Monday, July 13, 2009

And It Makes Me Wonder - How Does It Affect You Blokes?

An Spailpín Fánach has been rather shaken all week by those pictures in the papers of Robert Plant receiving his CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from His Royal Highness Prince Charles of England last week. Robert Plant is the lead singer of what was once the heaviest, meanest, most badly behaved band in the world, and now he’s hob-knobbing with royalty. He has received the ultimate endorsement from the establishment.

The bizarre thing is that Plant now is exactly who he was thirty-five years ago when Led Zeppelin were at their height, although he might now, after Leonard Cohen, ache in the places where he used to play. It’s the establishment that has sold out.

Daniel Finkelstein was attempting to explain the bizarre reaction to the death of Michael Jackson in the London Times last week, and he concluded that this is who we are now. That there is no such thing as a generation gap repeating every generation – that there was only ever one generation gap, between the generation that had fought in World War II and the generation that grew up in the ‘sixties, and the ‘sixties generation has won completely.

The values of the ‘sixties generation – peace, love and understanding, but maybe a little woolly on the details - are now the dominant values in society. Hence the bizarre attempt to portray Jackson, a man born black but who died white – insofar as he was recognisably human by the end at all, God love him – as a civil rights hero.

And the more you think about it, the more correct you realise Finkelstein is. AC/DC challenged Led Zeppelin’s reputation as the baddest rock band on the planet for a while in the ‘seventies, not least when the late Bon Scott was their lead singer, but was it Hell’s Angels and ne’er-do-wells that were in Punchestown last week rocking to Whole Lotta Rosie, or was it bankers, accountants, solicitors and other shining lights of the petit bourgeois?

As a hint, Hell’s Angels would have brought their own bikes, and not be standing around, looking at their watches, wondering why the 12.40 bus was ten minutes late and remarking that it wasn’t good enough and a stern letter would be written to the Irish Times in the morning. Rock and roll is now the music parents play to scare their children.

An Spailpín Fánach has his doubts about the viability of the culture that has Led Zeppelin as the ne plus ultra of music, but the Brown government over the water is relentless in its attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator – due in part, one fears, to its inability to appeal to anyone else. When Elizabeth II was crowned the music featured Vaughan Williams and Sir William Walton, but Prince Charles’ first wife was waked to the strains of Elton John. Is Robert Plant - or Sir Robert, who knows - going to give Ramble On a run-through when they finally give Charles the key to the car?

I quite enjoy Led Zeppelin myself, of course, but it’s no harm to keep them in perspective. Which Rolf Harris does so devastatingly this clip. Take it away, sport:

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