The first was in July 1970 over a dockers strike, the second in December 1970 over an electricians strike, the third in February 1972 over a miners strike, the fourth in August 1972 over another dockers strike and the fifth time in October 1973, which lasted for four months”

coverDLSo for last 18 months, my plan had been to launch the kickstarter for the book of the conference I ran at Birkbeck on the politics of UK rockwriting (1968-85). That’s a mock-up of the cover on the left (illustrations by the marvellous Savage Pencil): you can click on it to see a larger version, but if you don’t the title and subtitle read A HIDDEN LANDSCAPE ONCE A WEEK: how UK music-writing became a space for unruly curiousity, in the words of those who made it happen. Originally I had the kickstarter launch scheduled for May, exactly 12 months on from the symposium itself — but there were a lot of things to get ready, and, well, events intervened (it went live on Monday 27 June, just four days after the results of the eurovote sent everything in the UK into spiralling chaos). No one’s said so directly — most people have been very supportive — but if someone were to suggest it was frivolous or decadent or impertinent to be promoting such a project during such a crisis, well, I wouldn’t be entirely startled. And I wouldn’t feel they were entirely wrong.

Record-Mirror-1978Despite this, I still think it’s right to carry on: and here’s why. The book will be an anthology — meaning that a variety of voices will speak (it will contain extracts from the panels on the day, with additional essays from those involved). It is a regathering of people involved in an informal, improvised cultural space that came into being at some point in the 60s (perhaps even earlier), coalescing around 1970 out the counterculture and other existing sources, some radical, some fannish — which existed in real time for some years, with ripples that continued to travel long after that. In its multiform, provocative, naive way, it was something that stood somewhat athwart the grim turbulences of the 70s, even if (from time to time) it also reacted to them and expressed them. It was about possibility, and about community: about how a community gets to define itself and to move out into the wider world.

The kickstarter is here: and what I say about it on that page is this (click through for further detail, and to support it to make it happen):

Once upon a time — for a surprisingly long time— the UK music-press was a lot more than just the place to catch up with singles or album release news, with interviews with chart-topping figures and the antics of gobby rockstars. Week on week in its heyday — the mid 60s to the early 80s — a young reader could also go to it to find out about everything from comics to cult films to radical politics, as well as an extremely wide range of non-chart musics from all over the world. Hiding in plain sight, it was the communal improvisation of ways to process an unprecedented tumult from every quarter, of new sounds and dances, startling ideas and visions all battling for attention. It took place in such high-street titles as NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Record Mirror, Echoes, Street Life, Let It Rock, Zigzag, Black Music; but it had fermented in the undergrounds — Oz, IT, Frendz, Ink — and a significant alt/free/listings press including Time Out, City Limits, the anti-racist agit-prop paper Temporary Hoarding, and the redoubtable feminist magazine Spare Rib. As well, from the mid-70s, there was a burgeoning underfelt of fanzines, notably Nick Kimberley and Penny Reel’s legendary reggae zine Pressure Drop, plus Bam Balam, Sniffin’ Glue, Ripped and Torn, London’s Burning, London’s Outrage, Out There, and many many more.

sounds-jah punk issueIt would be absurd to argue that its ideals — insofar as it even understood them clearly — have come to be irrevocably enacted: incorrect, if sometimes tempting, in the late 90s; simply fatuous in the light of recent weeks, when everything that it was not has broken back hard against it. It was always fragile: a serendipity, a moment. I want to argue that it was something more. That something useful to us right now can be drawn out of it. I’m not even sure yet what this is — I have ideas, which I might write more about, but for now I just want to make it possible to re-open the conversation.

“To articulate what is past does not mean to recognize ‘how it really was’. It means to take control of a memory, as it flashes in a moment of danger… The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.”

whalers on the moon: curious despatches from an old dream

It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.

scribesQuite apart from anything else, the past — even the very recent past, maybe especially the very recent present — is a mass of detail that’s hard to take in and process (not least because you have to push away the immediate present to do so). My conference produced a little over 12 hours of conversation in one large (often quite hot, by the end quite airless) room, and the discussion has continued elsewhere, in nearby pubs or bars after the two days of debates; also here at ilm, here at Freaky Trigger, and here and here on tumblr. Resonance 104.4FM broadcast it nearly in full on 25 May and have put the eight extracts up on their mixcloud site here (I don’t know how long for). Continue reading

spotted recently on freaky trigger: sükråt of that ilk

Notes on Adam Ant (the “paper” I gave at EMP in Seattle this year) and the Spice Wars (feat.Russ Meyer and Buffy and the Powerpuff girls and early ilx); a long note on Lady Di and the old weird England in the Popular thread on Elton John and Candle in the Wind ’97 — and the beginnings of a response to the various questions Frank Kogan asked in comments on the Oasis post, a response which is VERY LONG (9000+ words) and RUMINATIVE and SEMI-THOUGHT-THROUGH, and covers Burke, Keats, Wallace Stevens, the internalised bureaucracies of the institutionalised intellect (and where music fits into them); and what we mean by the words “thinking” and “clarity”.

straight girls who identify as “rotten women” (腐女)

the meat of the story is a bit grim, but this fact^^^ isn’t: “”Irony is the glory of slaves” is the quotation Seth likes. See also Nüshu, the same story from a very different angle

via jamie kenny, yr go-to source for the chinese underbelly

schoolroom vs hallway vs hallway

or, Maybe this is the best place for my mean little joke about why they called their fanzine “monitor” hoho

Little essay for FT on art, class and autodidacts: featuring Oasis, Joseph Beuys, Arthur Scargill and Richard Jobson, among others. Tom Ewing and Frank Kogan are already arrived in the comments on excellent form: my fantasy thread would eventually also include Mark E. Smith, Robin Carmody and Robert Christgau duking it out with Liam and Noel Gallagher and maybe even one of the Appleton sisters…

how does platinum smell?

History don’t fail me now

[Sharpen the silliness, and the contradictions will sharpen themselves: this is the point I failed to make this morning as I hurried out of the house…]

Defending Adorno from his own devotees…

… or what happens when you cross the streams? My good friend Julio emailed me this: I’d come across Richard Taruskin before, many years ago, and been very taken with his work (via an essay on Stravinsky, neo-classicism, recording technology, the idea of authenticity and the Early Music movement, if I’m remembering correctly across nearly 30 years) — and more recently Seth had piqued my interest all over again, from a very different direction. Late on New Year’s Eve, in a pub in King’s Cross, Julio mentioned to me that this 2007 piece discussed Richard Meltzer, and was visibly entertained by how confused and over-excited I got.

Adding: I say the piece discusses Meltzer, but (I’m a bit disappointed to have to note) really all it does is mention him. He’s introduced as a symptom of the failure of the critical conversation round classical music and the compositional avant-garde to interest or excite the best minds of the 60s generation. But Taruskin doesn’t give much sense of what might be interesting about Meltzer as a writer or thinker, which is a pity — or (which is surely relevant) that he was clearly in the process of wriggling out from under Hegel and Quine (both mentioned at best fleetingly in book-version of The Aesthetics of Rock; Quine just once, in the same sentence as one of the Hegels). Over to Frank Kogan for an all-too-brief primer.

model this

“Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same ‘logical form’, the same ‘logical multiplicity’. Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: ‘What is the logical form of that?'”
(Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, pp. 58–59)

Faintly recall from student days long ago that N.Malcolm was hard work and unrewarding as a philosopher (trans.: I was a confused and unsatisfactory philosophy student, far as Anglo-Am Analytical etc goes). But this is a good story, and — whether or not LW drew the correct conclusions at length — Sraffa’s intervention was strong, and Wittgenstein was right to be impressed and unsettled. I’m tempted to argue that music — all music, from Blobby to Boulez — is making much the same gesture to all other intellectual activity: here’s something you can’t do. That might be too strong — other things are always going on in music (including rapprochement, or attempts at same), and of course the various forces and layers never aggregate to a single decisive intent or content anyway — but it’s definitely an element I value in music, and don’t see well grasped in its discussion.

like tears in the rain (except they’re kept in a container in your freezer)

For a while now I’ve been wondering about the feasibility and the need for a project: which for want of a better term I’ve been calling the “co-operative archive”. When my friend Martin Skidmore died last year, his wish was that those who knew and loved him gathered at his flat and divided up whatever of his collections — of comics, records, books, art catalogues and more — that we variously wanted. It struck most of us that day, I think, that there was something more than just sad about splitting up what he’d put together so carefully, over many years: he was a highly intelligent man, a scholar, in fact, especially when it came to comics. Was there a way this archive could be maintained? Continue reading