I’ve often noted how, in previous eras, <pop music was tribal>.
When you were into a band, the sound was always political. And you could also easily discern the politics in a haircut or a garment.
At extreme levels, this is not too difficult, of course:
At our local disco when I was a kid, out of pity for us gaggle of new waver young people, standing around in our winkle-pickers, long overcoats and half-blinded by our ridiculous fringes, the DJ would spin a few decent platters – New Order, Joy Division, Psychedelic Furs, Bunnymen, Cure, Talking Heads etc. We had the floor to ourselves, as nobody else would venture out onto the dance floor while “that shite” was playing. Then, as the venue filled up with mullets, big perms, stonewashed jeans, and puffy white boots, the jock abruptly would switch to playing vile soppy chart fillers, and we’d retreat to a corner, drinking and making sarcastic remarks about the music and the clientele. Such is youth.
Recently, I was amused to read how one of my fav early ’80s bands, the Cocteau Twins, started in a similar way:
“In a community often characterised by modest expectations, Liz had assumed she would follow her mother’s path working in a local textile mill, whiskey distillery, chicken factory, or perhaps even become a waitress. Being a singer in a band certainly wasn’t on the list. The boys saw her frequently, dancing on punk night at a local hotel disco—The Nash at the Hotel International—where Robin would occasionally DJ. Liz stood out, not just for her dancing and fashion sense (jumpers festooned with chicken bones), but because she would stay on the dance floor when Robin would play The Birthday Party or The Pop Group. “Most people weren’t happy with my choices,” said Robin, “but Liz was, as she kept dancing. We struck up a bit of a friendship.”
See link <here>.
I tend to bracket Liz Frazer (of the Cocteau Twins) and <Lisa Gerrard> (of Dead Can Dance) together. Frazer was a working class kid, an outsider, an introvert. Of course I loved the music, but I always sensed, without ever needing to have it explained to me, that she was of our tribe. You do not need to meet someone to have a sense of them.
Here is the first track on their 1982 debut LP, Garlands. The track is called “Blood Bitch“. 40 years on, it’s still got it – there’s that inflection in her voice here, it’s one of those micro-moments in pop that I treasure. Then, as now, it made me realise that, this was a band that mattered:
And here’s Dead Can Dance, with Lisa Gerrard, with Dreams Made Flesh (they performed it under the name of the This Mortal Coil music collective, in 1984)::
Half a lifetime later, I don’t give a damn what I or anybody else wears. But I still feel strongly about bands like the foregoing. Music like this is divisive, hence tribal still.