21
May 12

SAINT ETIENNE – “Popular”

Popular152 comments • 7,195 views

#1976, 21st May 2012

Huge weepy thanks to Bob, Pete and Sarah for immortalising us in song. And thanks to commenters past and present for making it worth immortalising.

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Comments

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  1. 127
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Nov 2013 #

    I am fond of Sukhdev, in print and in person, and this is an enthusiastic summary — but Bob’s decision to discuss a fixed and well defined slice of history (and not attempt to bring it right up to LAST NIGHT’S CHARTS) was extremely clearly explained. It’s odd (and telling?) how resolute reviewers seem to be in reading it as a comment on the quality (or lack of it) of music since that period ended.

    Also the idea that “exuberant and cross-generational linkages” have become the norm in writing about music is simply (and weirdly) false.

  2. 128
    Mark G on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Also, the bits where Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan get ignored in favour of Donovan and whoever.. Well, to be fair, I have not read up to the Donovan section, having only just got through the DYLAN CHAPTER! but Aretha f. gets plenty praise..

  3. 129
    Alan on 6 Nov 2013 #

    the last 2 paras are ‘HOW DO I END THIS THING? ER WILL THIS DO’, which is fine.

  4. 130
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Yes, but there SS is just acknowledging that orthodox rock history allows THIS AMOUNT OF SPACE for certain people, and bob on the whole gives them a lot less, into order to discuss at considerable length people generally omitted. A History of Modern Pop that actually omitted the Beatles would be a very bold project indeed.

  5. 131
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Orthodox rock history being a bit of a strawman there in terms of well-researched doorstep-shaped books meaning to cover EVERYTHING. Charlie Gillett’s The Sound of the City, which I actually really like, only gets up to the late 70s (because that’s when it was written) and its later stages inevitably now feel quite dated. Donald Clarke’s The Rise and Fall of Popular Music starts well but overreaches far into decades DC has no sympathy for or grasp of. The Rolling Stone book is as variable as the contributors, and anyway not really a history per se. What else is there?

  6. 132
    Mark M on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Re 130/131: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but my feeling has been that the orthodox rock position has always been stronger in ordinary punters than people who write about music. They have a greater stake in the notion that The Clash really, really matter and The Saturdays don’t. Apart from anything else, most sane people immersed in any subject will find themselves tinkering with unorthodox positions just to stop getting bored, even if they can’t bring themselves ideologically to swap sides (hence ‘guilty pleasures’).
    Whereas if you are either a) 15 and this all new and crucial to you or b) only get to listen to your old vinyl when the wife and kids are out of the bloody house, it’s easier to maintain a hard line.

  7. 133
    flahr on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Old people in ‘think things were better in their day’ shocka

  8. 134
    Ed on 6 Nov 2013 #

    Respect to Bob for joining in in the comments.

    I think poor old Rimbaud got a bad rap, though.

    This is amazing, and I would never have known about it but for Patti Smith:

    Vowels

    A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels
    Someday I’ll talk about your secret birth-cries,
    A, black velvet jacket of brilliant flies
    That buzz around the stenches of the cruel,

    Gulfs of shadow: E, candour of mists, of tents,
    Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of parsley:
    I, purples, bloody salivas, smiles of the lonely
    With lips of anger or drunk with penitence:

    U, waves, divine shudders of viridian seas,
    Peace of pastures, cattle-filled, peace of furrows
    Formed on broad studious brows by alchemy:

    O, supreme Clarion, full of strange stridencies,
    Silences crossed by worlds and by Angels:
    O, the Omega, violet ray of her Eyes!

  9. 135
    punctum on 7 Nov 2013 #

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but my feeling has been that the orthodox rock position has always been stronger in ordinary punters than people who write about music. They have a greater stake in the notion that The Clash really, really matter and The Saturdays don’t.

    Does anyone really feel this other than a few sad old men who look like Vince Vaughn and hang around used record shops? I think you’ll find that the majority of “ordinary punters,” e.g. my mum, are far more familiar with the Saturdays (always on TV, always turning up) than the Clash (whom the general public don’t know apart from that lot who did that Levi’s advert).

    Also it’s not “tinkering with unorthodox positions,” it’s “providing a different opinion or point of view.” Why does every piece of music writing have to retread the same old story, toe the party line? Is it down to the resentment of a select group of people who have suddenly been told that their world is only a small corner of a far larger and more complex world?

    even if they can’t bring themselves ideologically to swap sides

    I think you’re confusing music appreciation with Dungeons and Dragons.

  10. 136
    Mark M on 7 Nov 2013 #

    Re 135: I’m not saying the bulk of ordinary punters, I’m just saying those are attitudes often ascribed to (non-specified) critics (and academics) that I’ve more often encountered among, say, the readers of Mojo or Uncut rather than the staff of those magazines. It was a stance certainly held by a lot of teenage Sounds readers back in the day.

    ‘I think you’re confusing music appreciation with Dungeons and Dragons.’

    There’s a difference?

  11. 137
    Tim on 7 Nov 2013 #

    I think Mark M’s point is not so much about the current relative public profiles of The Clash and The Sundays, it’s more about where one is most likely to find the orthodox rock position.

    I feel like I’m much more likely to hear “don’t even play their instruments” / “don’t even write their own songs” etc from people randomly chatting about music in the office than I am to encounter them in rowckwrite these days. That might reflect more on my chosen rockread, of course.

  12. 138
    punctum on 7 Nov 2013 #

    I think that if we have reached the stage where there are things like “the orthodox rock position” then rock music has been for nothing.

  13. 139
    Tom on 7 Nov 2013 #

    This was always Dave Q’s point – rockism is the populist music fan position, it’s not something imposed from above. The arguments deplored by pop writers – authenticity, test-of-time, who’s faking it – are the ones most easily reached for in any office and pub.

    Now, the good news for “pop” is that easily reached for arguments tend to have very little to do with actual behaviour, and the rockist arguments are so flexible they can be applied to almost ANYTHING – pretty much any record over 10 years old on YouTube gets ‘why don’t they make them like this anymore? modern music is plastic crap’ commentary no matter how woeful it seemed at the time.

  14. 140
    punctum on 7 Nov 2013 #

    As somebody (p*nk s?f Andy Gill? Biba Kopf?) once said in the NME, music is never as good as it was while you’re living through it.

  15. 141
    Mark G on 7 Nov 2013 #

    And as somebody said in some book or other, the best year of Pop was the one where you first discovered pop. e.g. I always rated 1983, but that was more a re-discovery. I refuse to back my pick by going back and looking..

  16. 142
    Erithian on 7 Nov 2013 #

    How about the current relative public profiles of the Saturdays, the Sundays and the Mondays?

  17. 143
    Mark G on 7 Nov 2013 #

    Sundays are a ‘day’ of rest.

  18. 144
    punctum on 7 Nov 2013 #

    With my TPL hat on, I’m currently in the process of rediscovering the pop of 1983. It’s not a pretty picture, I can tell you.

  19. 145
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Nov 2013 #

    Scandal – The Warrior. Now I wish that hit Popular. Maybe not for the right reasons, however..

  20. 146
    punctum on 7 Nov 2013 #

    And indeed, here is the first of TPL’s twenty-one entries to deal with 1983: http://nobilliards.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/various-artists-raiders-of-pop-charts.html

  21. 147
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Nov 2013 #

    Sounds excellent, Marcello.. shared the link on Facebook to one of the creators of “200 Worst Songs”.. a very good blog full of classic British cynicism (though it lays on SU bar politics a bit too thickly), but no point linking it here as it would be bunny armageddon.

  22. 148
    swanstep on 8 Nov 2013 #

    The History Boys is set in 1983 and, at least in its movie version, makes it seem like a Smiths/Echo/New Order/Cure wonderland.

  23. 149
    tm on 8 Nov 2013 #

    I’ve always though that if there’s a lazy critical consensus, it’s towards what Tom called The Big Cultural Stiffy For Other People’s Misery owtte, for self conscious ‘intelligence’ and for unglamorous white, male, middle-class people who look like the majority of the writers (cf Dave Lee Roth’s comment about Elvis Costello), rather than Rock per se.

  24. 150
    iconoclast on 8 Nov 2013 #

    @146: one of your best pieces; I always look forward to reading them.

    In general: but isn’t it part of the fun of discussing popular music to get riled up when you hear or read somebody heaping unstinting praise on something which is quite obviously garbage, or the reverse?

  25. 151
    punctum on 8 Nov 2013 #

    No, because either way you’re still dealing with subjectivity. I find persuading people a better method these days, coupled with trying to find the good points in what looks like unpromising material (i.e. most of 1983′s number one albums). Rather than just say “hyuk hyuk what were people thinking” I endeavour to find out why people were thinking what they thought, and what the findings say about me and/or those times and/or the present day.

  26. 152
    anto on 8 Nov 2013 #

    re148: Apart from the music on the soundtrack there’s curiously little in the film* to suggest what year it’s meant to be. If there is any significance to the date it might be because Irwin’s rather cynical but effective teaching methods are clearly about to usurp Hector’s learning-for-the-love-of-learning approach.
    One of the most shocking moments in ‘The History Boys’ is when the Headmaster ferociously turns on Hector and his methods (‘Screw the renaissance, and literature and Plato and Michaelangelo and Oscar Wilde and all the other shrunken violets you people line up’) thus making his bias perfectly clear.

    * The play quotes ‘It’s A Sin’ by the Pet Shop Boys so is presumably set a few years later.

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