They were talking about Acid House on the radio this morning. On Radio 4. On the Today programme! Then again, Acid House was 25 years ago and the people who made it happen are now middle-aged. Was it the last of the great revolutions in music and youth culture? It’s difficult to think of anything since that has had quite the same impact.
It’s often said that before rock ‘n’ roll and the invention of the teenager, young people dressed like their parents. Harriet Walker reckons we are going back to that (...)
So if fashion is losing its edge, is rock ‘n’ roll going the same way?
Suzanne Moore thinks so, as she compares the music and performance of Lady Gaga with that of the late Lou Reed:
[I]f Gaga is working overtime to shock us, it just isn’t happening. (...)
You could say the same about most of the artists that have appeared in recent years. . Amy Winehouse had a great voice and her wild lifestyle made headlines but her style of music was not new. Same for Pink, Adele and a host of others. They are talented people but they haven’t recorded anything that could not have been released fifteen years ago. The same is true of guitar rock. Today’s jangly indie bands don’t sound a lot different from the jangly indie bands of the nineties. (...)
This would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. Radio stations played the classic oldies like Elvis but everything else was pretty much forgotten a couple of years after it had been released. When the ska revival happened in 1979-80, we danced to Tears of a Clown, Don’t Call Me Scarface, Madness and Whine and Grine with no idea that we were listening to covers. These songs were over ten years old and no-one played them any more. They were dead and buried. You’d be more likely to hear the original version of Tears of a Clown on the radio now that you would in 1978. Music from even five years ago was for older brothers and sisters. Each generation had its own sound. (...)
A couple of years ago, these themes were the subject of a brilliant Vanity Fair article by Kurt Anderson.
The past is a foreign country, but the recent past—the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present. This is the First Great Paradox of Contemporary Cultural History.
Think about it. Picture it. Rewind any other 20-year chunk of 20th-century time. There’s no chance you would mistake a photograph or movie of Americans or an American city from 1972—giant sideburns, collars, and bell-bottoms, leisure suits and cigarettes, AMC Javelins and Matadors and Gremlins alongside Dodge Demons, Swingers, Plymouth Dusters, and Scamps—with images from 1992. Time-travel back another 20 years, before rock ’n’ roll and the Pill and Vietnam, when both sexes wore hats and cars were big and bulbous with late-moderne fenders and fins—again, unmistakably different, 1952 from 1972. You can keep doing it and see that the characteristic surfaces and sounds of each historical moment are absolutely distinct from those of 20 years earlier or later: the clothes, the hair, the cars, the advertising—all of it.
Now try to spot the big, obvious, defining differences between 2012 and 1992. Movies and literature and music have never changed less over a 20-year period. Lady Gaga has replaced Madonna, Adele has replaced Mariah Carey—both distinctions without a real difference—and Jay-Z and Wilco are still Jay-Z and Wilco.
It’s true that old blokes have always moaned about young people’s tastes. Dads wouldn’t be dads if they didn’t say the music their kids listen to all sounds the same.
But this is different. Dads never said ‘it all sounds the same as it did when I was young‘. In 1977, if you’d suggested there was any similarity between Johnny Rotten and Gene Vincent you’d have got a slap. From both adults and kids. These days, the middle-aged men who don’t get out much are complaining that things aren’t changing fast enough and that the kids just aren’t revolting any more. How do you shock your parents nowadays? You certainly can’t do it with rock n roll, not in an age where whole families go to Glasto and teenagers listen to bands that were formed before their parents were born. (...)
For some youngsters, especially the boys, the allegiances and sense of identity that used to be anchored in rock bands and youth tribes now comes from gaming. Gaming is the new rock n roll – even the Christian right has noticed. Perhaps that is where you’ll find some of the innovation and energy that used to go into music. Unless that, too, is yesterday’s news.
What does this all mean? I really have no idea but it does feel like yet another Back-To. There have been a lot of them recently. We are going back to 1938 levels of income distribution, back to a time when profits took the lion’s share of GDP, back to a time when charities, rather than the state, were expected to provide for the poor, back to lower economic growth. And back to a time before rock n roll when sons dressed like their fathers. All of which makes me wonder whether the postwar world, with its high wages, increasing equality, high economic growth and rock n roll revolutions every few years, may turn out to be a historical blip.
Eu diria que, se há uma certa estagnação em termos "estéticos", é compensada por um muito maior dinamismo tecnológico - se nos anos 80 vissemos um filme feito (ou passado) nos anos 50 ou 60, as roupas (e as normais morais) podiam ser muito diferentes, mas os carros, as televisões, os telefones, talvez mesmo as fotocopiadoras não causavam nenhuma estranheza - tentem hoje em dia ver um filme feito nos anos 80 ou 90, e nota-se logo a falta de telemóveis, a raridade de computadores, a internet em que só os "cromos da informática" sabem como entrar... (há muitos cuja própria existência de telemóveis tornaria o enredo impossível).