Saturday, November 7, 2015

Join The Unprofessionals

Got a surprising amount of time for Noel Gallagher -  as a rentagob / motormouth (and you can't deny "Champagne Supernova" or "Live Forever", a few others). (He also looks a bit like my Uncle Geoff which makes me warm to him). 

But I did have to chuckle, and not in sympathy, at this riff from the Esquire interview, in which he talks about knowing all along that Oasis would be The Last of a Dying Breed, and rants at the pusillanimous professionalism of modern rock : 

"They don’t want someone like Ian Brown in their offices, or Liam, or Bobby Gillespie, or Richard Ashcroft, or me. They want professionals. That’s what it’s become now.
"I guaran-fucking-tee you this: The Stone Roses never mentioned “career” in any band meetings. Ever. Or Primal Scream, or The Verve. Oasis certainly never mentioned it. I bet it’s mentioned a lot by managers and agents now: “Don’t do that, it’s bad for your career.” “What? Fuck off!” Like when we went to the Brits and we’d won all those awards and we didn’t play. The head of the Brits said, “This’ll ruin your career.” Fucking, wow. I say to the guy, “Do you know how high I am? You know who’s going to ruin my career? Me, not you. Bell-end. More Champagne. Fuck off.
"Ten years ago, I said we’d be the last. I just felt it. I felt that story, the poor boys done good, which was retold from Elvis through The Beatles – we won’t mention The Stones because they’re posh kids – Sex Pistols, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, I felt at the time we were the end. And I’ve been proved right. And I don’t like that. I mean I love being proved right but not in that case."

As if Oasis et al weren't following a bleeding script written for them a couple of decades before  (and in some cases following it consciously, and wanting you to know that: hence that old ad "Primal Scream - know what I mean" featuring Keith Moon)

Noel gets near to grasping this a few paras later in in the interview when he says that rock'n'roll is about freedom and honesty - saying "you have a duty" to be those things. Exactly: that's the job description of ye olde rocke & rolle.  That's the designated role: being irresponsible, random, impulsive. That's what you're enlisting in, when you signed up for rock'n'roll. It was well established modus misbehaviourus by the early-mid Seventies; a hoary, encrusted tradition by the time of Sunset Strip metal and G'n'R; and God knows what it was by the time Oasis lurched into view. (By the time of Kasabian and the Libertines it was what Phil Knight, via Spengler, calls pattern-work - ritual reiteration of something whose original point is lost to immemorial antiquity).  Whatever edge that sort of not caring about anything / living in the moment / unbridled rapacity / wrecked recklessness / radical selfishness  had at a certain historical juncture has long, long gone. Probably it ceased to mean anything by 1974. (That was why Eno, for instance, regarded The Rolling Stones as the absolute opposite of what he was about).

Rather than being proud about being the Last of a Dying Breed, wouldn't you rather be the first of a new breed? 


  1. Would we really, though?

    As I get older, I find myself becoming increasingly sympathetic to the idea that it's perfectly fine to work within a tradition, rather than trying to create a new one.

    Rock stars are like blacksmiths or thatchers or armourers: there's not as much call for their services as there used to be, they don't play the central role in society that they used to, but they have a craft that it is still worthwhile, and they can practice it either skilfully or ineptly. And there is even now a lasting satisfaction in a well-shod horse or a perfectly balanced broadsword.

    To be honest, I can't really think of anyone working in the rock tradition with any very impressive craft skills these days. Tame Impala, maybe? But in soul and funk people like Adele, Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae are all regularly enjoyable.

    Of course it's more exciting to be in at the start of something: Classical music in Vienna in the 1780s, film in Hollywood in the 1920s, psychedelia in San Francisco in 1967. But those art forms have produced plenty of great work when their heydays were far behind them.

    It's like the way that older forms of entertainment survive advances in technology. People thought film would kill the theatre, and they thought television would kill the movies, and they thought the internet would kill television. I guess now they think Facebook will kill the internet. It never happened: all the old media have found ways to live on among the new, if often on somewhat different terms. It's the same with music. Rock's not dead; it's just old.

  2. That's an interesting argument Ed, I shall have to ponder and digest

    But one initial quibble - Classical music (meaning orchestral music, quartet music, art song etc) wasn't only new in the 1780s, it was new again and again.... it became a self-renewing tradition that evolved, swerved, self-ruptured for a couple more centuries.. Likewise, Film's newness wasn't limited to the 1920s, it again became an evolving art-form that renewed itself, fissured, expanded its scope as new technology became available etc etc.

    I don't think there is an equivalent of a Noel Gallagher of film, unless we count Quentin Tarantino. The craft analogy, applied to film, would mean someone making a film in a particular era-style/technical-limitations of a period - like silents, or Technicolour 50s Cinemascope,or... and using the narrative-tropes, character archetypes etc of specific genres. That's occurred as a one off (The Artist) but there are no White Stripes type careers in film making based on such retro-ism - at least that I know of.

    So one argument might be that Oasis were doing the equivalent of someone in the 90s trying to update the Western (i.e. a genre whose heyday was, what the 40s? already becoming a tad self-conscious by the 50s? having early attempts at reinvention w/ Peckinpah, etc in the late 60s and early 70s, obsolete and disappeared from mainstream movies screens by the 80s).

    I don't think 'rock' is quite equivalent in scale to an artform like Theatre, Cinema... it's one genre, one historical phase, one region within a larger formation .... maybe Recorded Popular Music is the only term broad enough.... Recorded Popular Music, being a format rather than a genre per se, will obviously continue and probably be the site of newness now and then - meanwhile as Rock - like Jazz before it - becomes a craft, a tradition