Wednesday, November 06, 2002

ANY EXCUSE TO MENTION THE SHOP ASSISTANTS ON A RAINY WEDNESDAY IN AUTUMN: Alistair Fitchett's consideration of c86 has turned up on Tangents (thanks to TMFTML for the tip) and it's well worth reading. The funny thing is, of course, that even as we lambast the people at the nme because One Love doesn't measure up to Ruby Trax, Alistair condemns the class of '86 NME writers for putting together a collection will failed to live up to the C81 collection. (It occurs to us that we'd probably give a kidney to the nme if they put together a compilation before Christmas simply to be able to call it C02, you know.)
Alistair's good on what drove the scene - especially on the 7' single good, CD bad debate, but he doesn't seem to have grasped that, actually, those of us who stared hard at the shiny discs in their strange tiny boxes have actually been given a vindication of sorts, in the long run. It wasn't so much that we objected to crystal clear sound - although the benefits of hyper-hi-fi reproduction to bands trying to replicate the sound you got from a dodgy dansette was lost on us - but what the CD represented. To us, it seemed like a device designed almost solely to benefit the record labels - making it harder to put out independent stuff, allowing them to redraw terms of trade in their favour under the banner "It's an untried medium", giving another way of flogging the exact same thing. Of course we all knew we'd wind up with CD players in the end, but we were determined as hell we weren't going to be bounced into buying £300 machines just to hear bands on £15 discs when we could have used the equipment we already had and got 8-99 albums instead.
It's taken a decade and a half for CD-Rs to turn round and bite the BPI and RIAA in the butt.
And to talk about McCarthy's legacy and not mention Stereolab - which I really don't think Tim could have been involved with if it wasn't for the need to shake the shackles of shambling - seems wrong, somehow.
But, really, my main problem comes at the end - "Instead they laid the foundations for the desolate wastelands of what we came to know by that vile term 'Indie'. What more reason do you need to hate it?"
Now, C86 wasn't quite my punk, but its the nearest thing that I have, so of course I'm biased. But to suggest that C86 was the blueprint for indie - not that it's a term of abuse in itself - is unfair. Unlike some of the magazine-related-compilation tapes that came later - Melody Maker's Romo springs to mind - c86 didn't feel like a forced attempt to create a scene, more a record of what was happening at the time; perhaps the last great example of the music press shutting up and listening to the sounds it could hear. If you want to lay blame for the lazy indie which followed, other targets suggest themselves (Alan McGee, Oasis). Interestingly, when we railed against the CD, Creation was the main label we suspected of being too in thrall to the technological revolution.
One day my children will ask me "What did you do in the war?", and I'll have to say "Nothing, but I did used to pointedly ask 'Is this available as a proper record?' when waving CD singles about in Rounder."

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