This was <written in 2015>:
“When I worked at the NME in the early 1990s, writers from leafy suburbs would affect proletarian tropes, trousers and vowels to ingratiate themselves with Oasis, New Order or Happy Mondays. Nowadays, adroit navigation of the wine list or the ski slope is probably a more useful way into a band’s confidence.
The current economic climate is returning the practice of art to what it was 300 years ago – a rich fellow’s diversion, a pleasant recreation for those who can afford it, rather than the cultural imperative it should be. Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers, one of the last great bands to emerge from working-class Britain, put it memorably: indie should not be gap-year music.”
Reading this <interview> with Black Sabbath, it’s apparent how ordinary / poor their upbringing was:
“Iommi and Butler worked in factories after leaving school, Ward delivered coal and Osbourne, after stints in a slaughterhouse and car plant, turned his hand to burglary.“
This was typical enough in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and earlier. You always had posh artists, but they tended to be of the individualistic type, like Beckett, or like Nick Drake, in revolt against the strictures of their upbringing. Even middle-class Mick Jagger, with his bohemian mores and fashion, and his love for Delta blues artists, was breaking the mould of his upbringing.
Most of the bands I grew up listening to (The Undertones. The Fall, Joy Division) were working class. In the last century, British pop / rock was an escape route for blacks, for second-generation Irish (from Johnny Rotten to Boy George), and for the British working class and the disaffected British middle-class alike.
However, in this century, if you are middle-class, and making your living in pop or rock, you’d no longer bother to conceal your class origins. Mainstream chart music has become bourgeois.
Used to be, Chris de Burgh was the epitome of bourgeois naffness. (Nick Drake, who knew him at school, recalled de Burgh’s “vile” taste in music.) Nowadays, the hammy Burgher would fit right in.
Here is a picture of The 1975, a successful and popular band of this era – what a bunch of stiffs:
And here is a band from the actual 1970s, Black Sabbath – they have that exuberant working class look about them, as if they can’t quite believe their luck. You don’t get heads like those in popular music nowadays:
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