Monday, 18 September 2023

Record Collection Recollections #7: Tribalism

Ben bought me the C86 book by Nige Tassell last Christmas and I finally got around to starting it over the summer. It's an absorbing read, with a chapter devoted to every band who featured on the NME's legendary C86 cassette, catching up with them, finding out where they are and what they're up to now. Beyond the ones that are obviously still around - like Primal Scream, The Wedding Present and Half Man Half Biscuit - many of the others are still involved in music in one form or another, and most (with the exception of Bobby Gillespie, natch) are very down to earth about it.  

The Bodines - Therese

Most music books deal with the big names, the stadium giants who live a life we can't imagine and talk about music like it's a kind of alchemy (and I guess if it takes you to that level of success, it is). The interviews here feature everyday people having a cup of tea in their front room, walking their dog in a graveyard, or getting up early to go bird-watching... and as such, it demystifies the music industry and you realise that pop stars are just like you and me. Some of them get lucky, but most of them enjoy (or completely bungle) their 15 minutes and then shuffle off to get on with the rest of their lives. Amusingly, quite a few of the bands lament the song they chose for the C86 compilation, saying they feel they had far better tracks to offer, but either didn't realise how significant C86 was going to be or just couldn't be bothered. (Stump, for example, blew most of the £500 the NME gave them on nights out, then recorded a really crappy version of one of their best tunes which didn't do it any justice.) 

Stump - Buffalo

(That's not the version they gave the NME.)

Although I'm not even halfway through the book due to my usual snail's pace at reading anything these days, the most interesting observation thus far came from Dave Newton of the Mighty Lemon Drops who was explaining why he thought his band went on to enjoy more success in the States (where he now lives) than in their home country. He put this squarely down to what he calls "tribalism"... 

"Over here, it's amazing how many people who like us or the Bunnymen also like Van Halen. I don't get that. Some Americans think I'm not telling the truth about bands like that - or that I'm some kind of snob. No, it's just not conceivable that in the UK you'd like Wah! Heat and Bon Jovi. But you see it here on kids' schoolbags where they've written both Rush and the Sex Pistols. Really?! How can you love both?"

And as soon as I read this, I realised where I went wrong as a kid. And where I still go wrong today, as a blogger. The closest I can get to tribalism is to say that I don't really care for dance music post 1987, but I think that's more to do with the way I process music - lyrics first. When I was a kid, I liked most pop and rock music, from any era. Then, as I began to discover alternative music, I kept on enjoying all the other stuff. I didn't go off down one path and close the door to all the other stuff. And while I wasn't cool enough to be buying the NME when C86 came out, one thing that surprised me from reading the book was how many of the bands didn't really see themselves as particularly alternative anyway, they just wanted to make pop music and have a good time.

The Wolfhounds - Feeling So Strange Again

Anyway, I figure this is why the musos don't get me, and why this blog will never really find its niche. Because one day I might be writing about Pulp, and the next I'll be writing about Barry Manilow. And there's no distinction in my head. If I like something, I like it. And all these years, I've been made to feel guilty about that, like it's a bad thing. Maybe I should have grown up in the states...


  1. An excellent post Rol. I suspect that their is a bit of peer pressure.As you get older it is far easier to like what you like and not give a jot about what others think. Obviously everyone also has a few acts that this doesn't apply to!

    1. I'm still in bed, CC, will phone you later

    2. CC - I think I actively resisted peer pressure at school (never drank when all the other kids were trying it either... only started in my 20s), but appear to have fallen victim to it in later life.

      George - do you want to leave a message for the milkman too? Two extra pints tomorrow, please. The goats are thirsty.

  2. Stump are responsible for one of the finest rhymes in musical history: "Charlton Heston/ put his vest on".

    Worthy of the great Gilbert O'Sullivan himself, who knocks yer Barry Manilow into a cocked hat in my humble opinion.

    1. Charlton Heston should have been a Number One.

      Barry Manilow would probably relish a nice cocked hat. Matron.


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