Wednesday, July 26, 2017

About Warhol


Alice Cooper has discovered a version of Andy Warhol’s Electric Chair print in a locker alongside some of his stage props. I was initially amused by the comment from his manager, Shep Gordon, about a discussion the then-drunk rock star may or may not have had with the artist: 
Alice says he remembers having a conversation with Warhol about the picture... he thinks the conversation was real, but he couldn't put his hand on a Bible and say that it was.”
Which is something that would doubtless have tickled Andy. But I’m not sure how he would have taken another of Gordon’s reflections:
“Andy Warhol was not really ‘Andy Warhol’ back then.”
I suspect what Gordon means is that Warhol didn’t command the vast sums on the art market that he can attract now he’s safely dead – which goes for any number of big names. But it seems oddly appropriate in that ‘Andy Warhol’ (as distinct from Andy Warhol) was his greatest work, the spectral, silver-wigged entity, umm-ing and gee-ing and generally being, blurring the lines between art, business, performance and celebrity. In fact, by the mid-70s, it’s possible that Andy Warhol had ceased to exist and only ‘Andy Warhol’ was left.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

About OK Computer

The anniversary bandwagon chugs on; I talk to Greenroom about OK Computer, Naomi Klein, Emmanuel Macron and stuff like that.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

About nostalgia (again)

So, the 20th anniversary of OK Computer approaches, with the inevitable special edition reissue and all that entails. Thom Yorke has grumbled about the backward-looking nature of the whole Britpop phenomenon that dominated the cultural scene while he was recording the album but, as others have pointed out, it’s a bit rich to sneer at nostalgia when you’re celebrating the birthday of your own product.

To be fair, Yorke was actually attempting to do something a bit different with his third album, even if the Pink Floyd and JG Ballard references loomed large. But if he really does object to nostalgia so much, he’d better put his head under a pillow for the rest of the year. There’s the whole Sgt Pepper phenomenon, of course, which is a veritable babushka of nostalgias, packing any number of Victorian and Edwardian references in among the hallucinogens and Mellotrons. I heard David Rodigan lauding Bob Marley’s Exodus last night and, also from 1977, we can expect any amount of old punks getting wistful as Never Mind the Bollocks gets the same treatment later in the year.

Now I’m nearly 50,  a proper old fart, so all this stuff is squarely aimed at me; but what about the young folk for whom even Britpop is just a wispy rumour, something their parents did in the old days before Snapchat? To get an approximate idea, I picked up a copy of NME, a publication that probably stopped trying to tickle my own cultural tummy around the turn of the millennium. The first thing I saw was a wraparound cover promoting movie iterations of Baywatch (a TV show first shown in 1989) and Transformers (a toy line launched in North America in 1984). But the real front page doesn’t say much more about 2017; a moody shot of Liam Gallagher, a man in his mid-40s who had his first hit records 23 years ago. Moreover, the whole design of the cover, with Gallagher in a parka and a jaunty target logo hovering by his grumpy head, seems to be echoing the Mod revival of the late 70s/early 80s, which was in turn a nod to the social and musical eruptions of the early 60s, before even Sgt Pepper hit the racks.

So, has it all ended? Have we really drained the cultural well, so we can only sustain ourselves with echoes of echoes of echoes? Or, in the midst of all these old men looking backwards, is something going to pop up and surprise us all? Can’t see it myself...



PS: To contextualize the idea of Liam etc on the cover, it’s as if, when I first read the NME in about 1984, its exterior was adorned with Adam Faith, and films based on Dixon of Dock Green and Play-Doh.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Seven thoughts about #PepsiLivesMatter


So Pepsi made a commercial in which Kendall Jenner, who is apparently a Kardashian, sort of, shows up at a political demonstration and calmed everyone down with a can of fizzy drink and some people didn’t like it so Pepsi said, yeah, fair enough, we’ll pull it.

  • It’s just a classic example of recuperation, the tactic of reclaiming radical, transgressive  images/tropes in the cause of capitalism. The flipside of the Situationist tactic of détournement. Every time your favourite old punk anthem shows up in a commercial. That.
  • Until this thing happened, I honestly thought Kendall Jenner was a boy.
  • Everyone’s so clean and groomed and pretty. Is that what demos are like now? Blimey.
  • An Iranian friend has pointed out that the placard with supposedly Arabic text on it just contains random characters that don’t mean anything.
  • We’re all talking about Pepsi now.
  • And Kendall Jenner.
  • Right now, Coca-Cola is working on something bigger and better/worse.
PS: Also, this:

Sunday, April 02, 2017

About passports


A few months ago, I unearthed my first passport. It was the long-defunct British Visitors version, acquired at the age of 13 to enable me to go on a school trip to France, during which I would have my first snog, but that’s another tale for another day, or maybe never. A BVP was only valid for a year and allowed entry to a strictly limited array of countries, most of them in Western Europe; you could go to West Berlin, but only by air. Any other mode of transport would involve setting foot on Communist soil.

Which inevitably got me thinking about how much Europe, and travel, and life have changed in the years since; and how much some people apparently wish they hadn’t. Apparently we’re all going to get dark blue passports again, something apparently greatly to be desired by many Brexit voters, along with smoking in pubs, incandescent lightbulbs, pre-decimal currency and the death penalty (we are not informed whether this will be carried out in public). It all rather supports my gut feeling that Brexit is less about leaving the EU, more about going back to an imagined yesterday of Morris Minors and outside toilets, where everything is grey or beige, except the people, who are exclusively white.

But back to the passports. It’s well documented that there were some clear correlations between voting in the referendum with regard to age (older people voted to leave, younger to stay) and educational background (the higher up the learning ladder you went, the more likely you were to be a remainer). But another interesting statistic shows areas that voted heavily for Brexit also had the lowest levels of passport ownership. Which suggests that for many people, the desire for a blue passport is yet another abstract yearning for something that doesn’t really exist.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

About Girlz Wetter


I’ve been sorting through a whole load of storage crates over the past few weeks, some of which have been undisturbed for 13 years or more. Inevitably some of the contents prompt a certain sting of nostalgia: in a few cases I can recall the precise circumstances in which I acquired a particular book or record, or wrote or drew something. But I’m also coming across things that push no buttons whatsoever, even if I feel they ought to.


One such example is this copy of the fanzine Girlz Wetter. Although maybe calling it a fanzine is to overstate its significance. It’s a single A4 sheet of pink paper, folded into a pamphlet tiny enough to fit in your wallet. There’s a review of a gig by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, an interview with Jef Steartfield of Plan A (me neither) and a rather NSFW 14-point “Guide to Being a Groupie”. And that’s your lot, as the back cover announces in no uncertain terms.

The thing is, I have no memory of how I came into possession of this piece. At first I assumed I must have got hold of it in about 1997/8, when I spent a lot of time on the Camden gig circuit: it was hidden amidst a pile of compilation CDs from that era, boasting tracks by the likes of Dweeb, Midget and The Bigger The God. But the Yeah Yeah Yeahs reference pitches it forwards, to 2001 at the earliest.

What’s interesting about that is that by then it would already have been something of a throwback, as the early rumblings of blogging and social media started to encroach of the turf of print zines. And what’s more, it makes no attempt to perform even those limited gestures of social interaction that print can offer. There’s no information about who the author may be, not even a pseudonym; no contact details, not even a good old analogue PO Box; it’s just there, in your face, make of it what you will. It’s entirely devoid of context, whether in itself or in terms of my own memories. And there’s something rather magnificent about that. I’d be intrigued to know who created it, but at the same time, I quite like the state of ignorance in which I find myself.