The Gster alerted me to a review of Punk Britannia from Grace Dent which ended with this:
One of the best things about BBC4’s music strand is that they can ransack their Whistle Test, TOTP, miscellaneous pop archive for nuggets of joy like early Dexy’s, the first gasps of Two Tone and the unforgettable Billy Mackenzie of Associates doing “Party Fears Two”. Obviously, the BBC today records hardly any live music at all which would be handy to illustrate future socio-political docs.
But don’t fret – when our children try to look back on 2012 and want to extrapolate some meaning, the researcher can buy in “content” from Channel 4 of Rizzle Kicks doing T4 on the Beach sponsored by Toyota. It won’t be ideal, but I think that will sum things up nicely.
Now, whilst I don’t disagree with Grace, I think it’s unfair to say that the BBC are somehow neglecting to archive music on our behalf. They are competing with a ridiculously open market, where anyone can watch videos or live performances instantly online, and then probably download the self same track in a matter of seconds. This is not how the music world used to work.
When I was a lass… No seriously…
In my teenage years, I had two definite appointments. Sunday from 5-7pm to listen to the Top 40 countdown and discover, along side all the other listeners which song had made Number 1, and Thursday, to see which acts had been granted Top of the Pops privileges.
Listening to the Top 40 countdown is an occasion that marked my childhood… I remember hurriedly pressing the record button to tape my favourite songs (horribly illegal I know, but how else was a small teenager with no access to record stores or a record player for that matter to get hold of her fave tunes). I remember carrying the portable radio with me from room to room for fear I would miss the next announcement. And I remember waiting with bated breath to see if my favourite song or artist had gone up or down the rankings.
And then, when I was 19 I started working in a record store: Our Price, in Bristol… it made me who I am today 😉
And suddenly the Top 40 became even more important. Yes, we found out who was going to be on TOTP on Tuesday, yes we got to see the midweek charts on Wednesday, but in these lo-fi days essentially we listened to the Top 40 countdown on Radio 1, wrote in down, and then came in early on Monday to write it on the ‘Chart Wall’ and move the records around accordingly.
So I have a certain emotional connection to the Top 40 countdown, and I lament its passing.
But I do think being able to find anything and everything you might want to hear or watch online is amazing. I bought collections of music videos, I was excited to get a freebie video of a new clip by Richard Marx, I longed to be able to tune into MTV, and spent all my babysitting hours in houses with satellite TV watching music television. So the fact that now I can not only watch new music videos, or live performances, or old music videos, and old live performances online I find hugely liberating.
And yes, it means it is less worthwhile for TV to bring in acts and get them to perform live, or be interviewed a la The Who in the good old days. But equally, bands who might not be invited onto the BBC can make their interviews / videos / live performances available to all and sundry, without relying on the selection process of any given TV producer.
In conclusion: I miss the lead up to the announcement of the best selling record of the week, I think the constant ‘this is doing well now’, ‘no this is doing well now’ charts are tiring and unreflective of the popular mood. But that’s life, we live much faster now, and that might not be a good thing per se, but it’s still up to us how much we engage with the instantaneous nature of life, and how much we choose to sit back and watch or listen to music that reminds us of our youth. Or play crazy games on facebook that make us recall Top 40s gone by. Or follow our childhood crushes on twitter…