Retromania: Pop culture's Addiction to its Own Past. (New Simon Reynolds book).

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My problem with current (Top 40) music is that it's too stagnant and everyone are using the same handful of producers or not borrowing songs from other writers once in a while as an effort to "keep it real" so the artists end up burning out faster.

Leopard on the Cheetos Bag (MintIce), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:32 (3 years ago) Permalink

what about those godawful Motown covers by James Taylor and Linda Rondstart in the 70s. more like clumsy appropriations I suppose - or hijackings.

Along with Motown, how about the endless hijacking of Great American Songbook?

Leopard on the Cheetos Bag (MintIce), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:36 (3 years ago) Permalink

My problem with current (Top 40) music is that it's too stagnant and everyone are using the same handful of producers or not borrowing songs from other writers once in a while as an effort to "keep it real" so the artists end up burning out faster.

waht

My mom is all about capital gains tax butthurtedness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:37 (3 years ago) Permalink

modern pop and r&b totally cyborgian 22nd century stuff more often then not. even when it steals from, like, 90's trance tracks.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:39 (3 years ago) Permalink

If there's a phenomenon that distinguishes this period from others is the degree to which "Top 40" is a discrete entity with which no listener has to engage unless the exposure is impossible to escape.

My mom is all about capital gains tax butthurtedness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:40 (3 years ago) Permalink

the future is now as far as that stuff goes. but maybe even futurism is old hat.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:40 (3 years ago) Permalink

Alfred, to get back to one of your earlier points, when I hear the Association, it's not just me interacting with some text in 2001. There's also this awareness that I am NOT interacting with the text in 1967, when it was created, and that the song, in a way, belongs to that time.

timellison, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:40 (3 years ago) Permalink

pretty much everything is a discrete entity now.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:41 (3 years ago) Permalink

I mean -- it's easier for, say, an avid Pitchforker to avoid "Top 40" than it was in 1989. The success of "Paper Planes" only seems weird when I remember that a half dozen "Just Like Heaven"s and "So Alive"s and other weirdo college radio one-offs infiltrated the Top 40 regularly.

My mom is all about capital gains tax butthurtedness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

velko, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

i learn something new from the past every day. i'm inspired by the past every day. but i don't live there. i live here. i think that's true of a lot of people.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:43 (3 years ago) Permalink

Alfred, to get back to one of your earlier points, when I hear the Association, it's not just me interacting with some text in 2001. There's also this awareness that I am NOT interacting with the text in 1967, when it was created, and that the song, in a way, belongs to that time.

Yeah, I get that. If you meant to say "yet" in that last clause I THINK I get you.

My mom is all about capital gains tax butthurtedness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:44 (3 years ago) Permalink

but i haven't read this book! i don't even really know where it goes. just going by one publisher blurb.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:44 (3 years ago) Permalink

i blame antiques roadshow.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:45 (3 years ago) Permalink

i do think people are definitely hungry for the past. in bad ways (tea party) and good ways (more cumbia fans). and people have access to stuff that they never had access to before. its great!

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

ILM posting w/you guys on a Sunday night feels retro - very 2006ish

donut pitch (m coleman), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:47 (3 years ago) Permalink

yeah really. where's jess and aja?

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 02:48 (3 years ago) Permalink

(a) the past becomes "the past" culturally much faster now than ever before;

Just want to mention here that Nuggets came out in '72.

the wages of sin is about tree fiddy (WmC), Monday, 25 April 2011 02:53 (3 years ago) Permalink

Scott - I wrote a cover feature about this, more or less, for the LAWeekly in 2003. http://www.laweekly.com/2003-09-25/news/the-kids-aren-t-alright-they-re-amazing/

jaybabcock, Monday, 25 April 2011 03:02 (3 years ago) Permalink

I think that Phil Collins cover of the Supremes scanned as "80s" because a lot of music that decade felt "60s". You mention "huey lewis and john cougar and john fogerty" and they were in their mid-30s (40s in case of Fogerty) and inspired by the music of their teenage years, which was the 60s. Point carried over from my "senior year of high school" thread, where a number of no. 1 hits were covers of songs from the 60s and early 70s.

Mark, Monday, 25 April 2011 03:03 (3 years ago) Permalink

i do think people are definitely hungry for the past. in bad ways (tea party) and good ways (more cumbia fans). and people have access to stuff that they never had access to before. its great!

Haha for a second I was like "I'm not a The Tea Party fan but I wonder why Scott is singling them out."

Tim F, Monday, 25 April 2011 03:06 (3 years ago) Permalink

"Scott - I wrote a cover feature about this"

dude, totally! see, everyone's just reviving old jay b. articles now. and everything i've said on this thread is basically a rehash of that thing. i'm totally retro.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 03:20 (3 years ago) Permalink

If there's a phenomenon that distinguishes this period from others is the degree to which "Top 40" is a discrete entity with which no listener has to engage unless the exposure is impossible to escape.

Like I've been telling people! Pop is just the biggest subculture of them all, one of an infinite number.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 25 April 2011 03:22 (3 years ago) Permalink

that Phil Collins cover of the Supremes scanned as "80s" because a lot of music that decade felt "60s".

There were also many, many, many other covers of '60s (and probably to some extent '50s and '70s) pop songs on the charts all through the '80s, so Phil was hardly alone. Its kind of what a lot of '80s pop just plain was. (Not sure whether anybody's pointed that out on this thread, or not -- have only skimmed.) Also, at least in the States, lots of actual oldies by the original artists re-entered the chart (from movie soundtracks mainly, I think) around the same time. So no, video styling or not, Phil's cover definitely never struck me as especially retro either (at least not in the way, say, the Stray Cats reviving rockabilly or the Cult reviving Led Zep riffs seemed retro in the '80s). Just seemed like a cover version, period.

As for "retro" now, I think I'm basically of the opinion that the '90s pretty much never ended. I'm still waiting, but not holding my breath.

(Could probably say a lot more -- this seems like a pretty interesting thread, what I've read of it -- but I can't afford, time and effort-wise, to get sucked in.)

xhuxk, Monday, 25 April 2011 04:15 (3 years ago) Permalink

the past becomes "the past" culturally much faster now than ever before

Also, sorry, assuming I'm understanding it, this just seems so wrong to me. When American Graffiti came out in 1973, the pop era it covered -- it was set in 1962, but concentrated on music of the late '50s -- seemed like it could have been centuries ago, almost. In contrast, I honestly don't get how pop music has fundamentally changed anywhere near that much since 2001, or the late '90s. It's not even close. But maybe that's a function of me following music much closer now than I did between 1962 and 1973. Or maybe it's just a function of age, who knows. What I'm fairly sure about is that kids growing up now do not find music of the '90s (or even '70s!) anywhere near as quaint or antique as say, kids of the '70s would have found music of the '50s.

xhuxk, Monday, 25 April 2011 04:29 (3 years ago) Permalink

http://www.joaap.org/6/another/rodriguez.html

gr8080, Monday, 25 April 2011 04:30 (3 years ago) Permalink

xp

That is an interesting point, and I think that is specifically up to the rupture of the late 60s. An example I like to use is the live recording of VU's "Sister Ray" from the 1967 Gymnasium bootleg; that was 10 years after "Jailhouse Rock", or the same length of time from 2001 until now. And I honesty think very few people alive in 1957 could have even imagined that music existing in 10 years. It's hard to think of anything going on now that was unimaginable 10 years ago (pretty sure there is a thread that speculates on just this somewhere).

Mark, Monday, 25 April 2011 04:35 (3 years ago) Permalink

xhuxk, Tim was responding to talk of much earlier, pre- mass media periods of time. I think the "now" Tim was talking about would include the whole era of mass media (or at least some point after it got rolling).

(I agree with your perception that the 50s seeming a lot more distant in the 70s than the 70s did in the 90s, or now even.)

I guess I'm interested in aspects of this thread after all. Maybe I should read the book.

_Rudipherous_, Monday, 25 April 2011 04:37 (3 years ago) Permalink

Yes, I was trying to get at why centuries of people playing the same folk tunes does not mean that "retromania" has always existed in the way it exists now. The "culture becomes the past faster now" refers to the 20th century onwards in general, not the immediate recent past of pop culture.

It's harder to say whether cultural progression has started to slow down (say, in the last ten years) because those immediate judgments are much more tied up in one's own relationship to culture, aging etc.

Tim F, Monday, 25 April 2011 05:05 (3 years ago) Permalink

Yes, I was trying to get at why centuries of people playing the same folk tunes does not mean that "retromania" has always existed in the way it exists now. The "culture becomes the past faster now" refers to the 20th century onwards in general, not the immediate recent past of pop culture

I can see why this is a seductive argument but I'm not overly convinced by this. Surely this could only really be compared another 100-200 years down the line. 1940-2040 might look at lot more homogeneous in 2190 than it does today.

cherry blossom, Monday, 25 April 2011 10:43 (3 years ago) Permalink

It's less about homogeneity or lack thereof and more about the way in which people relate to their immediate past. From the limited amount I know, the 19th century strikes me as being as much a time of flux as the 20th, but I'm not aware of people in the 19th century reviving trends mere decades old for the specific purpose of recalling/resurrecting the trends of that prior decade.

Tim F, Monday, 25 April 2011 12:53 (3 years ago) Permalink

and that's basically cuzza technology. why people do it now and didn't do it then. though i'm sure there were always mini-movements of people resurrecting or re-appreciating composers and songwriters of the recent past back then too.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:00 (3 years ago) Permalink

yes, absolutely.

Tim F, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:06 (3 years ago) Permalink

i think the Victorians probably had a much stronger ethos of "progress" than we do in the post-everything 21st century too, but if my brain was less fuddled i'm sure i could come up with good examples of 19th century micro-nostalgia

A Zed and Two Nults (Noodle Vague), Monday, 25 April 2011 13:08 (3 years ago) Permalink

i'm also guessing that in the 19th century (and earlier) a piece of music that was 20 or 30 years old could be considered pretty current! i mean, unless you had access to the sheet music or were lucky enough to hear a performance of something new, it might be years before you came into contact with some stuff.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:36 (3 years ago) Permalink

I think what Scott argues about Collins 'You Can't Hurry Love' being a modern cover is interesting and i guess it's a situation where personal prejudices are brought out. my first thought was to compare its modernity to other big hit covers from around the same time e.g. Siouxsie & The Banshees 'Dear Prudence'. The latter was more unusual but not necessarily more contemporary-sounding despite the band's position (but tbh I don't know the reasons why they covered and released that song at that time).

ˆᴥˆ (blueski), Monday, 25 April 2011 13:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

one example in the united states of some sort of retro-mania was the huge popularity of stephen foster in the years after his death. (i mean he died penniless on the bowery in the 1860's, and by the turn of the century those songs were literally everywhere and he was a national treasure. not that his songs weren't known when he was alive, but his posthumous fame reflects the desire for that down home/minstrel/old south nostalgia that was really strong well into the 20th century)

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:49 (3 years ago) Permalink

i love siouxie's cover. and i love her covers album. that whole thing is a great updating of old songs. might have been the first time i ever heard "this wheel's on fire"!

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:50 (3 years ago) Permalink

that was the acid talking though, right? her and bob smith tripping and making acid rock. i know i had a couple of summers of love listening to The Top and Hyaena.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:51 (3 years ago) Permalink

burning from the inside by bauhaus was one of my favorite albums to listen to when i was on acid back then. and tones on tail too.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:52 (3 years ago) Permalink

so many 60's vibes in the 80's! and for me it all started with that doors rennaisance in the early 80's. Doors-mania!

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:53 (3 years ago) Permalink

i used to make mix tapes for me and my friends back then for when we were high and it would be like: husker du/jefferson airplane/love & rockets/the grateful dead/the cure/hot tuna/etc. good times.

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:55 (3 years ago) Permalink

I think in every era artists had an attitude that work produced in the past, even in the not so distant past, was better, or more serious, or more original, than the stuff currently being produced by their peers. (See centuries of worship of Ancient Greek writing, for instance.) Now it does seem more accelerated, probably due to us having all of this exact evidence of what the prior era looked like and sounded like at our fingertips.

But revivals all say something about what people think the time they live in lacks. The 50s revival in the 70s was about yearning for a more placid time, before Vietnam and cultural change. The 60s revival in the 80s was about people feeling a lack of depth or meaning in the culture. 70s revival in the 90s was kind of a search for an unironic goofiness that had been lost to knowingness. And I guess the 80s revival is a search for flash and verve and shininess.

(Kind of funny that we keep talking about Phil Collins, but no mention of the massively huge Billy Joel album that was meant as a 50s tribute but totally reeks of the 80s now.)

President Keyes, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:56 (3 years ago) Permalink

i'm also guessing that in the 19th century (and earlier) a piece of music that was 20 or 30 years old could be considered pretty current!

In many ways i think this is the case today also (though in other contexts it isn't)

cherry blossom, Monday, 25 April 2011 13:57 (3 years ago) Permalink

Where does Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go? figure in to this conversation?

Moodles, Monday, 25 April 2011 14:09 (3 years ago) Permalink

ha idk why i didn't think of that before 'dear prudence'

ˆᴥˆ (blueski), Monday, 25 April 2011 14:13 (3 years ago) Permalink

i want candy probably in my top 5 of 80s 60s covers. there were lots of good ones. (still kinda prefer colourbox's motown over kim wilde's motown, but i got lotsa love for kim!)

scott seward, Monday, 25 April 2011 14:17 (3 years ago) Permalink

i'm also guessing that in the 19th century (and earlier) a piece of music that was 20 or 30 years old could be considered pretty current! i mean, unless you had access to the sheet music or were lucky enough to hear a performance of something new, it might be years before you came into contact with some stuff.

Not sure.

The world exposed to commercially reproduced music was much smaller in the 19thc than now, but it moved fast enough: Late Beethoven-> Wagner = 30 years: worlds apart.

And if you look closely enough at folk musics under the impact of industrialisation and speedier communications -and movement of peoples - there are also huge transformations. Mass production of new instruments as well..... look at how the accordion became a 'folk' instrument in less time than it took the drum machine.

I'm Street but I Know my Roots (sonofstan), Monday, 25 April 2011 14:25 (3 years ago) Permalink

The 50s revival in the 70s was about yearning for a more placid time, before Vietnam and cultural change. The 60s revival in the 80s was about people feeling a lack of depth or meaning in the culture. 70s revival in the 90s was kind of a search for an unironic goofiness that had been lost to knowingness. And I guess the 80s revival is a search for flash and verve and shininess.

Doesn't this all basically boil down to cultural producers' nostalgia for their childhood/adolescence?

jaymc, Monday, 25 April 2011 14:26 (3 years ago) Permalink

Sure. And brings with it a child's misreading of what that era was really like.

President Keyes, Monday, 25 April 2011 14:28 (3 years ago) Permalink


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