Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The boat that definitely rocked and the public who do not.

Recently I watched The Boat That Rocked for possibly, the millionth time. I wish it was required viewing for the nation because it's so completely brilliant that even I get a sense of nostalgia from it, and it's set 30 years before I was born. However, it was a commercial fail at the box office and received a surprising amount of mixed reviews. While I cannot account for the minor aneurysms those critics must have been suffering, I believe I can shed some light on the film's unpopularity with the general public.

That film portrays something Britain lost a long time ago and will probably never get back. Kids listening to the radio in bed, so quietly their eager ears are pressed against the speakers so no sound escapes their magical, rebellious bubble. Teenagers getting together, not to oh so originally hack each others' facebook, but to listen to the latest Kinks until it's scratched and/or they've run out of beer. Adults spending all night at gigs, then calling in sick the next day. We don't have to try to listen to music anymore. It isn't banned, it isn't forbidden. The closest we get to living on the audio edge is 4music's pathetic Ed Sheeran edits, where the word 'snowflakes' is removed. Snowflakes! God forbid a child should repeat the word snowflakes! 

The Boat That Rocked captures the beauty of how our country used to defy the musical rules. It started with the pioneer bands, who made the music they wanted to and released it knowing full well it wouldn't get any radio play. Nowadays if a song hasn't appeared on Radio 1 or a car advert, it hasn't made it. This film was deemed 'a commercial failure'. A failure. Why was it? Because it didn't make 10 million in the first day? Because someone from The Daily Mail didn't like it? I liked it. It re-ignited my passion for music, it made me want to write this. The film may be fictional but the idea behind it was real and the fact is, we no longer make the effort to listen to music that they did.

The presenters of pirate radio risked fines and jail, as did the listeners. They broadcasted from offshore ships to avoid prosecution. They broadcasted what the public wanted, and what the public really wanted, was rock and roll. I find it both hard and sad to try and imagine Britain today rallying together, in secret, to do something the government won't allow. And I don't mean revolting against pension cuts, or striking for a 3 day weekend. I mean something fun. There would be, and is today, a select few who would take a stand, maybe their videos on YouTube would get a few thousand hits before they were removed, maybe there would be protests. 

Times have changed, culture has changed, and music has changed. I hope bands today still feel euphoria knowing the screaming crowd below have travelled to see them, because this is one of the few ways we have left to show our appreciation. There is a line in the film which often leaves me wondering:
'Young men and women will always dream dreams, and put those dreams into song.' I can't help but be dismayed at how wrong half this quote is. No prizes for guessing which half, because I'm pretty sure 'Damn girl, damn you'se a sexy bitch' are not the inspiring dreams of Akon. Chart music, the music that supposedly represents the public's musical taste, is dire. X Factor demonstrates we no longer care about what comes out of artists' mouths, as long as it rhymes and they have dolls out in time for Christmas.

It's a tragedy. 
I alone can't do anything to change it. When 'Killing in the name of' trounced the X Factor winner to Christmas number 1 in 2009, I felt like we'd achieved something mildly hilarious, and for a moment, music fans were united in their dislike of Joe Mcelderry. But i'll finish now, and turn my attentions to these time machine blueprints, because it's the only way I'll ever experience the true sense, of rock and roll. Next stop, the swinging 60s. 

The Kinks. A proper, proper decent band.

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