I was tempted to call this post ‘I Love 2016’, partly to troll the people who hated it and partly to reference a long running TV series of the late 90s and early 00s which looked back nostalgically at the music, fads and fashions of the Seventies, 80s and 90s. It was glib, shallow and lots of fun and basically took you back to childhood / adolescence/youth if you were then roughly around the age of 30. Basically if you were me.
The series was shown on Saturday nights on BBC2. I worked on a series on Channel Four, called ‘Top Ten’, which was a similar nostalgic mix of music and archive. We were in direct competition with the BBC Series. The Top Tens started off looking at musical genres – Glam Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk, Boy Bands – and probably worked best in this area. We also made some quite fun programmes about TV shows, but my favourite programme of all was one I worked on called Top Ten 1990. I am always happiest when I feel 19 and I was 19 for much of 1990. Making this programme was heaven. Thank you to my bosses at North One TV for allowing me to work on this show – I shouldn’t really admit this but I would have probably paid you to take a trip back in time to one of the favourite years of my life.
The Top Ten was a massive deal in 1990 and reflected the massive musical explosions that were taking place – specifically Acid House/rave culture and its Northern variant ‘Madchester’. Obviously the acts that did really well were the slightly odd ones – Betty Boo, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer and Adamski – but the overall impression was that a new era was dawning. I remember 1990 being an incredibly optimistic time, the late great George Michael sang about Freedom and finally Thatcher was gone, driven away by the popular uprising that was the Poll Tax riots (I was there but went home before the scary stuff started like the good petit bourgeois that I am). Obviously I am viewing 1990 through rose tinted spectacles – I had a pair of pink tinted John Lennon style sunglasses which I felt were the height of fashion – but the contrast between the prevalent mood of 1990 and 2016 could not be more marked.
I had a quick google before writing this post to try and find out the Top Ten songs of 2016 and struggled. There was a list of Top Ten vinyl albums – vinyl has made a weird comeback this year – which was dominated by the deceased: Bowie and Amy Winehouse.
Then there was this:
I recognised a few familiar names – Coldplay, Adele and Tinie Tempah. But a lot of the songs look like very specific club tracks. I download music all the time – Apple Music stops me from throwing myself off the top deck of the bus on cold winter mornings. Does this list include me? Or all the people who buy second hand CDs off ebay? Or my students and their love of illegal downloads /Grime and Jamaican Bashment records. I find it very hard to believe that it does. The reality is that we have no real idea what people listen to any more – a kind of post truth pop chart. I think there is a lesson in there. Our popular culture no longer has the clear lines it had when I was a young woman; this is neither good nor bad, just a fact. The realities people in middle age grew up with no longer exist. It frightens us and that makes us feel angry and resentful. Or we can take a step back and realise that we have to look for new ways of doing things.
I genuinely loved 2016. It is up there with 1990 as a year I will never forget. It was a year I worked out what mattered to me in life, on many levels. It was a year of endings, specifically the end of the illusion that nothing has really changed and we can just pootle along as we have done for the past 30 odd years. If we carry on putting profits before people then we will face political shocks – Brexit, Trump etc – that will upset the status quo. Being Liberal and making ‘progressive’ noises about gays /feminism is not enough; poilitics has to be about economics again.
I could rant on and on and on about this forever – anyone who knows me or has the misfortune to chance upon my outpourings will know that I do like the sound of my own voice. Rather too much. I doubt that will change next year either. Time to sit back and enjoy the ride….