Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The decline of Britain's cosmopolitan culture

This article of mine appears on the Guardian's Comment is Free website.

We've already read a lot on Comment is free about 1968 - the year of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Paris riots and the invasion of Czechoslovakia. But there's one interesting aspect of that most tumultuous of years - and of the late 1960s in general - that has so far escaped attention. Namely, just how open we were in Britain to European culture. It might seem paradoxical, but the more Britain has integrated into the European Union, the less European cultural influences there are in this country.

In the late 60s, the pop charts were full of great European music. In the spring/summer of 1968, a regular play on Radio Caroline was the hauntingly beautiful French orchestral hit Ame Câline (Soul Coaxing) by Raymond Lefèvre (itself a cover of a song by French singer-songwriter Michel Polnareff). Another big hit in 1968 was L'Amour Est Bleu (Love is Blue) performed by Paul Mauriat and his orchestra, also from France. The charts of the time were full of international acts, including Esther and Abi Ofarim from Israel (who in February 1968 became the first, and to date only, Israeli act to make it to No 1 in Britain), Nana Mouskouri from Greece, Aphrodite's Child (with Demis Roussos), Bert Kaempfert, Sacha Distel, Serge Gainsbourg and many others. The music of Jacques Brel and Gilbert Becaud was hugely popular, being covered by a whole host of British performers.

On television, BBC2 regularly showed foreign films on Saturday evenings. Today, if you ask Britons to name a continental film star, they'll probably only come up with just two: Juliette Binoche and Gérad Depardieu. Back in the 60s, Simone Signoret, Melina Mercouri, Yves Montand, Alain Delon, Fernandel, Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider, Gert Fröbe and Maximilian Schell were household names.

A feature of the mid/late 1960s was the international film - a production (sometimes co-produced) that featured actors from several countries. In Ship of Fools, France's Simone Signoret played alongside Austria's Oskar Werner, America's Lee Marvin and Britain's Vivien Leigh. In Topkapi, Greece's Melina Mercouri starred with Austria's Maximilian Schell, Armenian Akim Tamiroff and Peter Ustinov, a man whose own cosmopolitanism seemed ideally suited to the age. There were international comedies too: such as Monte Carlo or Bust: in which our very own Peter Cook and Dudley Moore starred alongside legendary French comedian Bourvil, Italy's Lando Buzzanca and Walter Chiari, and Germany's Gert Fröbe.

Then there's television. Children's TV schedules in the late 1960s abounded with excellent European imports from both western Europe: The Magic Roundabout, Hector's House, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (with its wonderful theme tune), Hergé's Adventures of Tintin, Belle and Sebastian, The Flashing Blade, and, from communist eastern Europe, The Mole, The Singing Ringing Tree and numerous animated features, as well as programmes that were co-productions between east and west, such as The White Horses, made by Radio Television Serbia and BR-TV of then west Germany.
Today, you will struggle to find a single programme on terrestial British television that has been made in continental Europe. There's certainly no children's television series that tells the story of a siege during the War of the Mantuan Succession, as The Flashing Blade did, or relates the story of a riding stables in the Balkans (The White Horses).

The sad truth is that the era of turbo-globalisation hasn't led to a greater cross-fertilisation of cultures as its supporters claimed it would - but the overwhelming dominance of an introspective, bland and dumbed-down transatlantic global culture that isn't a patch on the true cosmopolitanism we had in the 1960s.

The political changes in eastern Europe in the late 1980s has led to the slow death of the region's television and film industries: as subsidies were withdrawn, many film studios closed or have been taken over by western production companies. While in the west, media liberalisation has led to the decline of state television, a proliferation of privately owned satellite channels and a massive lowering in quality. The domination of the music industry by a handful of powerful multinational firms has led to a destruction of diversity: there's little chance of a French orchestral number getting into the higher echelons of the UK singles chart now.

Back in 1968, we faced currency restrictions whenever we travelled abroad and there were no cheap Ryanair flights or Eurostar trains to the continent. But while we may have found it harder to go to Europe, European culture certainly found it a lot easier to come to us.


Anonymous said...

It was Jean Monnet, one of the founders of the EU, that said, I think, that had he the opportunity to begin over, he would have founded the EU on the basis of culture rather than economics.

Meanwhile to add to your examples, I recall a season of films, shown on BBC 2 at 9pm on a Friday in the late 70s of the great Spanish film director, Luis Bunuel, and in 1988, likewise on BBC2 on a Saturday evening all eight of Tarkovsky's masterpieces. I cannot imagine even BBC4 rising to that level of cultural adventure now.

Mike Power said...

I can live without Nana Mouskouri (not to mention Demis Roussos)but I agree about the dearth of foreign films. I loved settling down to watch a good black and white French, German, Italian or Polish film on BBC2. Now the only way I can watch them is to rent from Amazon (now which has over 3,000 title to choose from. But yes, it's a sad reflection generally on TV output these days. :(

Ken said...


You have seriously fucked up your template using these videos, when seen in Firefox.

I don't even know where to begin describing the mess. The two videos in this posting are side by side with everything else shoved below them.

Neil Clark said...

I've bid 'au revoir' to Raymond Lefevre, hope it's ok now!

Neil Clark said...

Jolies and Mike: agreed.
I can also recall BBC2 showing, on a Saturday night, the 1943 UFA production of Baron Muenchhausen, starring Hans Albers, with its screenplay by Erich Kastner (writing under a pseudonym as he was blacklisted in Nazi Germany) and its ground-breaking special effects, and Grigori Chukrai's great Soviet film 'Ballad of A Soldier'. As jolies says, these films wouldn't even be shown on BBC4 nowadays.

Anonymous said...

The trend to increasing homogenisation/americanisation in the cultures on Europe, in step with greater freedom of movement and political integration, is a paradox well worth exploring.
My father and grandfather, along with thousands of other working class Londoners, paid hard earned money to hear Edith Piaf sing in the late forties- entirely in French, barring some broken English patter between the songs.
I can't see any evidence that the Kylie loving generation are as open as this to non Anglophone cultures, despite her implied endorsement of the same in her Eurostar ads!

Ken said...

Looks fine now.

Anonymous said...

Good piece. Well said. I've commented here before that had it not been for The Moomins (and that was as late as the mid-1980s) I would probably be a kill-the-Ayrabs rawk-n-roller now. We see the results of what has happened whenever we observe the generation that came after mine.

It's important to say as often as possible that what is called "globalisation" is a misnomer - something truly worthy of that name would have everyone knowing more about everything else, rather than, as is often the case, knowing less - and that the idea of "choice" is even more so: there was often a wider range of ideas, worldviews, values and experiences across four channels than across 400. Neoliberalism does not promote diversity: it kills it.

Neil Clark said...

Mark: very good point about Piaf.
Her music was hugely popular among ordinary British working people after the war- and even after her death.

Robin: Brilliant post- I couldn't agree more. Globalisation is a misnomer, and neoliberalism destroys diversity, as any glance at a British high street will testify. There was far more genuine cross-fertilisation of cultures in the much maligned Kenyesian mixed economy era (1945 to the late 1970s) than there is today.
As to the proliferation of tv channels, more certainly has meant less. Much, much less.

Anonymous said...

So can someone explain why in this apparent cultural wasteland I now have access to infinitely more English-subtitled foreign-language films than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams thirty years ago?

How many Czech feature films did the BBC show in Neil's beloved 1970s? I'm guessing single figures, and almost certainly low single figures at that. But do you know how many are currently available on DVD with English subtitles? Over 250, last time I checked. Granted, most of those are out on Czech labels, but they still have English subtitles as a general rule.

So how many of those 250 films could one realistically have seen in the 1970s, even if one really pushed the boat out and went to every British film festival that might have turned something like that up? It's going to be a very, very small number, isn't it? And there wouldn't be much point seeing them elsewhere, as the chances are they wouldn't be English-friendly.

The near-simultaneous invention of the DVD and the World Wide Web has had an incalculable impact on the tastes of the more adventurous moviegoer, and overwhelmingly for the better. In the past, British filmgoers' tastes were largely dictated by a very small coterie of TV film buyers and film distributors, all based in the UK and all tending to follow each other like sheep. Now, I have access to a genuinely global, and usually English-friendly, marketplace - with plenty of free samples via the likes of YouTube.

The only snag is that I have to put some effort into it - but given the riches available, that's hardly a chore.

And even if you stick purely to foreign-language broadcasts on free-to-air television channels, I suspect the weekly average today would comfortably beat any given week in 1968.

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course, that's true, it's possible to access a larger amount of material than ever *if you're already interested in it*, and yes DVD and the internet put a vast amount of material at people's fingertips that wasn't there before, *but* ...

... very little of it is exposed to a wider audience. It may well be more easily accessible, but the majority simply don't take that opportunity. There has been an effective ghettoisation - there are no longer the tasters of what lies beyond the Anglo-American norm thrown into the mainstream media, as there were before deregulation. And without those hints at a wider world, where is the next generation of enthusiasts for Czech films (or whatever) going to come from? The people who fill those niche markets today have the tastes they do because they were given those hints (especially on children's television) in between the more familiar programmes they already liked, and grew to appreciate and understand them. The current generation are not being given those hints. Everything has a niche now, but niche markets only exist because their contents were once exposed within the mainstream. If they lose that exposure, I fear the niche markets will not manage to sustain themselves in the long term, will simply cease to reproduce (just as I doubt there'll still be two national classical stations in this country, on whatever the main form of radio distribution is by then, by the middle of this century).

For all that it's easier to access non-Anglo-American material *if you want to*, the narrow and insular Anglo-American norms have never been more absolute in their dominance of the mass population. "Choice" is only real if significant numbers take it up, and at the moment they do not. Live in your niche (read ghetto) by all means, but don't be surprised if it eventually ceases to reproduce because you were happy to abandon all attempts to engage with the mass.

Martin Meenagh said...

Robin--I tend to agree. I'm lucky enough to live near a very good public library in Putney, where I can borrow non-English language films for a pound or so a week.

When I lived in Oxford, however, which, as a midlands town is not that unrepresentative, I had two choices; buy what I already thought I might want from the internet, or spend £20 in the 'world dvd' section of a store.

In the past, anyone with a TV set could have a taste of the world beyond England. Now, 'mainstream' TV for the twenty million or so who watch it is essentially about the south east of England, and especically London.

Sometimes, London companies send some cameras north or present a northern pastiche to fill the quota.

I suppose that what we should all agitate for really good public libraries--or wait till the recession forces massive sales at the stores!

Anonymous said...

It may well be more easily accessible, but the majority simply don't take that opportunity. There has been an effective ghettoisation - there are no longer the tasters of what lies beyond the Anglo-American norm thrown into the mainstream media, as there were before deregulation.

Actually, there are (and how!) - but they're less likely to be seen on television. But as television has become less and less relevant as a mass medium, I'm not entirely convinced that this is an especially important issue.

And without those hints at a wider world, where is the next generation of enthusiasts for Czech films (or whatever) going to come from?

All over the place. Try hanging out in blogs or discussion forums, and you'll find a quite startling number of amazingly well-informed and ciné-literate teenagers - and because of the largely level playing field, they rub shoulders with people with far greater knowledge and experience, who are quite happy to talk to them as equals. (And how would that have happened in the 1960s and 1970s?).

And that's also where the "hints at a wider world" come from - I myself have picked up an incalculable number of cultural pointers from such forums, and I trust I've given plenty in return.

The people who fill those niche markets today have the tastes they do because they were given those hints (especially on children's television) in between the more familiar programmes they already liked, and grew to appreciate and understand them.

I'm sorry, but I simply don't buy this. I'm old enough to remember Czech and Polish cartoons being screened in between Play School and Jackanory, and I categorically did not think "Wow, that was really fascinating - I must start delving into this extraordinary new world of Eastern European animation!". Largely because, let's face it, they were mostly pretty terrible - the reason the BBC showed them in such vast quantities was because they were extremely cheap to licence.

The current generation are not being given those hints.

Yes they are. And not just hints: firm recommendations by peers, often backed up by illustrated examples.

If you were developing an interest in, say, eastern European animation in the 1960s and 1970s, how exactly would you go about stimulating it? But now, if I want to enthuse about, say, Jan Lenica's Labyrinth, I can show it to you right now - and YouTube offers plenty of further "hints" down the right-hand column for further exploration. (Tim Berners-Lee's legacy, and one of the greatest contributions to the expansion of human knowledge ever devised).

Everything has a niche now, but niche markets only exist because their contents were once exposed within the mainstream.

There have always been plenty of niche markets that have always existed in a niche and have never come within spitting distance of the mainstream. The crucial difference between these markets now and 40 years ago is that it's infinitely easier to access them - and to get recommendations (and even samples) from people who've already done the legwork.

I remember in the 1980s trying to find a recording of music by Harry Partch, after being intrigued by an entry in a music encyclopaedia - it took weeks to track down a single solitary CD (and I had to pay through the nose for it, but I was so thrilled to have discovered it that I was happy to). Now, you can see the man himself in action.

If they lose that exposure, I fear the niche markets will not manage to sustain themselves in the long term, will simply cease to reproduce (just as I doubt there'll still be two national classical stations in this country, on whatever the main form of radio distribution is by then, by the middle of this century).

Well, we managed perfectly well with just one for a great many years! And why do you need a "national classical station" when there are so many perfectly viable alternatives, accompanied by commentary from people who are just as qualified?

They're certainly less likely to block out entire swathes of music history as a result of personal prejudice - Radio 3 in the era of Sir William Glock was a haven for fans of squeaky-gate music, but contemporary composers who actually wrote something tuneful that might have genuine mass appeal tended to be shut out entirely.

And exactly the same thing happened with vast swathes of film history in the 1970s. As with the Eastern bloc countries, if your work didn't find favour with the cultural establishment, it was generally shut out entirely - which is why, if you analyse what was actually shown, you'll find it was drawn from a relatively narrow pool of Western European "classics". But where was Latin American, African or Asian cinema (other than the inevitable Kurosawa, a filmmaker regarded with suspicion in Japan for being too "westernised")?

"Choice" is only real if significant numbers take it up, and at the moment they do not. Live in your niche (read ghetto) by all means, but don't be surprised if it eventually ceases to reproduce because you were happy to abandon all attempts to engage with the mass.

It won't "cease to reproduce" - it'll merely find different methods of distribution. The beauty of new technologies is that because they massively reduce the associated distribution and marketing costs, the commercial risks are lowered as well.

That's why there are far, far more titles available on DVD than there ever were on VHS (and at a quality level that makes 1970s TV broadcasts seem like a joke), and I suspect the number will rise even more dramatically when legitimate moving-image downloads really start to take off.

We're still in a state of transition (bearing in mind that YouTube, the iPlayer and other high-quality moving-image channels are only two or three years old), but the last decade has been an absolute golden age for people with non-mainstream interests - to the point where I'm truly jealous of people who have never known anything else.

Anonymous said...

In the past, anyone with a TV set could have a taste of the world beyond England.

Yes, but nowhere near as often as you might expect - and, as I argued above, "the world beyond England" was generally circumscribed by the tastes of a very small number of people in the relevant BBC department.

I've just checked the listings for Film Four and BBC Four (i.e. titles which pretty much anyone with a digital TV of any kind can receive free of charge), and I've turned up five foreign-language films, and a documentary on Werner Herzog screening between now and next Saturday.

In all honesty, can you come up with a single week in the 1960s or 1970s that can match that?

Anonymous said...

Quite. The death of the federal ITV has greatly weakened the range of portrayals of this country outside the south-east (and, in fact, of many other countries) on mass-audience TV. I have a great long-term admiration for the BBC, but it has come to something when even an organisation as centralised and metropolitan as it, like the British state, has historically been represents the non-metropolitan parts of the UK better than ITV (as has been the case for a decade or so now).

Essentially, British TV between about 1960 and about 1990 was the only place where the old Blairite idea of "a halfway house between Europe and America" ever actually made sense and was ever actually real and good - the BBC stopped ITV from going the way of the American networks, ITV stopped the BBC from becoming as insular and removed from its audience as many state broadcasters in European countries which had not licenced commercial TV. Those who destroyed it knew *precisely* what they were doing.

Anonymous said...

slapheads anonymous (I think I might know who you are from elsewhere) - you have some valid points. I may ultimately believe that the cultural level of *the mass* (which is what I mostly care about because, in the finish, they decide the niches' fate) is in decline, but you've come as close as anyone has of late to convincing me that I'm wrong, and certainly DVD is a massive advance from what was there before.

You may say that in the end there will be no mass media - but I fear there will, and that it will be narrower and more insular than ever. I don't entirely buy into the idea of "democratisation" (a dubious term you do everything but use), regarding it as - ultimately - the glorification of mediocrity *on many occasions* (obviously not always). Nonetheless, yours is a convincing argument which challenges, as all good arguments should.

Neil Clark said...

Hi Robin,

Topkapi style, a little bird informed me that slapheads anonymous posts on the blog of a certain Oliver Kamm as 'Michael'. His comments are apparently always supportive of the positions taken by the owner of that blog, in the same way that they are always opposed to whatever position I take here!
While it's true that, as 'slapheads/Michael' says, it's easier to access a greater variety of material than ever, the fact remains that as far as the mainstream media is concerned, there is a real lack of cultural diversity. In the 60s we wouldn't have had to raid You Tube for performances by French singers, they were there on our tv screens on mainstream programmes, which were watched by millions of people. There's a great clip on You Tube of the wonderful Israeli singer Esther Ofarim singing 'Mad about the Boy'- and where was she singing it- on the Morecambe and Wise Show!

What was then mainstream has now become niche- and we are all the poorer for it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm certainly largely out of sympathy with Oliver Kamm's political views. But what I think slapheads anonymous is espousing can be best described as the Whig interpretation of history - and although I ultimately disagree with this, I once endorsed it, and it certainly provokes and makes me question things (and I don't want to ever stop doing that).

Nonetheless, I don't believe that the idea of a "mainstream", which people in intense social environments such as schools feel pressure to conform to, will die as quickly as slapheads anonymous believes it will (if I did, I'd be much more confident). But your article missed out two great men - Jake Thackray, one of Britain's finest ever songwriters, whose work was, as much as anything else defined by the fact that he'd been teaching in France when the great British cringe to its imperial successor truly set in during the early 1960s, and who merged heavy influences from Brel & Brassens with the deepest of Yorkshire roots to confirm that a greater embrace of Europe would have weakened rather than strengthened regional traditions and diversity in this country, and Scott Walker, an American emigre who, alienated by the pop world in which he had become such a heartthrob, used the Brel catalogue as his starting point for a journey into a world of his own making which, 40 years on, is still (I hope) not over.

Both these men were frequently seen on mass-audience TV - Walker singing "Jackie" on a Frankie Howerd show and including Brel songs (and his own, of course) in his own series when he'd been trusted to confine himself to the MOR songbook, and Thackray making weekly appearances on Braden's Week, That's Life, etc. The mainstream exposure that these two artists received in the late 1960s strengthens your case better than some of the rather MOR singers you did mention.

Out of interest, Neil (can of worms here, I know ...), what is your position on Zimbabwe?

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight - we now have direct and straightforward access to several orders of magnitude more material than we ever had in the 1960s and 1970s, and you're arguing that "we're all the poorer for it"?

The biggest problem with all this nostalgia is that the "mainstream media" as it was constituted in the 1960s and 1970s simply doesn't exist any more, and isn't coming back. The 1960s started with just two television channels, and by the time the 1970s ended we only had three. So it's hardly surprising that you got tens of millions of people watching the same thing, because they didn't have much of a choice.

OK, granted, it was undoubtedly a good thing that, say, Ken Russell's 'Elgar' became a huge ratings success - but that's primarily because there were just two channels when it was first broadcast. (Does anyone know what ITV was showing that night?) Even three or four years later, it would probably have premiered on BBC2, with a corresponding reduction in the size of the audience - and you're starting to get fragmentation right there. But would anyone argue that the creation of BBC2 was a bad thing? Or Channel Four?

Granted, the fragmentation of the mass media will inevitably lead to a loss of social cohesion - but that was always going to happen anyway given the cultural and demographic changes of the last fifty years or so. But it seems to me that the truly gargantuan benefits massively trump the very minor drawbacks.

Put it like this: if someone had told me in the 1970s of the kind of riches that I'd quite literally have at my fingertips thirty years later, I simply wouldn't have believed them - it would have sounded too impossibly wonderful to be true. And why does it matter if the mainstream has fragmented into millions of niches, if your own particular niche is being catered for - as it almost certainly will be?

Anonymous said...

A tempting argument. A *very* tempting argument indeed.

But (and there's always a but) are you ever depressed at the general standard of the currently most dominant niches? And do you find it disheartening that so few people are in your niche? How, if anything, do you think things could have turned out better and/or differently? (delete as applicable)

It *is* certainly true that social cohesion (as defined by Butskellism) was already collapsing in the 1970s long before media deregulation (Neil might find that hard to cope with, but it is true).

BBC2 and Channel 4 were certainly both Good Things: they both led to a more populist slant from their parent channels, but BBC1 retained a broad range of output under the greatest ever DG, while ITV continued to show non-tabloid documentaries in peak time for some years before a concerted campaign of political interference brought them to an end. I would certainly not have prevented a wider range of channels, although I would have at least tried to handle it differently. *That* things change is an inevitability, *how* things change is not - i.e. the shape of the mass media could never have stayed the same as it was, but it might not have become precisely what it is now. I am thinking about that halfway house between the old and new ways that always seemed unachievable, that compromise whose failure Ray Davies so sadly mourned on "Nobody Gives" in 1974.

I think I am somewhere between you and Neil on this matter, as I probably am on several other things.

Neil Clark said...

Hi Robin,
When I wrote that "the music of Jacques Brel and Gilbert Becaud was hugely popular, being covered by a whole host of British performers", Jake Thackray was one of the performers I had in mind. What a talent he was.
Pleased that you're a fan of Scott Walker too, I must say you have impeccable taste.

slapheads/'Michael'- like you I think it's great that we have access to such a wide access to cultural goodies via You Tube, DVDs, etc, it's still a fact that on mainstream media there has been an incredible reduction in the diversity of output. I wouldn't want to disinvent You Tube or
DVDs, but why can't the likes of BBC1, BBC2 and ITV show a greater range of programmes from different countries? For the majority of people, the terrestial channels still constitute their main media experience. I also don't agree with your earlier comments re the European imports of the 60s and 70s- the likes of Robinson Crusoe, The White Horses, The Flashing Blade, were well made programmes, perhaps they may have been cheap to purchase, but they were still a damn sight better than the programmes shown on children's television today.
I recently re-watched some episodes of The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and was reminded just how good it was- a very literate screenplay with no dumbing down in evidence.

Anonymous said...

Neil - do you like Scott's more recent work? I find 'Tilt' and 'The Drift' quite extraordinary, and a genuinely awesome (in the original sense, before it went the way of "fantastic") experience to hear, though I can appreciate that it will (by its very nature) not be to everyone's taste.

The point re. the mainstream media is probably the only area where I really part company with slapheads anonymous. I think it's easy - and I know it because I've been there - to assume that everyone has found their own niche (unless you assume that the most popular material is itself a niche - which I don't think you should, at least not in the sense that the term is being used here). Just because they have them *available* doesn't mean they'll take them. It's no bad thing in many cases, but probably the majority of Sky subscribers have never heard of many of the channels they can receive, especially those in the "foreign languages" section which for some is offputtingly close to the porn channels (I'm not quite conspiratorial enough to suspect that Uncle Rupert actually wants to give that impression!). And on the internet, how many people *really* take the opportunity to engage with the world?

This is really a collectivist vs. individualist issue at heart, though, which is why there can be no full or absolute agreement.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to disinvent You Tube or
DVDs, but why can't the likes of BBC1, BBC2 and ITV show a greater range of programmes from different countries?

Because there's no real pressure for them to do so, and a great deal for them not to. The vast majority of Britons strongly dislike both subtitling and dubbing, so unless the programmes are made in English in the first place, they're not going to stand much of a chance. And I recall plenty of brave experiments in the 1980s, mostly conducted by Channel 4 (things like Chateauvallon and Eurocops) that merely proved that basic truth.

And because English has become even more of a global lingua franca in the last couple of decades thanks to the Internet, that situation isn't going to change any time soon. Believe me, the mainstream channel controllers are well aware of this.

Which is why it's pointless writing "why oh why" pieces longing for a return to the past that simply isn't going to happen, and far more constructive championing things that you can see here and now - such as BBC4's Werner Herzog triple bill on Saturday night. Or indeed championing BBC4 in general, because that's the 1960s BBC2 de nos jours. (And how many other countries have anything even close to it?)

Incidentally, I too would be very interested to know your views on Zimbabwe, a country that you've barely mentioned throughout this blog's existence.

Anonymous said...

All quite true (nothing you have said is actually untrue as such) but *why* is there such an antipathy towards non-English-language material among British audiences? Could it perhaps have been made worse - or at least no better - by some of the attitudes and worldviews that you may (I'm guessing) subscribe to?

As I say, I'm not disputing the truth in present circumstances of what you say, I'm just coming at it from a more idealistic (and perhaps younger - though I would actually say not, because most people my age and younger than me seem even more Europhobic than those older) perspective. I know the realism of what you say. I suppose I just still dream that there could be something more.

re. Neil's original post: I would (with the usual provisos) comment that, alongside the growth of McDonald's et al, there *is* now a much more widespread availability of mainland European cuisine in this country compared to 1968.

Neil Clark said...

"This is really a collectivist vs. individualist issue at heart,"

Totally agreed, Robin.
In answer to yr question: I don't know too much about Scott Walker's current work, I'm only familiar with his 60s stuff, but I'll certainly check out 'Tilt' and 'the Drift'. Thanks for the tip.

slapheads: great posts, even though you still haven't convinced me that we are living through as golden a cultural age as in the post-war Keynesian period. Then we had working class people listening to Piaf (see Mark's post) and watching the Forsyte Saga, now it's Celebrity Big Brother.

Anonymous said...

re. Scott Walker, I can also recommend 'Nite Flights', the Walker Brothers' last album from 1978 and completely unlike all their previous work, if only for the first four tracks which are by Scott and have never been bettered, not even by him - the remaining six tracks are by the other two and are paler shadows of the same thing, invoking a certain idea of European artiness but not really going anywhere with it, in the same way that Midge Ure's Ultravox and early Spandau Ballet did. Scott's tracks, though - especially "The Electrician" - are beyond praise, almost beyond music. But, as I said, they will not be liked by everyone, although everyone should hear them once.