October 21, 2003



I've promised a reply to Simon's Sixties thing for a while, so here goes...

No doubt the Sixties 'itself' was a fabulously variegated decade, full of surprise, wonder and novelty. This doesn't seem to me to be the issue; the question is whether it should be allowed to maintain its status as a temporal anchor, the mythical ur-point to which all subsequent cultural developments must be traced back. I just don't find this narrative useful, illuminating or productive; even if, in some sense, it is 'true'. For me, partly for perversity's sake, partly because it generates new perspectives, I prefer to see the Sixties not as a Golden Age, but as a precursor to the seventies and eighties. No doubt this is a matter of aesthetic preference: I just find, for example, For Your Pleasure and Unknown Pleasures, (is there a theme here - maybe Numan's Pleasure Principle is the third in this triptych?) superior to anything from the Sixties. The fourteen year old in me, with his video and electronics-saturated disdain for the cobwebby, monochrome-old newsreel Sixties is still something I can't get past. I'll now grant that Sixties music is of historical interest, but it'll never affect me in the same way that seventies and eighties stuff does. As I said in the early days of k-punk, it's as if Delia Derbyshire had rendered the whole of the Sixties out of date in advance.

Simon's other point --- that early seventies Prog can be placed within the Sixties, since the Sixties (as a cultural epoch) lasted until at least 73 --- is well-made, but couldn't we also make a case for a micro-period lasting from 69 to 75? 69 - even the digits of the year are so much more darkly exciting than anything else in the Sixties....

Simon's positing of Glam as the great break seems to me much more fecund than kindling the Sixties flame. I find the idea of Glam as a rejection of the Sixties far more compelling than seeing it as its continuation. Naturally, rejection implies some dialectical relation to the previous decade/ episteme/ structure of feeling/ whatever. But that doesn't mean that Glam could be reduced to an antagonism for the Sixties. Roxy, for example, strike me as absolutely, irreducibly Seventies, even if they - unavoidably - have some biographical connections to the Sixties.


Incidentally, since we're on Delia and all that, one of the many fascinating things to emerge from BBC 4's documentary on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was the idea that its terminal decline was precipitated by the arrival of the synthesizer. The Moog made the Workshop's bespoke sound-construction (sounds generated from found sources; tapes painstakingly spliced and looped) seem redundant. At the same time, the Moog was unreliable and functionally-limited, provoking sniffy disdainer from the RW. Nevertheless, it was unavoidable, and apparently produced despair in the members of the workshop.

Fascinating to be reminded how familiar sounds can be rendered electro-alien simply by pitch shifting (achieved by the Workshop's running at the tape at different speeds). And nice to hear the origin of the John Craven's Newsround jingle....

No doubt James and Michael will correct me if I've made factual errors about the RSW. :-) Absolutely no sarcasm intended, I hasten to add. I've learned tons from their contributions to the Comments boxes!


Another thing ... Hearing the compact Suspiria album (it's all over in about 37 mintues) made me think that it's not the Prog era but now in which excess and indulgence comes as standard. Oh, for a 37 minute album now....

Posted by mark at October 21, 2003 09:54 PM | TrackBack

i read a comment from pierre henry that said blamed the moog for the downfall of electronic music too

its more of that stuff about quality of music going down since anyone can make tracks etc ...

some of the later stuff by the radiophonic workshop is as good as the early stuff - it's just a bit of change int it

Posted by: marcus at October 22, 2003 12:21 PM