Luke Haines has an attractively nasty little song on his album Off My School At The Art School Bop. It’s called Heritage Rock Revolution:
It’s an effortless skewering of the rock heritage industry, and includes the lines I love rock ‘n’ roll, I hope it never dies, Put it in a time capsule, And bury it alive.
Now, young Luke is a year younger than me. So he was approaching forty when he wrote those lines. I wonder if that was relevant? I wonder if he was raging at his own musical tastes, like a homophobe enraged by his own sexuality? Because since I turned forty, my attitude to heritage rock has done the equivalent of a handbrake turn in a Ford Granada estate, drifting gently in a huge semi-circle to face the opposite direction.
These days, I can’t get enough of the stuff.
Last night I experienced the purest form of this particularly insidious narcotic: more than two hours of The Who at the O2. In the company of my son, who is experiencing a lot of this stuff the first time around. Backed by a ridiculously good band, the two remaining Whovians banged out a passionate, committed and epic version of Quadrophenia, and then finished the set off with as perfect a set of stadium rock standards as there is in existence: Who Are You, Pinball Wizard, You Better You Bet, Baba O’Riley, Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Two weeks ago, I went to see the Specials at the Brixton Academy. Same thing with a better beat and sexier dancing. Heritage Rock. A shared memory of something magnificent.
I once did some work with Grazia magazine, and in the editorial meeting one week I pointed out how so many of the fashions were essentially facsimiles of stuff from twenty years before. ‘It all comes round again, doesn’t it?’ I said. To which one very bright young thing replied: ‘Yes, it does. But there’s a rule: you can only wear it once.’ This is the exact opposite of music.
Over a beer ten years ago, a friend once asked me ‘if you had to choose between listening only to music recorded up until now, or only to music recorded from now on, which would you choose?’ I adopted a Luke Haines sneer and said the latter, of course. The future was all about possibility! Something truly great might come along! Why would you turn your back on that?
Ten years later, I’d like to change my answer, please.