[Telegrams from the Street by Kim Davis: August 13, 2012]
I guess it's better than being erased from history simpliciter, but it still stings. I refer, of course, to the London Olympics closing ceremony, which shuttled British cultural history back and forth between the present, the 1980s, and the dawn of time (The Who), never stopping to consider what the country produced when my generation was coming of age.
Except Madness, those loveable pantomime horses.
Appropriate, indeed, that one of the high points was Freddie Mercury rousing the crowd on video. The best we could produce; but poor Freddie dead. As is John Lennon, of course, although that didn't spare us a bunch of children singing his ghastly, hypocritical, and far from pertinent anthem. "Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can..." Yes, John, I wonder.
Russell Brand. Liam Gallagher, but no Noel. Pink Floyd, but not Waters or Gilmore. David Bowie in photographs only. The Spice Girls safely confined. Desperate.
The corpse of a pop culture; which is to say nothing against the performers of today -- Tinie Tempah, Jessie J, Taio Cruz; mediocre, perhaps, but at least not embalmed.
So what was missing? Just as the history-based opening ceremony felt forced to elide the twin hinges on which Britain's entire self-understanding for the last century hangs -- the victories against Germany, and latterly Japan -- the pop music-focused closing rites skipped nimbly over any hints of negativism, resistance or difference.
Okay, I know we weren't going to get the re-formed Sex Pistols. Notwithstanding Australia's courage and honesty in giving Midnight Oil a world stage on which to perform "Beds Are Burning" at the Sydney Olympics, we weren't going to be treated to "God Save the Queen."
But The Specials, Elvis Costello, or even Paul Weller? Any of them might have turned out to be party poopers. "That's Entertainment." "A Town Called Malice." "Shipbuilding." Well, we had our brief few years in the spotlight. But the song I really wanted to hear, ringing out over a re-imagined, re-tooled East End?
Instead, I had to settle for the sax player from Madness doing the funny, baggy pants, flying act again. Maybe that's all we were ever doing.