Friday, November 02, 2007

(White man) in hammersmith palais.

And so it began

Intro text

Dateline 1977. British punk rock and the new wave seemed poised to alter the world. In that year, the new wave's three most influential bands got their initial break: The Clash, The Jam, The Sex Pistols. Dateline 1985: New wave is gone replaced by the vapid sythesizer antics of Duran Duran, Frankie, et a1. The Sex Pistols were long since disbanded with Sid Vicious dead on heroin. The Clash as a Jones-Strummer axis has failed; Paul Weller has escaped The Jam for billowy jazz, The Style Council, and claims that he "once said a couple of words one behalf of his generation." Still in the crucible that was 1977 and following these bands garnered nationa1 attention, especially for their seeming political messages. As Simon Frith says, "the sociology of rock is Inseparable from the sociology of youth." If one accepts the premlse that the youth movement sought to criticize the establishment, what role did the new wave play? For that matter, can one speak coherently of a consistent new wave "rhetoric"?

The first kernel of this Seconds essay

In their best single, "(White Man) at the HammersmIth Palais," The Clash turn a critical eye on modern British society from a youth's perspective. The inequality is noted, as "White Youth, black youth, better find another solution/ Better phone up Robin Hood and ask him for some wealth distribution." Similarly their own moment per se gets its; "Punk rockers in the U.K., they won't notice anyway/ They're too busy fighting for a good place under the lighting." Finally the tawdry sham of consumerism becomes a symbol of English society: "All over people changing votes along with their overcoats." Note that this phrase coincides with the musical climax of the piece.

I wrote this paper for a one-off experimental class on British History after 1945 taught by John Brewer. The course had a fun music party night in the wood-panneled Union Annex (long before the Barker Center came into being) First Floor History and Literature Great Room featuring everything from Tenpole Tudor and Lonnie Donegan through the Pistols right up to the Smiths (it was 1985 after all). The mix tapes (remember cassettes kids? they came before downloads, mp3s and CDs but after 10" 78s, 8 track Tape and vinyl LPs) were expertly curated by one famously hirsute TA, J P Montaño. I chose the other TA's section only for variety's sake, as I had John's excellent section for Brewer's famous History 1410 The Hanoverian Golden Age 1680–1790 class. We also had a great film festival portion of the class: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, I'm All Right Jack, Georgy Girl, If . . ., Gregory's Girl, and The Long Good Friday to name but a few of the gems we saw. Karen Monger was a visiting scholarship visiting graduate student from Oxford and my TA then. Now she's a journalist and radio producer, who did this fantastic show on File on 4.

The Arts 19900321 Producer: L. ALKER
Next in series: 28 March 1990
Previous in series: PRO-LIFE CAMPAIGNERS
Robin LUSTIG investigates 'funding for the arts'
Subject Categories
documentaries (programme format)
investigative programmes (presentation style)
budgets (state finance)
arts (administration)
Broadcast history
21 Mar 1990 16:05-16:45 (RADIO 4)
Robin Lustig
Gerry Northam (Producer)
Karen Monger (Producer)
Peter Hall (Speaker)
Brian Cox (Speaker)
Roy Strong (Speaker)
Richard Luce (Speaker)
Terry Hands (Speaker)
Philip Hedley (Speaker)
Max Stafford-Clark (Speaker)
Colin Tweedy (Speaker)
Ian Rushton (Speaker)
John Stalker (theatre director (spkr)) (Speaker)
Clive Priestly (Speaker)
Ian Brown (arts council (spkr)) (Speaker)
John Doyle (drama director (spkr)) (Speaker)
Recorded on 1990-03-20.

Anyway, so how big a nerd was I? Well, I spent the spring break of my senior year in college not in Fort Lauderdale or PCB— closer to my hometown of Tallahassse, Not in South Padre or Mazatlan. Instead I flew to London for a week. Cool; the dollar was historically strong against the pound in March 1985, virtually 1 to 1 instead of the normal 1.5 to 1 or the current attrociously low rate of something like 2.08179 USD to 1 BP. Of course, my billfold got lifted on the Tube between Heathrow and central London. Fortunately I had only cashed $100 in travellers cheques there. Still I had to economize. So I walked everywhere instead of tubing it for the week including one memorably mammoth Sunday walk from South Kensington along the Brompton Road round Hyde Park Corner down the mall into Trafalgar Square on through Covent Garden to Bloomsbury, the British Museum, and Russell Square. My bad luck proved good as I learned London well above ground following my trusty A to Zed and understanding how "neighborhoods" connected in a way you can't when you're "going underground." So how did I spend this "vacation"? 9-5 the first three days in the British Library's Musical division which back then was on Exhibition Road SW7 between the Royal Albert Hall and the Science Museum. Basically I read any and every music paper/journal I could get my hand on from 1977 and 1978, even Sounds as shocking as that might seem. Somehow (perhaps following Simon's muse) I settled on Melody Maker as the source of the best quotes re: punk, even if NME was more famous and also namechecked by Johnny Rotten. Yes, I spent my spring break vacation in a library researching a term paper. Yowzah. Now! That's What I Call Music. The result was the paper of which you've seen a few JPEG captures. It is only later that I would get copies of seminal books by Caroline Coon and Jonathon Sage aka Jon Savage: 1979 and England's Dreaming


And "Here's Where The Story Ends" at least for today. As I have to head down to the Pi Kappa Alpha house for the Community-wide social to kick off The Johnny Cash Flower Pickin' Festival here in Starkville. Stay tuned same bat station, same bat channel tomorrow for my updated review of "(White Man) In Hammesmith Palais."

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