Surfin the net, as they say, can be very confusing and overwhelming. Once in a blue moon that aimless, time wasting, procrastinating online wandering can come up trumps. While looking for music from the recent season of the L Word I came across the cutest threesome and subsequently their cute website – The Pipettes. I really like what the author had to say about the history of music –
“LET US write the histories of pop music (the plural has a certain importance). A history at once oral/aural but not linear or progressive. A history that snakes and twists and turns back on itself, a history of ruptures and wrong-turnings. But let us not start with The Beatles.
Let us not speak their name.
There is a traditional historiography of popular music which in some way or another always seems to come back to the Beatles; and Lonnie Donegan who begat The Beatles, and Elvis who begat Lonnie Donegan John Lee Hooker who begat Elvis and Robert Johnson who begat John Lee Hooker etc etc. But that is not what we are interested in here.
We don’t love you (yeah, yeah, yeah).
We don’t want to hold your hand.
So let us start in the year Phil Spector aged wrote and produced his first hit, “To Know Him Is To Love Him”, taking the title from his father’s epitaph. Phil Spector, the first Tycoon of Teen, the first Pop Genius, the first person making this crazy new music who was actually of the age of its audience, the first guy with any power in the music industry who actually liked this stuff.
Spector wasn’t trying to bolster his label’s back catalogue with a few easy money spinners in order to create the capital to record and release the Real music, the great classics that he Really cared about. Much like punk rock, pop music was developed and incubated in quite a cynical and pedestrian fashion.
It was often those who came just a little later, those who almost missed the boat, like the Pop Group, DNA, Sonic Youth, who took the promise of punk rock at face value and got excited about it and tore it apart in ways their progenitors could never have imagined; they made punk great and significant and important. Spector took the promise of rock’n’roll and the new socioeconomic class of the ‘teenager’ at face value and ran with it. This was the real music that was important and valuable and serious and worth caring
about. And anything was possible.
So let’s draw on the magic and the energy of this period that we might almost think of as a golden age: the Spector years, the Brill building, Joe Meek’s Triumph recordings in England and beyond that Motown, Stax, Studio One.
Let us make this our starting point and start here to tell our story, from whence we shall move both backwards and forwards (in historical terms, the two are never easy to separate anyway).
Already the astute amongst you may have started to notice a broader spectrum creeping in; shades of Philly soul, of afrobeat, disco, glam rock, riot grrrl, dance pop, R’n’B and, in the other direction, of doo wop, Broadway, the radio hits of the thirties and forties, music hall, the European folk tradition…
Let us continue to expand our temporal and spatial borders in this fashion and let us do so using the tools at hand. Like a bricoleur we shall construct our histories from what we already have around us, what is available to us immediately and what we already know: guitars, drums, percussion, a Philicorda organ, a saxophone, our own voices.
But we will never be limited by our own boundaries, never hypostatized into a bind from which we cannot move. We must grow and at all times be reaching out, through the personal relations we already have and that we constantly create and develop on a daily basis. Art, according to John Cage, is not a thing made by someone but a process through which everyone involved learns and experiences new things.
So let us draw towards us our friends, our enemies and our casual acquaintances, without regard for their talent, their ability or their experience and lets see what we can learn together through the action of simple, practical music making.
Let’s see what new histories we can write together.”