Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sway: Some Notes on Rock & Roll In Babylon

Listening to different cds to take to Emily's hippie-themed party tonight. Nothing in white music has surpassed what the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Velvet Underground did in the late 60s/ early 70s. It has that edge which intelligent music gets when it has gone beyond commercialism, gone beyond the housing estates of your childhood, and the frowns of mayor's wives dunking biscuits at civic functions in little English towns...I haven't heard any gone-beyond white music for a long time now, though there have been some fantastic bands.

At the time of "Sticky Fingers" the Rolling Stones were more radical, more subversive, more musically interesting, than any band other than the Beatles (and you don't count them).Writing and singing about sex and drugs when Nixon and his Silent Majority--with their ironed white underpants--were sending boys to die in a meaningless foreign war was a radical and important thing to do. They were helping blow the lid off the repressed human desires which made Nixon and Agnew and all their followers hate so violently everything that was vaguely different from them.

Of course, it's less valuable as an artistic statement now everybody smokes weed and most people indulge their every sexual whim like children stealing cake. The free pursuit of personal gratification crosses most cultural barriers within the overarching mainstream white-dominated post-Christian world. Racist bedwetters and tattooed pagan mud-worshippers alike take drugs and fuck like tomorrow has been cancelled.

This is how the nasty, abrasive fundamentalism of Christian and Muslim evangelisers has been able to take root in the minds of those who weren't invited to the party. Because to the outsider, it seems like we're living in Babylon, Kali-Yuga--though of course that's an illusion; Buddhists recognise that everything goes in cycles, and if the End is coming then the Beginning must be just around the corner.

Whose was that great condemnatory phrase, mouthed in the Sixties about the Love Generation: "a free-for-all fucking epidemic"?Is that necessarily a bad thing? Sign of irreversible moral decline in the nation-- a greater indulgence in our sexual desires, the separation of sex from materialistic or even animal ideas about survival through territory and possession?No, actually, on an intellectual level, though I would rather not share my lover with anybody else.

The main thing that's wrong with British society now, as far as I can see, is not that people are having too much sex, or that Straight people (as the term was used in the Sixties) are taking as many drugs as the hippies; it's that there's not enough genuine unselfconscious freely-given compassion. (All you need is love, remember?) Too many people seem to think that everybody except them deserves everything they get. That poverty is the sign of a moral deficit in whoever it visits. That all kids are murdering scum. That all kids who aren't murdering scum are obnoxiously privileged. That all foreigners are lazy. That all Muslims are terrorists. And that everybody who knocks on your door wants something it is your job not to give him.

That's the fearful, paranoid, privatised, every-dumb-fuck-for-himself capitalism we've been glorying in since the hippies went South for this longest of winters.

1 comment:

All This Trouble... said...

I thought you were just listening to some cds?