Without Comment: for your edification


A couple of comments have appeared beneath my TLS article on David Bowie. I reproduce them exactly as they (are meant to) appear on the page. I invite you to draw your own conclusions, and I don’t doubt they’ll be the same as mine. The first is from “Lord Truth”.


“What is so terrifying about the phenomenon of David Bowie is not the construct itself. Mr Bowie may well be an original performer good at all the entertaining tricks the reviewer mentions.What is terrifying is that a generation can occupy their minds with this kind of phenomenon, making it part of what might be called their human intellectual approach to life –in so far as they have any such approach-when in fact it offers nothing but an empty meaningless nothingness.As an example the reviewer mentions Bowie^ flirting with Nietzsche.^In what way do a few stage gestures show any relationship to Nietzsche?.It could be argued that even introducing this name to those ignorant of it might produce a Wikipedian exploration but does anyone believe such a thing ever happened –and of course any real connection would be strongly denied –suddenly there would be shouts from the Bowie campof^Don’t take it seriously–its only a song ^-and they would of course be correct –it is that and nothing more. And this strange phenomenon is characteristic of the entire popular music industry of the last forty years. One creates some styleone is then cleverly marketed and photographed-usually scowling-always with the idea that there is some implied or overt significance involved The significance lies in an underlying sense of protest –yet what one is protesting about is never clearly defined.Those arms may wave in the air for hours signifying a unity,a oneness with the performers yet as the performers have no real protest in them the entire affair is vacuous. A hundred years earlier there may have been similar performances. An orator on the back of a cart may have similarly entranced hundreds or even tousands yet the audience would leave fired up with a new or reborn political spirit that was significant ,that would endure.For forty years performers may accidentally or genuinely or more likely as a stunt introduce something controversial into their songs or performance-yet always if things ever get out hand ones managers, publicity agentsetc are always there to deny any thing serious was meant-the whole thing is merely smoke and mirrors.For forty years or more this strange empty phenomenon has held the worlds successive generations in its grasp.It has been an enormously powerful force in diverting the intellects and potential of millions –indeed billions of individuals from clear focused important organized thinking along the lines of -what do I really want?-What am I really getting ? The concept of providing bread and circuses whether cruel spectacles,firebrand religion cheap drink or the myriad pleasures of modern times has always been a basic weapon in the capitalist armoury.Indeed one reason why most people ,certainly in the UK were trundling mindlessly along hurling abuse at Gordon Brown etc , was because they knew the real right was finished -it had no more arrows in its belt . A society where every night was street vomit night,where Jonathon Ross was entertainments king could not possibly sink any lower .The strange election that actually brought a fatherless bastard coalition into power came as a huge shock -one might say a wake up call..But where to wake up to? There is,one could ,a kind of achievement in producing a level of earned or benefit created prosperity that allows nightly vomiting yet is this all society can do after two thousand years? Dickens has been criticized for revealing the horrors of Victorian poverty yet not offering ideas for any bright future life-except for fewer working hours and weekend dancing.Even Engels writing on Victorian working conditions said that a healthy twelve year old could comfortably work ten hours a day in a cotton mill,providing he-or she could sit down. The fact is that all organized intelligent thought leads to socialism whatever Samuelson and other exponents of the free market jungle school of economics may think .And it is this ability to think in a focused organized way that the popular music of the last forty years has totally destroyed.Ultimately concepts of equality of natural egalitarianism will emerge and will prevail yet they will be the product of technological changes produced by the removal of work and the emergence of a benefit-prosperous workless society in which inequality is regarded as an unnatural and ridiculous entity. But those days are in the future and still do not suggest that constructive thought will play its part. Is the brain dead nerd here to stay? Surely it cannot be. It would indeed be strange if the second most significant event in two thousand years of human development was that summers day in the fifties when St John met St Paul in Englands green and pleasant land.”


There is then a reply from Edward Olivera:


“Could one imagine a world that was not taken in and compromised by the confidence men of Rock? I find it difficult to imagine. There was a time I should think when popular music and indeed popular culture kept its place (can I say that or is it too elitist?) as Larkin says between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP. People in general are horribly ignorant of music, and popular music has watered down any capacity for ideation or subtlety. Rock musicians — as the review points out with some sense of misplaced admiration — create things on the fly with little or no knowledge of language or musicianship. I once harbored the thought that Rock would eventually die a natural death (to be replaced by god knows what) but it’s gone through a series of mannerist death-throes and doesn’t seem to know its time is up. The message of Rock has always been idiotic, especially when it tries to be witty or profound. Auden dismissed them as semi-literates. But of course now we have even the critics taking this junk seriously (Alex Ross for instance) and bringing into discussions of 20th-century music the puerile efforts of Rock. Oh well.”