I love nostalgia. There’s nothing better than taking a few quiet moments to rifle through some memories and recall some good times. Bill Drummond hates nostalgia. He hates it so much he’s decided not to listen to any more recorded music because it makes him wallow in his youth, or something. It seems to be a general dislike of the likes Mojo and its ilk’s canonisation of the past coupled with some Year-Zero “recorded music is dead” rhetoric and a some situationist-style pranking involving 17-piece McDonald’s choirs. Anyway, he’s written a book about it.
I’m always suspicious of anti-nostalgia sentiment. It seems to me people who don’t like nostalgia are scared of it because it’s irrational and reminds us that we’re actually a bunch of illogical slightly-sophisticated apes who can’t help bursting into tears whenever Strawberry Fields comes on.
And can people stop saying recorded music is dead. It‘s not. People are buying less music beacuse they can get it for free.
The best art always evokes something. Nostalgia and memory are a powerful part of that, and they can be inspiring. Below is an excerpt from Leg McNeil’s and Gillian McCain’s excellent history of US Punk, Please Kill Me. Jerry Nolan (New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers) is talking about the time he saw Elvis in the 50s. It pretty much encapsulates everything I feel about nostalgia:
“Elvis was wearing a white jacket, black, baggy peg-leg pants with a pleat – white inside with a little white stitching. He had two-tone shoes on, white on the top, black on the sides, rock & roll shoes. I think he had on a silver lamé short-sleeved shirt. And he wore his belt buckle, a skinny little belt, on the side, to be cool.
I was pretty excited. Everyone was carried away. I had never seen anyone put on a show like that. I was almost embarrassed. It was just shocking. I was even more interested in my sister. She was screaming and jumping around. I was amazed she was doing this.
At one moment, Elvis threw himself on his back, sort of doing the splits, with one leg pointed right at me. I could see that his shoes were worn out. Maybe they were just his favorites and he didn’t want to quit wearing them. But I also had a tinge of pity, thinking maybe he was poor. But I dug it. I thought he looked like a real street kid from Williamsburg.
That show, even at ten years old, really changed my life. I was overwhelmed by Elvis. I was overwhelmed by the musicians. I could feel the playing. But most of all, I remember two things from that show: my sister completely losing her cool, and the hole in Elvis’s shoe.”
Put it this way – what would you rather do: go to a barbecue and watch the sun go down with a cold beer in your hand and Born To Run on the stereo, or a book burning?