I don’t know about you, but I find artists who know very little of what they complain about frustrating. I am not talking about irony and the lack of it in Ironic by Alannis Morrisette, but I wish I was a punk rocker (with flowers in my hair) by Sandi Thom. If you’re a fan of this song, please don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice song, but it’s woefully inaccurate.
In the olden days, scientist philosophers like Galileo, da Vinci, Newton and Franklin were masters not only in their respective fields and great minds, but accomplished authors, musicians, artists, and in Franklin’s case, statesmen. As with most of my geeky friends, we are passionate authors, voracious readers, keen collectors of music and often musicians in our own right, love museums and galleries and the arts. However, many “artists” do not respect our arts and sciences.
Let’s go through a few of the foibles of this song:
- “In 77 and 69, there was revolution in the air” Where? In 1968, there was the France student riots and Prague Spring, of which only one, the French student riots made any difference with an election being called. In 1969, besides the Viet Nam war, very little revolution happened. Maybe she’s talking about Woodstock. 1977 was the beginning of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, and the seeds of the Iranian revolution, but hardly progressive revolutions as the singer calls it out. The song’s main theme is punk (anarchy) and flowers in the hair (the hippy / free love movement), which is an expression of baby boomers “me me me” selfishness despite its best intentions. We owe a huge debt to the hippies for freeing up attitudes but little else. Anarchy exists today – see Darfur and a host of other hot beds of human misery and crimes against humanity. No one can claim to want anarchy without understanding what it truly represents. 1977 saw the release of Never mind the bollocks… by the Sex Pistols. Punks hated the hippies, so I’m unsure of why she wanted to be both. Anyway, disco / techno won the battle, not punk 😉
- “Not everybody drove a car” This is still true today, and if anything, anti-car choices in the major metropolises of London and so on make it very difficult for people to drive to where they’re going. The car is a symbol of freedom and personal mobility, so I’m not sure why this is a bad thing. The days of most people not owning a car or the ability to drive are long, long gone. This is more of a pre-World War II thing. My grand parents owned cars from the end of the war onwards. Certainly, by the end of the 1960’s most families had at least one car and it was an essential part of life.
- “When accountants didn’t have control” This is especially amusing. A&R and accountants in the music industry have been entrenched for years. In Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, written in the early 1980’s, the main protagonist fought against the A&R types and noted with extreme wit that music contracts were the devil’s work. This didn’t happen overnight. This is not a product of today’s society, but that of the exploitative music industry she so bitterly complains about.
- “And the only way to stay in touch was a letter in the mail” This is also particularly funny. Although I’ve personally only written a couple of actual letters to friends, and none in the last 17 years of being on the Internet, the phone system has been around for quite some time. Telegrams predated the phone system by the some considerable time; the first Atlantic telegraph line was completed in 1858, some 111 years before 1969. It was possible to call internationally from the 1920’s onwards with the laying of submarine cables, and from the 1960’s onwards with the launch of Telstar in 1962.
- And the super info highway was still drifting out in space The network that became the first nodes of the Internet were established in 1969 as ARPANET. It has only recently been extended to our local solar system – with a modified form of TCP/IP used to communicate with the Mars Orbiters to form the interplanetary internet (see http://www.ipnsig.org).
- When record shops were still on top/And vinyl was all that they stocked This ignores the 8 track (from 1965 onwards) and the compact cassette (from onwards), both of which were popular in 1969 and 1977 respectively.
Although this song appeals to those hankering after a time long ago, the time the chanteuse desires never existed. I wish that artists were a bit more respectful of history and less hostile to modern life. I’d rather be alive now than living in the past; the world is a beautiful place and it is what you make of it.