Parker Burwell Toop credit Jak Kilby


At Last. The 1990s Show! Part One

Previously, analysis of rock and jazz has tended to be parsed by decades. The New Orleans and Chicago jazz of The Roaring Twenties; Swing orchestras of The Great Depression; Bebop in the sidewalk clubs of New York and Los Angeles in the Forties; Hard Bop on Blue Note in the Eisenhower Fifties (the imagined Eden of the MAGA ‘movement’?); Free Jazz in The Swinging Sixties; Jazz-Rock in the most ‘rockist’ of decades, the Seventies’ postmodern fracturing in the Thatcher/Reagan Eighties; the Ken Burns-isation of jazz and the emergence of Brit Pop in rock contributed to a backwards - looking (or, more fairly, a Janus-faced) culture from the Nineties onward, where ‘retromania’, or rather just plain good old-fashioned nostalgia, played an influence that shows no sign in lessening as yet. At present, however, music literature now appears to be favouring an approach based on specific years,rather than decades, a micro-approach which suits the avalanche of information that the internet encourages.

Some years have traditionally been valorised by critics of popular music - for example, the post-Elvis years with a suffix of 7 - 1967 (The Summer of Love), 1977 (The Summer of Hate), 1987 (The Second Summer of Love/Luv), Some writers have offered particular years as representing apogees of a genre- Garry Mulholland in his superior coffee-table encyclopaedia ‘’This is Uncool: the 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco’’ (2002) suggests 1979 as the annus mirabilis of these forms (a position that I agree with in many ways); YouTube has a video called ‘’1959: the Year That Changed Jazz’’, which pursues its argument through the study of’ Kind of Blue’, ‘Time Out’, ‘Mingus Oh Yeah’ and ‘Giant Steps’ (and is another proposition that I find compelling). 

A couple of venerable critics have produced books extolling the virtues of two years in particular from Rock’s ‘Golden Age’ (I would suggest that this period is book-ended by the years 1954 to 1980, or thereabouts) - Jon Savage put forward ‘’1966: The Year the Decade Exploded’’ in 2015 as his significant year, and former OGWT presenter and general ‘mouldy old rock fygge’ David Hepworth ( a co-founder of Mojo magazine, which says it all, really) bowled a googlie by suggesting, in 2016, that 1971 contained ‘’Never a Dull Moment’’. .As someone who was there at the time, I would respectfully but vehemently disagree with Hepworth’s sub-title (’’Many a Dull Moment’’ would be much more accurate), but would predict that his audacity may well motivate others to suggest unlikely dates as being ‘lost gems’  - there is a whole industry out there that promotes ‘undiscovered’ material, so why not extend this notion to undervalued years?

Second Part to follow

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