When pop mattered

 

Sir, – One of the challenges of middle age is when people who weren’t even born during a particular era start explaining it for you! It’s hard to disagree with Houman Barekat’s central point in his thoughtful article “How music stopped meaning everything” (The Ticket, September 8th) – namely that the period from circa Elvis to the turn of the century was an era during which pop music mattered. However, it’s easy to disagree with the idea that the greater creativity and intensity of that era invariably were fuelled by material wealth and “near-full employment”. A valid point when applied to the Woodstock generation, perhaps. But the idea that the punk and new wave bands that resonated with me – primarily working-class kids from places like Derry (Undertones) and Manchester (Joy Division, The Fall) – were cultural byproducts of affluence is difficult to sustain. There was little for them to “drop out” of. Remember, this was a time when Britain was on a three -day week, the rubbish was piling up in the streets, the IMF was bailing the place out, the North was falling apart in the Troubles and Border areas like Strabane regularly had the highest unemployment rate in Europe.

The article’s upbeat conclusion is equally questionable: “The digital revolution may well have diluted the dissident power of pop, but it has also revitalised the broader counterculture in myriad ways, and we are better off for it.”

Revitalised? What “myriad ways”, exactly? What “counterculture“? Selfies? The new European fascists? The ending of the liberal era? Facebook’s atomised narcissism? The malleable echo-chamber naivety of the post-factual politics that facilitates Trump and Brexit?

“Better off”, my foot. – Yours, etc,

SEÁN MacCANN,

Trillick, Co Tyrone.