Monday, 25 July 2016

London Falling

It's Cool To Be Conservative (version), RTomens, 2016
More art here

London is open for business. And nothing else. Sorry. Don't try starting up an art/music/film etc space unless you have the money. You need money. We all do. You need somewhere to live. Just don't think you have enough to find somewhere in London.

Is London as dead, culturally, as I think it is? Or am I not looking properly?

Remember when listings magazines (City Limits & Time Out) were bursting with events? Perhaps you'd just found a Soho basement bar in which to spin tunes. Phone up a listings mag, get it placed there. Charge a few quid to get in and maybe you'd have a good night going. That's how it worked for me in the late-80s. A basement on Frith Street, £2 entry fee. The owner took a cut of the door. That all seems so long ago now, so impossibly easy that I must have imagined it.

Perhaps it was watching the new Julien Temple film about Keith Richards, Origin Of The Species, that got me thinking about cultural London today. In it Keith (sorry, 'Keef') talks about going to art school as if it was the last refuge of all educational drop-outs. Those were the days. That still was the case until tuition fees and the business bullshit careerist investment art world paying-for-the-privilege (Mummy & Daddy) situation today. Art's fucked in London; talk about monetised.

What else? I wondered if there were any alternative scenes happening and whether I was just too out of touch to know about them. The optimist in me says there must be, but the overriding cynic disagrees. How can anyone afford, let alone find a space in which to make an alternative happen?

Even the idea of 'alternative' feels outmoded. Each new generation just seems to embrace a world where music festivals, for instance, are corporate-sponsored displays of mediocrity which, as each generation knows no better, is thought to be exciting. Festivals for the whole family! That's a thing now. The gathering of the trendy parent tribe, for Christ's sake.

Note the supposed rise of the 'independent' bookshop. Sterile, squeaky clean, selling safe literature and with special events for the whole family! Perhaps a few nice zines made by Tabatha and Nigel too! Like everything these days, the places have no 'vibe' (ma-a-an), except that of clean-thinking, moderated independence overseen by Glasto-loving post-grad 'hipsters'.

From the post-war years of Keith Richards' youth would bloom a million flowers in the bombsite-strewn dustbin that was London. Bloom into a technicolour explosion of style, anger, wit and imagination that made the 60s what it was. Grotty 70s London, as well as housing William Burroughs for a while, gave rise to Throbbing Gristle (you know the connection) and Punk. A different reaction to society of the day from the previous decade, certainly, but at least another burst of energy and creativity, albeit 'negative'. At least it was angry.

These times can only spawn despair and docility. Despair by those who crave something else and docile acceptance of the status quo by everyone else, seemingly. Mainstreamers have always merely accepted and consumed what's normal, of course. The difference being that often, in the past, the underground would somehow break out and infiltrate their homes via TV, radio or magazines. It even changed a few minds in the process.

Well, goodbye to all that. Let's enjoy a Grime night at The Proms, shall we? Or Adele at Glastonbury! Did you see the Norman Cook set, by the way? If you can listen for more than two minutes, you're reading the wrong blog.

Did I tell you about the first time I went to the China Town dive bar on a Friday night  in 1988 and, whilst walking down the steps, was greeted by the sound of the DJ playing The Art Ensemble of Chicago? No? Never mind, it was just a dream...surely...

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