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July 16, 2012 / Mervyn Dinnen

There’s No Riot Goin’ On

At this weekend’s Hard Rock Calling gig the headline act, Bruce Springsteen, had bought Sir Paul McCartney on stage for a gig-goers dream of an encore. Alas, the entertainment was cut short 😦  The 10.30pm curfew for the event had been breached and the police pulled the plugs. The crowd streamed home, somewhat miffed.

“It made for a slightly bizarre, anti-climactic end to what had been a fantastic show” said the BBC reporter.

Would never have happened back in the 70s!

December 1973 saw an infamous and much chronicled gig at Hammersmith Odeon (now Apollo) from Mott the Hoople (supported by an up and coming glam metal band called Queen) for which high ticket demand had led to the staging of a second show. Touring schedules being what they were then there was no alternative date, so two shows were scheduled for the same night. The second show started late – the police and venue security eventually pulling the plugs (literally) at 12.15 am precipitating a near riot…whilst the final trains of the night waited patiently at Hammersmith station for the crowd to empty out!

Would that happen now? Clearly not! (Even though the Bruce Springsteen fan demographic would indicate that there may well have been people in Hyde Park on Saturday night who had been at the Mott the Hoople gig!)

Just contrast with today’s gig going…tickets bought up to a year in advance, set lists pre-publicised, a running order on the door as you arrive – with a curfew! Hell, even Led Zeppelin in their heyday were known to come back for one last encore to satiate the demands of a few hundred fans who wouldn’t leave!

Coincidentally I’ve recently been catching up on the Dominic Sandbrook documentary series on the 70s and the BBC4 series Punk Britannia. When the latter was first aired it lit up the post Jubilee blogosphere with chat of youth anger, rebellions and the tepid conformity that many old punks see in today’s yoof. I was debating this over a few beers with FlipChartRick a few weeks ago, just after he had published a blog which in turn had been inspired by one from Chris Dillow.

Rick felt that the some of the perceived anger and rebellion was largely misty eyed nostalgia…

“Are today’s youngsters any less rebellious than we were in the late 70s and early 80s? Perhaps but, then again, I’m not altogether sure that we were really that rebellious anyway. We did a lot of things that shook people up but that’s because our easily identifiable youth tribes made it look as though we were hell-bent on a single cause. Most of the time, though, we were just doing what teenagers have always done; seeing how far we could push things without getting into serious trouble”.

Whilst Chris Dillow was in little doubt that Punk offered anger that shocked their elders…

“Punk was more rebellious and more disquieting to the establishment than anything we see today. Nobody of my generation is as appalled by dubstep as 40-somethings were by punk. It’s unlikely that a single today would be banned for political reasons and get to number one, as God Save the Queen did. And try as I might, I can’t imagine Rizzle Kicks doing to Alex Jones what the Sex Pistols did to Bill Grundy. In this, music reflects a wider social fact – that today’s young people are much less gobby than we were.”

During the ale-fuelled conversation Rick encouraged me to record my thoughts, something I haven’t got round to…but last night’s mild mannered frustration at the early concert curtailment gave me a good example of how things have changed since those romanticised 70s days. I guess I wanted to see the full Punk Britannia series first, and I think that watching them in conjunction with the 70s documentaries gave a context that the music programmes alone may not have reflected.

I could have started a blog on the difference between the mid-70s and now with a question. If you are a parent, when we you last really shocked by something that your children did, liked, watched or said?

I remember an op-ed piece by a female journalist a few years ago (can’t remember who I’m afraid) in which she accompanied her teenage daughter to a boy band concert. She was appalled. Appalled by the conformity and niceness of it all. At the same age her band were The Rolling Stones – their primeval, sexual and narcotic take on pop blues horrifying her parents…yet here she was consumed with boredom. She was shocked…but the shock was at the conformity and mawkishness of what she was seeing.

So thoughts of younger people being less angry, confrontational and downright scary is nothing new. Certainly there is little that my son could listen to that I would find offensive, but then I’m in a different space to my jazz loving father who found the imagery of Bowie and Ronson on TOTP, the noise of Zeppelin and the aggression of punk to be too much. They were all taking me for a ride, fleecing me of my pocket money and offering little enjoyment in return. I certainly can’t see a music magazine in 2012 inspiring a national newspaper to run a front page headlineMust we fling this pop filth at our pop kids?

But there is also a much bigger difference for today’s youth. A complete loss of spontaneity.

Most of the football matches and gigs I went to as a teen were spur of the moment decisions, pay at the gate/door and go in. Violence was random and spontaneous; you never knew who would be there and who you would stand next to.

Football lost its spontaneity with all-seater stadia (much as this was a necessity) and Sky money… Premiership grounds with empty seats no longer even sell tickets on the day.

As for gigs, cinema, sport, theme parks and countless other cultural/sensory pursuits – the experience is managed and pre-packaged, with little opportunity for youth to impact. Any wonder they’ve lost the inclination? In Rick’s blog he shares a film of hundreds of teenagers running and says, rightly, that you don’t see that any more. Well, you don’t! They’ve lost the ability to be spontaneous.

Of course the Sandbrook documentaries gave all this some context. If you grew up in the 70s it was hard not to be interested in politics. 4 elections, 4 Prime Ministers, 4 different governments all in 9 years, not to mention recession, stagnation, hyper-inflation, bombs, violence and extremes of music and fashion – prog, glam, punk and disco.

More importantly there was a difference between the political parties, clear gaps between agendas, priorities, values and solutions.

Fast forward to today and there’s barely a Rizla between the main parties. Career politicians, spin doctors and SpAds trivialising the message and playing out soap opera dramas in the Westminster village bubble.

Political analysis on 24 hour news is the preserve of journalists, authors, broadcasters, ex MPs and think tanks…and with opinion replacing fact and rumour/innuendo masquerading as news it’s hard for today’s youth to know, or care, who knows or who cares. Most seem seem to believe that whoever is in power the same problems will exist.

In 1973 Mott the Hoople fans obviously thought they could get the gig re-started…maybe now their counterparts just want to get a cappuccino and moan online about what happened…

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2 Comments

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  1. Ross Clennett (@rossclennett) / Jul 16 2012 8:41 AM

    Love it Mervyn. Spot on. Everything is so prepackaged, focus-group led or discovered in advance via the internet it’s hard to get too excited about anything music-wise these days.

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