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By their internet lists shall you know them

John Rentoul, who is better known as a craven apologist for Blairism, has been plugging, this weekend, his list of over-rated sixties bands, first published in 2013.

Like John’s politics, his understanding of music is shallow, vapid and tedious.

At a deeper level though, he just doesn’t get it. People consume music, not because of what the critics say about bands in the weekly papers, but despite it. Music is made by the people who create it, not the people who claim the credit for it.

Three of the bands in John’s top ten were phenomenally successful, and featured, at key moments, members of the LA body of musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, or the Clique. I’ve written about these guys before, here. John Rentoul doesn’t get it. One third of the bands he hates were actually defined by the work of the same people, playing in studios for a paycheque, not fame or a name on a record label

Of course, for some consumers of music, the idea that these were genius musicians bashing out songs for pay cheques somehow diminishes popular music. It doesn’t for me. Music is a good we consume, like many others, and the labourer is worthy of his pay. The Wrecking Crew, who accidentally make up a large part of John’s list, were great musicians turning out product, like the skilled toolmakers who built the Austin Allegro, doing the best with someone else’s designs. Singling out the worst ten bands of the sixties pop industry (with no better base than ‘because my friends don’t like them’) is like criticizing the skills of car workers because someone asked them to  make the wrong types of cars, which pretty much sums up British Leyland in the sixties and the seventies. Ask a skilled worker to make a square steering wheel, and he will; if he doesn’t ask why, blame your corporate cuture, not the worker.

For the women and men who were, some days, the Monkees, or the Carpenters, or the Archies, or the Beach Boys, songs had no more significance than another session, another pay cheque. Did Larry Knechtel know when he sat down to play piano on Bridge Over Troubled Waters that he would echo around the world? Or was it just another earner?

John Rentoul’s list is an example of the commentariat at its worst; John and his friends telling the rest of us what is good, or bad, or in or out. There’s no thought, no thinking, just a series of glib responses, culled from Twitter and the dinner table thoughts of John and his friends.

By their shallow, vapid, ill-informed lists, shall you know them.Next time John Rentoul tells you what matters about Jeremy Corbyn, think about his list of sixties bands, and remember that all surface, no substance, is how he earns his paycheque.


One comment on “By their internet lists shall you know them

  1. rare deeds
    November 4, 2015

    I make you largely right about the invariably wrong Rentoul. It is a source of constant surprise & despondency to me that he should have done academic work in the area of Post-Structuralism prior to donning his journalistic garb – but then, Nigel Thrift was a quasi-Deleuzean geographer before ascending to the throne at Warwick.

    Anyway – the sheer pointlessness of this top 10 only goes to prove that he is capable of plumbing more desperate depths than he does in his weekly Indy column. And that is understanding of music is even less well founded than his understanding of politics.


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This entry was posted on October 31, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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