It is worth pausing over a significant element of The Story of Indie, Part Three – Into the Mainstream. The programme begins by looking at the influence of “Acid House” on the indie music scene, and a most interesting aspect of this is the connection that exists between The Happy Mondays and Primal Scream. Alan McGee (Creation Records) and Shaun Ryder (The Happy Mondays) each discuss the effect that the scene had on how music evolved around the early 90s, and both, interviewed separately, seem to recall certain events in a manner most consistent with what we would call the “truth.”
Anyone with knowledge of Primal Scream’s music prior to the release of Screamadelica will recognise that the band’s third album was a radical departure from what went before, and Ryder and McGee claim that Ecstasy is at the root of the band’s shift in style. The story goes that McGee and Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream) went to The Hacienda to watch The Happy Mondays play, and whilst there, under the advice of Ryder, took Ecstasy for the first time. The result of Gillespie’s exposure to E was to be life-changing, for, according to McGee, Gillespie’s musical focus shifted so significantly that within a month of taking the drug the band were heading in a completely new direction, artistically, fusing acid house principles with their rock heritage – and Screamadelica was born.
This very small aspect of The Story of Indie‘s third and final episode is notable in that it offers the story of Primal Scream’s creative evolution without the usual negative propaganda that accompanies stories involving the use of drugs. There are complications that arise from the use of illegal drugs, and there are documented cases of death, violence, and exploitation arising from the use of illegal drugs that no one would wish to deny, but the positive aspects of illegal drugs are rarely discussed and/or promoted in the way that they are here by Ryder and McGee. Screamadelica would not have been made possible were it not for Ecstasy, and isn’t the world a better place for it?
Like a host of other ‘historical’ films detailing periods of injustice (Selma, 12 Years a Slave, etc.) Suffragette hits the mark when it comes to pricking one’s consciousness and making one think twice about what it must have been like to live at a certain point in history. But is that really enough – what happens after the film finishes? Do we talk about the issues for a bit before moving on? Just how effective are big movie productions at stirring the public to action – or is it all just about how great Mulligan/Streep/Bonham-Carter/Duff’s performances are (and they’re all pretty good)?
The reason for such questions stems from the whole experience of being at the cinema, waiting for the film to start, watching the adverts/trailers that precede the film. Never one to turn up dead on time because of the tardiness of film showings, the screen is in darkness with an advert running that speaks of strangers coming up to you, stroking you (uninvited) and stuff, and then the hashtag #gropefreenights appears. Then an advert about broadband speed and inspirational women, with an Alicia Keys song (an inspirational one) playing in the background. Then, a trailer for a Tom Hanks film. Then, a trailer for a Maggie Smith film. Then, the trailer for He Named Me Malala (#henamedmemalala). Then, an advert with Jack Whitehall struggling to come to terms with tackling a ‘lady’ rugby player – both humorous and subversive, potentially.
So, in an age where it seems men have to be actively persuaded to stop groping women whilst drunk (the men being drunk), and where we have a case in the not too distant past of a young girl being shot in the head in order to make the point that girls should not receive an education, will Suffragette prick the consciousness of those whose consciousness needs pricking, or do we find ourselves in a hundred years’ time looking back at Malala’s story, ooh-ing and aah-ing, whilst ignoring real and present concerns – whatever they may be in a century’s time? Perhaps it is not the place of big movie productions to stir such emotion, but if that were the case you’d have to ask yourself if there is indeed any point making such a film in the first instance. The time is now – but when is that?
The BBC documentary, Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death, was mind-blowingly good save for one small flaw made possible by ever-burgeoning improvements in technology. The flaw in question lies with the programme’s relentless use of drone cameras. At every opportunity it seems that the director/producer (or whoever else is responsible for such things) requested that every location used in the documentary be filmed by drone. Once or twice might have been okay, but not every time there’s outside footage: Ted Hughes’ childhood home in Mytholmroyd, Cambridge University, Heptonstall churchyard, and various other “Yorkshire shots” involving industrial chimneys (and if you’re thinking of flying a drone over such a chimney the very least you should do is fly over it in a precise manner so that you get a shot right down inside the chimney, not just a slightly skewed view of it).
Anyway, that being said, the rest of the documentary was flawless. The many contributors added insight to Hughes’ life, and Frieda Hughes‘ decision to speak about her parents’ relationship for the first time in public was somewhat moving, and needs no further comment as enough has been said over the years – Ms. Hughes should be able to have her say at last without critics picking her, or her words, apart. So, for those with an interest in Ted Hughes and/or Sylvia Plath’s works, and/or poetry in general, this documentary is a must – but be warned: drone cameras in use.
Recollected conversation with a significant other following the watching, for the first time, of CHAPPiE (on DVD):
“What if that [the thing that happens in the film] were the ultimate goal in human evolution – that we eventually manage to leave our bodies and exist only in consciousness, free of human form?”
“But would you be happy in such a form? How would humans continue to exist? There would be no children.”
“But what if the point of humans breeding is only to enable them to arrive at a place whereby breeding is no longer needed – where human evolution takes us away from certain death?”
“What about the children?”
“There would no longer be a need for children.”
“So you’d be happy being immortal? It wouldn’t bother you that there would be no more children being born?”
“What I’m saying is that the very idea of leaving the human body gives rise to the possibility that consciousness can continue to expand beyond its traditional limit, where it is always confined within a decaying body that will die within a set period of time, and thus (thus was probably not actually used but it fits well here) is free to explore farther and longer and in greater detail. Can you imagine that?”
“But what about the children?”
“Think about the possibilities instead. Journeying outside of our universe would actually become a possibility. That can never happen in our current form.”
“Humans need to breed. That’s what we’re made for. Humans crave children.”
Mark Radcliffe’s (@themarkrad) The Story of Indie, still only two-thirds of the way through, is surely significant for a whole number of reasons, but with attention spans towards blog posts being slight it seems prudent to name just two.
- The section during the second programme, “Alternative 80s,”looking at The Smiths’ importance to the indie scene is particularly notable when one considers Morrissey’s look/style/image. Compared to members of The Jesus and Marychain, Joy Division, Cocteau Twins, and others, Morrissey’s style transcends the decades that have passed, and looks as relevant now as it did whilst he walked through the shit-ridden streets of his home town. From top to toe, Morrissey oozed effortless grace – still does, some might say. This is where the importance of talismanic individuals comes in.
What the Morrissey segment did was to emphasise the overall importance of iconic performers, that it’s not just about the music, it’s the attitude that spreads to those disaffected kids growing up in shit-laden streets, just like Morrissey, and for whom the prospect of having someone express sentiments in terms that affect them readily is immeasurable, palpable, and necessary when the established order is all about being “content” with your lot – even if that “lot” is surviving drudgery on a daily basis.
- The second thing to mention is the unassuming manner which Mark Radcliffe adopts, and the way he opts to keep the narrative, and not himself, as the primary focus. Radcliffe’s constant reference to the person who played a major part in promoting indie music, John Peel, reveals his humility and perhaps because of this he is blind to the fact that he will likely be remembered as the person following most closely in Peel’s footsteps. The Story of Indie seems to be as important a project as Radcliffe’s The White Room, a music show that only lasted a short while but that had a lasting effect on popular culture. Bravo Monsieur Radcliffe, bravo.
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I’m not quite sure how I feel about receiving a cheeky wink and wave from a holographic projection/image-type-thing of a woman standing at the foot of the escalators of Platform 15 (I think, the platform) at Leeds railway station. Let me explain…
Firstly, the cut out Perspex screen (cut out in the shape of a human body) upon which the woman’s image appeared was diminutive to the extent that she was reduced to more of a child-like size/stature – not that women (or men for that matter) cannot come in all manner of sizes, but she kind of looked like she had been shrunk, artificially, to fit the Perspex screen aforementioned – a bit like when Obi-Wan (Alec or Ewan, doesn’t matter here) appears as a projected image in a Star Wars film.
Secondly, it’s the way in which she suddenly appeared from out of nowhere, presumably an energy saving device where she disappears from the screen when the station platform is empty, to return to the screen when motion is detected once more by the presence of incoming travellers.
Thirdly, the interaction with the woman’s image-type-thing left an unsettling feeling as I passed her by, precisely because of the wink/wave combo. Deciding to opt for the escalators, because I couldn’t be bothered to climb the stairs, took me right past the Perspex domain from where she was issuing a bog-standard greeting letting you know which way to head if exiting the station or indeed if you were continuing an onward journey. And this is where the unsettling part comes in – she winked at me (I even made eye contact with her so I definitely know she was looking at me when she did it) and gave a cute little wave thing with her hand (kind of flirty, really). And then I’m off up the escalator and can’t see her anymore. And the first thing that popped into my head was that it was a teeny bit Blade Runner. The next thing was pondering over: A) what did she mean by the wink/wave?; and B) how did she know to wink/wave at that precise moment for it to look as if she was directing said wink/wave at me, just me?
Most unsettling, as you can probably tell.