A little while ago I sent my Great Unpublished Novel to a young agent, who I imagined might be hungry enough to take it on. I told him it was a contemporary piece, set in the late 1990s. ‘Well, is it contemporary or is set in the ’90s?’ the young Turk replied. And so it had become an historical piece set in the late 1990s.
I was reminded of this (but kept my mouth shut) at the Manchester Passion: the crucifixion set to contemporary Manchester music from the 1980s and early ’90s.
And this is the theme of a wake-up call article from Lianne Steinberg and Matt Baker in this week’s Big Issue in the North (not online so buy it). They’re not the first to complain, but Manchester’s creative fallow period has been going on a little too long. Madchester is ever more distant, they say, but the Madchester establishment is now the establishment and is taking us all on a never ending nostalgia trip.
And they have a point. I remember Tony Wilson telling us not to mourn the Hacienda, because Manchester would put something better in its place (we’re talking culture, not bricks and mortar). He now draws fire for an XFM Manchester show that, ‘has seen him chew the MOR fat with none other than Simply Red manager Elliot Rashman, Bruce Mitchell, the drummer from the Duritti Column and Shaun Ryder’.
Yet their critique is as predictable as it is self-evident. The people clamouring for the new are just like me. We’re the wrong side of thirty (okay, of 35) and we’ve got youth culture sussed. It’s just like ten years ago when parents braced themselves for their kids’ inevitable revolt: ‘bring it on,’ they said. ‘You won’t shock us’. The kids went for Boyzone, followed up with Westlife and trendy dad was as shocked as can be. Now we want them to create. But the kids are revolting; by rehashing old tunes.
This youth culture thing’s subversive, don’t you know. We’re lumbered with the karaoke generation and don’t we just hate it.