3
Jul 00

I’m as keen as Greg to see UK Garage get exposure in America

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I’m as keen as Greg to see UK Garage get exposure in America, but I can’t realistically see it happening – because (and I know this will seem like a sweeping and, to some, offensive statement) it just doesn’t fit into the portrayal of Britain that mass American audiences want (if they care about this country at all). The so-called “furore” this past week over the claims that Britain is a more violent society than America is simply the byproduct of a slow, pained realisation of the fact that Britain, for all its faults, is not some quaint, crime-free little island.

When “British but un-British” records *have* succeeded there, though, it’s interesting how they stand out for wildly varying reasons – the global stereotype of the British has been that they don’t calmly and naturally relax, but also that they never get *too* excited, they don’t lose all self-control. It’s a potent cultural myth based around a perceived emotional avoidance of extremes – and that explains why “Get Off Of My Cloud”, one of the Rolling Stones’ three or four worthwhile efforts, sounded “un-British” because of its unstoppable rhythmic aggression, while Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life” sounded “un-British” because of its possessing the opposite mood, immaculate relaxation. When “Get Off Of …” topped the Billboard chart in 1965, the sheer force of its instrumentation, the way the words “Hey” and “You” are then viciously repeated to force the message home, and (especially) its use of the drums as a virtual lead instrument, shocked American audiences used to the post-war ideal of the polite Englishman. “Back To Life”, meanwhile, at the tail end of the Thatcher era and after Reagan had gone, transcended all ideas of the English being uptight, and the very fact that it was a black, urban British record was subversive in certain quarters. These two brilliant extremes of un-British Britishness both stood out in America because of the way they perfected particular feelings at opposite ends of the emotional scale, coming from a country almost universally associated with an avoidance of emotional extremities.

But I still reckon that, while UK Garage *will* suffer from media underexposure, it will also suffer from a certain attitude problem which does not look like changing in the foreseeable future.

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