Picture by Nick Youngson: It’s good that we still have a strongish car culture in this country (although not one that can touch the USA) but, over the coming few years, we will witness it morph and change as the regulations pile up and the interest in proper motors wanes – and it isn’t just our car culture that is disappearing. A few days ago I bemoaned the lack of any decent pop or rock music these days and I don’t want to labour the point again, but I will.
Glancing through a Sunday supplement I came across a spread of pages advertising tours and appearances of singers and bands and I was struck by the fact that most of the performers had to be over fifty years old, at least.
Here’s a few: The Zombies, Bryan Ferry, Seal, Yes, Elvis Costello; the list goes on and on. You even get rock and roll tours made up of ancient survivors of the golden age of Sixties pop, still belting out fifty plus year old tunes.
Once, back in the mists of the Twentieth Century, music had trends, exciting new sounds and extraordinary talent. Prog Rock, Punk, New Romantics, Brit Pop and so on. Even today, if you hear a snatch of music on the radio or a TV advertisement, it will mostly be instantly recognisable as being from the past. All three members of the Jimmy Hendrix Experience have long since gone to their greater reward yet as soon as you hear the first chords you know exactly who it is. Listen to the latest crop of musicians and you would be hard put to know one from the other.
Our loss of a recognisable culture in music also extends to most other areas of our lives. There’s a new pub and ‘family restaurant’ opened near me and I went to have a look. Typically it has been designed with a total absence of flair, being in a style that I would describe as ‘Traditional Wetherspoon’s’. It has no aesthetic appeal at all. Needless to say, people were flocking in. If there is no culture in peoples’ lives then they themselves become uncultured.
We seem not to have any clearly defined cultural movements at all. The world has seen Bauhaus and Pop Art and the Young British Artists but now all that’s left is the frankly mystifying Turner Prize to attract the artistic attentions of the public. We used to have elegance and variety in house design but it has all been subsumed by the ‘build ’em quick, build ’em cheap’ Lego school of architecture.
In fashion, we have had movements from Dior’s New Look via Mary Quant to Flower Power. That’s all gone now to be replaced by cheap, disposable lifestyles; designer fashion is for the wealthy only. The loss of cultural identities I put down to a total lack of interest by successive governments who have consistently reduced funding across the board through not understanding the value that art and culture have in society. To that you can add blatant greed and, yes, globalisation. It’s all very depressing when we all live in little boxes and they all look just the same.
Well, at least I can do something for myself to put a bit of class and culture back into my life. I’m off to the cinema to see a new 21st Century adaptation of the classic Pride & Prejudice – but this time it’s got ZOMBIES!