I came across a recent Twitter post by Marc Riley, formerly of The Fall. He’d retweeted a link to a Guardian article by Daniel Dylan Wray, entitled Bring that beat back: why are people in their 30s giving up on music?, questioning why so many of his friends preferred wallowing in nostalgia to listening to new music.
Marc is one of my favourite R6 DJs because he so effortlessly balances playing classics (everything from Bowie to Beefheart) to championing new acts. Earlier this year, his show’s opening tracks featured Iggy Pop and The Stooges seminal proto-punk anthem ‘TV Eye’ from 1970’s Funhouse segueing into 2021 psychedelic punk gem ‘I, Moron,’ by The Lovely Eggs from Lancaster, on which Iggy provides backing vocals. As R6 DJ and fellow Man City fan Mark Radcliffe once stated: “Never get too old to listen to something new!”
Wire, who were playing post-punk music long before most of their contemporaries were even punk bands, have released 17 studio albums in 45 years, the most recent Mind/Hive, being released on their PinkFlag label in 2020. Throughout their eclectic career they have steadfastly refused to rely on past glories. If you want to hear them play '12XU' you'll have to dig out their first album, the B-side of their debut single 'Mannequin,' or the compilation album, The Roxy London WC2.
Noel Gallagher has castigated Radiohead for experimenting with 'difficult' electronic soundscapes rather than playing variations of 'Creep,' and Harry Styles for releasing songs without writing middle eights for them. UK Subs, 999, Chelsea, Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers, and many other names recognisable to anyone who bought Sounds magazine in the late 1970s are still drawing crowds at 'punk festivals' in the 2020s. Roxy Music are embarking on their 50th anniversary tour later this year. And can you imagine a world where The Rolling Stones stop touring? The potency of nostalgia is a constant.
But surely one of the most incredible aspects of music is whether based on Western music's octaves of eight, seven-note scales (typical of Middle Eastern music) or pentatonic scales of five (traditional Chinese music), there are finite notes available. Yet this source material has allowed the creation of everything from Beethoven to The Beatles to Bowie to whatever song is currently bobbing around someone's head at this precise moment prior to being jammed, fine-tuned, then recorded at some point in the future.
Another post-punk legend, Mark E Smith, once put it to a heckler on The Fall's seminal live album Totale's Turns (Rough Trade, 1980): "Are you doing what you did two years ago? Yeah? Well, don't make a career out of it." So many performers have achieved career longevity by doing just that.
There will always be a place for nostalgia, but it's moving on and exploring the possibilities that ensure music remains so vital to the human spirit. What I love about BBC Radio 6, whether you're listening to Marc Riley, Mary Anne Hobbs, Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne, Iggy Pop, Tom Robinson, Craig Charles, Guy Garvey, The Blessed Madonna, Stuart Maconie et al, is that you are just as likely to hear something you've never heard before, but which might just blow your mind, as a track you're hearing for the Nth time. (Although listening to Captain Sensible's incendiary bassline introing 'Neat Neat Neat' on Craig Charles' 'trunk of punk' will always lift the spirits, Nth time or not.)
Difficult or catchy; rock or dance, here's just a snippet of the many acts I've been introduced to by this essential radio station:
Warmduscher, White Denim, Fat White Family, David Holmes, Floating Points, Crows, Life, Shame, Wesley Gonzalez, Ghost Power, Tame Impala, Father John Misty, Arlo Parks, Cat Power, Mattiel, Lucy Dacus, The Big Moon, Big Thief, Flossing, Courting, Simian Mobile Disco, Japanese Television, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, M83, B.C. Camplight, Broken Social Scene, Working Men's Club, NewDad, Anna Calvi, Anna B Savage, Anna Phoebe, Kelly Lee Owens, Thundercat, Porij, Porridge Radio, St. Vincent, Teleman, Jane Weaver, unloved, The Lipschitz, Bessie Turner, The Bug Club, Yot Club, Jon Hopkins, Katy J Pearson, Pale Blue Eyes, The Oh Sees, Animal Collective, LoneLady, Max Cooper, Mitski, Yard Act, Wet Leg, English Teacher, Dry Cleaning, Penelope Isles, Sharon Van Etten, Sports Team, Metronomy, Port Sulphur ...
Music is the most subjective artform of all, and musicians will always be compelled to consider fresh ways to express themselves, through innovative variations of those stock eight(ish) notes. That list in the previous paragraph. As the late, great Mark Hollis of Talk Talk sang in 'It's My Life' ... It Never Ends ...