Tuesday, December 16, 2003
The idea that pre-modern, pre-capitalist values were the ultimate goal in Britain - the default model once you'd passed a certain age and made a certain amount of money - was around for so long, and made such a dent in the psyche, that it can reasonably be said to be the basis of all the hating on Westwood; he and the shift he embodies unsettle most of the onetouchfootball forum and the likes of Dom Passantino and Nick Southall on ILM, people who like Everything In Its Proper Place, who feel most comfortable with a world where the sons of the clergy can be relied upon to live up to the hierarchical values that the industrial bourgeoisie eventually mostly cow-towed to, and who suffer a certain future shock from the world we're in today. It would be so much easier and happier for them, you feel, if pre-modern values had remained the default; then their Class War idea of pop music - veering in some cases towards sub-Marxism - could remain unquestioned, their simple proletarian games could be played unchallenged.
Interesting thing is that I can't think of anything where I've actually dissed Westwood directly apart from one oblique reference here (which is a dis of Zane Lowe, in actual fact) and the nameless, comedy dig at him here in a distraction piece. Quite why I should therefore be singled out as being unsettled by Westwood is a mystery to me. Google searching reveals this, which comprises three hits, one of which is the elidor.blospot.com piece, one of which is the ILM thread, and the other is the esteemed music writer and amateur chef Dave Stelfox's illustrious blog, World Of Stelfox.
The comparison between Zane Lowe and Westwood is based purely on their presentational styles; lots of bombast, lots of shout-outs, lots of enthusiasm and little insight. Which is pretty much the way of most Radio 1 presenters who are in it for the music rather than the celebrity, as it were (Westwood being in it for the music, Chris Moyles being in it for the celebrity, perhaps? But where is the dividing line between the two? Westwood obviously courts celebrity to an extent too otherwise his face would not adorn compilation CDs; and quite possibly he wouldn't have been shot either [which reminds me, did I once say something on ILM about Westwood being shot and how it was unfortunate he didn't die? I don't recall but it's more than possible, tongue-in-cheek or not]; of course today of all days music and celebrity are more symbiotic than ever, a link inescapable by rap-loving clergy offspring and alternative msuic press editors and working class heros alike).
As for any actual dislike for Westwood on my part, I've never met the man, and we might get along swimmingly for all I know. I doubt it however. Do I have a problem with him? I find his (and Zane's) presentational style utterly patronising and unpleasant though. I dislike his perma-amplified delivery, his slipping and sliding transatlantic vowels and his continued appropriation of slang terms which sit awkwardly. But I don't often listen to his show so this is not a problem, particularly. The fact that he posits himsef within a narrow, clichéd cultural milieu is though, especially when that milieu is one which encourages the perpetuation of negative racial stereotypes, which is undoubtedly what he does. Keeping it so real that you get shot is not a positive message to be sending out. Interpolating yourself within a culture in which many young people fnd themselves trapped, therefore perpetuating that entrapment for others, is not a good thing. Choosing to ignore your own heritage in favour of a parodical fetishisation of someone else's, especially a less privileged heritage, smacks of the worst kind of cultural tourism. I'm reminded of a story (a suburban myth?) I've heard about a young man who lives in a hut just off Swansea beach (or wherever), eschewing 21st century life - work, tax, electricity, media, the lot - and has achieved that most enviable (and, frankly, bullshit) 21st century fetishised trait of 'spiritual freedom'. And who's father is a QC in Bristol (or wherever) who pays a generous stipend into a savings account for his errant, idealist, shack-dwelling son. It's very easy to opt-out when you've got a huge parental safety net to fall back upon should you need to. Working class people don't opt-out of society and culture in this way because they simply can't afford to. How do you think they (read 'we') feel when they see this type of thing? Rubbing their faces in it, as it were? This is surely just another way for the upper classes, the Bourgeoisie, to tread on the proletariat again, by removing traditional escape routes and claiming them for themselves. Unsurprisingly this makes me want to set fire to things.
Noel Gallagher, bless his cotton socks, once said something along the lines of if Coldplay weren't in a band they'd have good careers as solicitors or something; I'd have been working in a factory. It doesn't seem fair that they're denying an escape route to some other kids out there who need it (this is paraphrased, obviously, but what Noel said was very close to this). Westwood stepping into the shoes of black culture is the same thing; like it or not, black people in western culture are still not fully allowed to succeed outside of certain areas (namely music and sport), and even within those areas they're only allowed a certain jurisdiction within which to operate (hence the furore in certain parts about "Hey Ya" being an 'indie rock' song and having "nothing to do with hip hop" - eat my fuc, basically, if that's your problem with it, that it doesn't conform to black stereotypes). (This is yet another reason why The Simpsons is one of the greatest achievements of the lae 20th century - Dr Hibbert.) By reinforcing stereotypes and achieveing socio-economic success/stability/wealth, how many people is Tim Westwood keeping down? How many opportunites is he denying? Never mind raising awareness of a culture, never mind the acts he has helped break into the mainstream, never mind whatever. Sub-Marxist? No, post-Marxist. Althusser. Tim Westwood is an ideological state apparatus, as simple as that, and that he appears to be beneficial to the culture he is fetishising on some levels is further affirmation of his ideological rather than full-on repressive status. The subtley dangerous organism is more sinister than the obviously dangerous organism.
As for Will Young being historically important because he sets up the means of achievement and self-fulfillment historically associated with the industrialists and their successors (fighting your way through a field of mostly proletarian contestants, starting on a level playing field with no advantages of privilege) as the default model for the upper middle classes, well... how to put this... I'm terribly sorry if your comfortable, aspirational, middle-class life thus far hasn't brought you spiritual self-fulfillment. Now fuck off and stop stealing ours, you patronising shit. Is this supposed to be funny? So the youthful middle-classes failed to find themselves while scuba-diving off Ko Tao or shitting in a stream in Delhi or herding cattle in the Outback? I really fucking feel for them. I mean really sympathise. All that opportunity and affluence and private education and all those doors held open for you by society and you still aren't happy? I fucking weep. The working class has always been cool but now we're spiritually rich as well, is that it? I'm reminded of Crispian Mills, grandson of Sir John, son of Hayley, ex singer and guitarist with Kula Shaker, commenting that "people in India may be poor but they're happy" so that makes it alright to steal their culture you fucking wanker?! To mope and whine and plead spiritual weakness and dissatisfaction and dissaffection and the curse of privilege?! Fucking damn you. Go to fucking hell (and you know I really mean that because I'm an athiest so hell isn't something I invoke lightly because it doens't exist except for you).
Who is the 'you' I'm damning? The culture surfers or the ones saying culture surfing is a good thing? I doubt I'm actually aiming this directly at Robin because I don't know him, but by [insert something you see as sacrosanct here], this whole ideology sucks maggots from a dead dog's ass. Accuse me of being for the status quo? Of being afraid of the world as it is? Of fearing change? FUCK YOU. I'm not the one promoting the continuation of the oppression of the working class, spoonfeeding them with shite, manipulating their circus games from Simon Cowell down to Will Young, Tim Westwood, the Bourgeousie now at every level, no longer controlling the performers but assuming the roll of performers because as well as money they need the love and affection?! Need to be seen as talented and creative as well as astute? So the monarchy slipped from top spot as the most admired and loved facet of society to be replaced by celebrities, so, fuck it, the ruling classes will damn well make sure it's not those pesky, distasteful proles being idolised as celebrities then! Instead of celebrity making you rich, being rich makes you a celebrity. Is this why my inbox is inundated with spam about Par1s H1lton being fucked in the ass?
I work at Exeter University, one of the most affluent universities in the country, and, incidentally, where Will Young went. I am involved at various, modest levels with local arts; film makers, musicians, writers, actors, academics etcetera. And I see this kind of affluent culture surfing at every level, creative people left to work shit jobs to support themselves so they can do their work or art or whatever you want to call it, whilst others soak up the 'spirit' of it from a position of privilege. And these people who soak up the spirit are exactly the same ones who fetishise art-as-suffering, who perpetuate retroactive myths, who justify their patronising as patronage. Tell me this isn't wrong? Tell me it isn't wrong that people from priviliged backgrounds are now eschewing their own class heritage in order to usurp that of those less well-off because their own isn't cool enough or spiritual enough? It's bad enough that it's been the case with theatre and art and jazz and eerythign else over the centuries, but now pop music has succumbed too, the last working class art from, the last boon of folk tradition, stolen like everything else and the people doing the stealing think they're doing their victims a favour!
I imagine Dom Passantino, a good mate of mine and fellow Stylus scribe, who happens to come from a working class immigrant family and was also namechecked in the ridiculous swamp of prose above as being one of the people who like Everything In Its Proper Place, who feel most comfortable with a world where the sons of the clergy can be relied upon to live up to the hierarchical values that the industrial bourgeoisie eventually mostly cow-towed to, and who suffer a certain future shock from the world we're in today, is even more pissed off about this than I am. Two generatiosn ago my family were shopworkers and steelworkers in Sheffield. I am the first member of my family to go to university. My mother is a special needs teacher. Chris Martin's father used to employ my father. Am I supposed to sit back and accept the fact that a; my culture is being stolen by my socio-economic superiors and b; I'm being blamed for it myself? Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. Make trade fair? Look closer to home first.
12/16/2003 04:00:00 pm