Sunday, December 14, 2014

Noel Gallagher: Class act

Noel Gallagher - you'll remember him, he used to appear in that glitzy gossipy Sunday Times column written by his then-wife Meg Matthews about their life in whatever part of London it was - is complaining that there aren't enough working class types in the charts these days. He blames other people:

"Music is very middle class, I’d have eaten Bastille alive in an afternoon in the '90s, one interview, destroyed, gone, never to be heard of again. Easy, had ‘em for breakfast. My bass player summed it up, we’re constantly saying, 'Where is the next band coming from?' and he rightly says, 'Never mind the band, where are the people?'

"When I first started I wanted to get in the charts and wreck it, like stamp Phil Collins out and Wet Wet Wet, they've got to go, and all that '80s gear, we don't need that anymore. I don't see anything from the working class, I just don’t see it."
Ah, yes. Gallagher's war on Wet Wet. So successful that was that, after just three Oasis albums and three years of Gallagher activity, Wet Wet Wet's 1997 album 10 only managed to limp to, erm, number two in the album charts spawning just two top ten singles. And the destroyed Phil Collins only managed to sell a million copies of 2002's Testify so much damage had been inflicted upon him by Gallagher's sharp tongue.

Apparently, this is all the Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian's fault:
"Well you only have to look at the charts, what happened at the end of the '90s, all those bands used to be in the Top Ten, like us, Manic, Pulp, The Verve, Suede and Blur, and I think bands like that have been marginalised and side-lined," he replied. "There's X Factor and all that kind of thing, can you name me the last great band that came out of this country? There's not really been any great bands in the last 10 years."

When it was put to him that One Direction might be considered great in terms of their global success and fame, Gallagher added: "They're not a band, they’re a group and good luck to those lads. Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian, that's ten years ago now and shame on those two bands for a start because they didn't inspire anybody else. The working classes have not got a voice anymore, there doesn't seem to be a noise coming from the council estates, you know what I mean?"
It doesn't seem to enter Noel's head for a moment that there are other possibilities - that for kids growing up now, making fifth-wave Beatles echoes might not be inspiring because there are other, better uses of their time; or that there's always been a talent-show-to-fame path that working class people have followed and the X Factor isn't really anything new in that respect; or there's actually a really vibrant music scene full of people of backgrounds less comfortable than Gallagher's which he doesn't think is there because it's neither about him, nor for him. (Clue, Noel: it's the latter.)

The saddest thing - and were he not such an anal chapstick you might even feel a bit sorry for Noel - is that he's sat on his comfy sofa, reliving the war on Phil Collins, blissfully unaware than for a a kid turning 16 this year, he's their Phil Collins.


Robin Carmody said...

The only half-legit argument here is that the permanent 1980s of latterday pop culture - which obviously suits the desires and intentions of the current ruling elite - means that, at least since the landfill bandwagon crashed and what NG thinks of as The Wrong Kind Of Working Class finally started crossing over and having number one hits, Oasis and Britpop as a whole have ended up surprisingly uninfluential for something so massive. And anti-1980s sentiment was so big a part of Britpop than I can see that aspect of X Factor culture upsetting better, more creative people than NG (even if I find Jarvis Cocker, safely ensconced in Radio 4 culture, no more relevant or meaningful for all that his music meant far more to me the first time).

But really. The dismissal of an entire working-class culture - or, really, *several* working-class cultures, tightly bound up with each other - as illegitimate or actively non-existent is redolent of nothing so much as Richard Hoggart or the 1964 Paul Johnson. And although it might well have been different had it been their only album, or if John Smith had lived, I still think Hoggart's main work will endure through the ages, for all its obvious faults, longer than even Definitely Maybe let alone their other work.

So this is how far we have come: Noel Gallagher adopting a position directly analogous to those who thought the Beatles were The Wrong Kind Of Working Class, only without all the good bits. He's probably never heard of those who thought there was no proper working-class endeavour in mass culture half a century ago. If he had, he might not have ended up where they were then. Part of his tragedy is that he's never really had the historical perspective to learn the right lessons from the 1960s.

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