Friday, 10 April 2009

I'm not a number II

One of my Facebook friends recently commented "I refuse to be in the core demographic for ‘The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency’"... Personally, I refuse to be in the core demographic for anything.

It’s easy to get sucked into watching what I call SAGA telly: anything with nice scenery and people in anoraks and vintage cars. Yes, I like the British landscape and I own walking boots and a bicycle. But that’s not all there is. It doesn’t mean anyone knows who I am. Or what I want to hear.

Last Sunday I found Partner listening to Johnnie Walker presenting ‘Sounds of the 70s’. On Radio 2. In the 70s we listened to Johnnie Walker on Radio 1. Hard to believe now but at the time we thought he was pretty hip. On the basis, as I remember, that he played Album Tracks. In the daytime. These days, well for a good few years now, I’ve just thought he was pompous and pointless. A bit like Bob Harris (but then, Harris always was).

The only DJ from that time who was always cool, and always will be, was John Peel. That’s not to do with the fact he’s dead. It’s to do with the fact that he followed his own path, regardless either of fashion or of what people his age were supposed to do and like. Which is, basically, the Older than Elvis definition of cool.

So, ‘Sounds of the 70s’ is on the radio station that used to have ‘Sounds of the 60s’. (How long before it’s ‘Sounds of the 80s’?) There’s a fundamental flaw in this. There was no such thing as the 70s. It makes no sense to play an early 70s Stephen Stills song next to... well, something good. Or something from the other end of the decade.

From 1970 to 1979 there were several, very different, eras. From where I was, there were the Jackie years, the cheesecloth years, and the punk years... Shortly before the end of society as we know it. The problem with the concept of 'Sounds of the 70s' is, there’s no context. It makes more sense to listen to one of the ‘Top of the Pops’ LPs that we’ve been collecting from charity shops. This way you actually get a genuine snapshot of what was genuinely happening at a specific moment. Minus the hindsight and minus the value judgements: they include songs you’d forgotten about and songs you will never hear on the radio because they haven't been classified a ‘classic’. The concept of ‘golden oldies’ is for people who don’t really like music. Or who don’t have a memory of their own. Count me out.

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