Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pop Britannia

According to Episode Three of BBC4’s Pop Britannia, which I managed to endure most of last night, it was the glamour of Adam Ant and Visage’s Fade to Grey that heralded the arrival of the New Wave scene of the early 1980s.

Perhaps producer Ben Whalley failed to notice that prior to Adam and the Ants’ first chart hit in 1980 and Fade to Grey reaching top-ten status the following year, a whole raft of talent had already laid claim to the post punk scene, although the likes of Depeche Mode, Japan, Ultravox, The Associates and Simple Minds failed to get a mention.

Instead, we got the same weary and well-worn checklist of received wisdom, which this programme acted to reinforce. It went something like this: Glam rock. Check. Rick Wakeman is rubbish. Check. Sex Pistols. Check. Duran Duran on a boat. Check. Frankie gets banned. Check, etc.

Even when trumpeting the ‘British Invasion of America’ in the early 1980s, Soft Cell’s Tainted Love – which topped the charts in 17 countries and stayed in the US charts for a record breaking 43 weeks – was nowhere to be seen. Gary Numan, who was a couple of years ahead of Visage, with Are Friends Electric and Cars – was also absent.

Suddenly, we were transported to the mid-eighties, but we got Mel and Kim instead of The Smiths and The Cure. I managed to switch over, while Thatcher’s poster-boy, Pete Waterman was in mid-flow and before the clich├ęd Blur vs. Oasis Brit-Pop snooze-a-thon appeared.

Speaking of the series, Whalley said: “The BBC, due to its unique position, is perhaps one of the few places in the world that can attempt to create content of this scope.”

This roughly translates as: “We’ve got all the footage and we can string it together any way we please, to make another facile, dumbed-down clip show to go out on Friday night.”