The Seven Ages Of Rock – Episode Five

I’ve not mentioned this series for a few weeks. The last three episodes have exhibited the now familiar mixture of the trite and the hyperbolic, combined with some decent footage. The punk one was basically the ‘Jon Savage Authorised Version’ which has become the standard text for punk rock history. The metal one was pretty grim. After Sabbath and Purple were dealt with, far too much time was spent on Judas Priest and Motley Crue – both utterly vacuous bands without any merit whatsoever. How you could cover metal without a single mention of AC/DC, not only one of the best hard rock bands ever, but without a doubt the biggest, is beyond me. Back In Black has sold 19 million copies worldwide, making it one of the ten biggest albums in history (one source has its sales at a staggering 42 million, second behind Thriller – have a look here). Not to mention Motorhead. The series is ridiculously Anglocentric. The punk one was billed as a tale of two cities, and yet the more adventurous and interesting New York scene was confined to a bit on the Ramones and Richard Hell. If American rock has been given short shrift, the rest of the globe has been ignored completely. I’ve been accused of being anti-American in my time, but I’m not so blinkered as to dismiss its culture. Rock, like jazz, is a predominantly American form. It’s something we Brits do well at times, but usually by putting our own slant on something we’ve imported from them. The Seven Ages Of Rock seems to claim the opposite, which is just stupid.

Part five covered Stadium Rock. Oddly enough, it was one of the better episodes in terms of structure and narrative. With the honourable exceptions of Springsteen and Zeppelin, it was utterly horrible musically and aesthetically. Journalist Andrew Marr has a current series on the BBC covering the history of post-war Britain. This week he also covered the eighties. I lived through that period in my late teens / early twenties. I’d forgotten how truly depressing the politics, the culture, the fashion and the music really were then. Everything was big, flash and empty. The two shows together portrayed a country dominated by greed and excess. Blair might be a liar, a warmonger, a lickspittle to Bush, and an increasingly authoritarian presence at home, but he ain’t Thatcher. Coldplay might be big, hollow, self-important and tedious, but they ain’t Queen. Sometimes we should truly be thankful for small mercies!

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