Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pop culture cartoon: Retromania

"I'm rehashing an old magazine piece about how popular culture keeps revisiting the past."

The idea for this cartoon, which is in the current Private Eye, came while reading an article by Simon Reynolds about his new book Retromania, which is about how 21st century pop culture is endlessly revisiting the past.

I really enjoyed Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again, a study of post-punk and new wave music, so I may well read the new one, but I can't help thinking that the argument is a little spurious. After all, the first music I really got into as a kid was 2-Tone, which was itself a revival of an earlier wave of ska.

So I started to think, "I've heard this argument more than a few times before", which sparked the idea for the cartoon. The cartoon doesn't refer to Reynolds, and that's not supposed to be him, as it's more about the way newspapers and magazines are just as happy to revisit past glories.

Click here to buy Royston's cartoon book


  1. AnonymousJune 29, 2011

    I think Reynolds is off the mark with Retromania. If the internet had been as ubiquitous in 1963 as it is today, people would've laughed at The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and called them Chuck Berry/Motown/Smokey Robinson copyists. They wouldn't have been taken so seriously if it had been easier for people to trace their musical influences and discredit their ingenuity.

    To put my forepenneth in, I guess what happened in the 60s was people took eclectic musical influences (i.e. blues or R&B, which people didn't have mass access to at the time) and made it popular to a wider audience than their forebears. What this did extends to introducing Indian music etc with Sgt Pepper and diversifying musically, but each supposed 'innovation' was only done to make rarified musical styles popular to a mass audience.

    Subsequently, we're now living in an age where the very act of doing that - taking a rare style and making it popular - is like a snake eating itself because the more aware people become about music the more difficult it is to maintain that level of experimentalism. Once a rare style has been popularized, you can't revisit it, because it's already been done, and anyone who does try to cover old ground gets laughed at for being 'unoriginal.'

    Put it this way, when the Rolling Stones aped Robert Johnson, it was deemed OK, because hardly anyone had ever heard of him. But when a modern indie band apes the Rolling Stones, critics bash them, because everybody's heard of the Stones. I don't think retrospection is necessarily a bad thing though. It just broadens the palate of pop music so that everything's fair game. Sorry for the rant, but it's an interesting topic!

  2. It certainly is and thanks for the input, Luke! Lots of food for thought there. You make a good point about the Beatles aping earlier styles but I think they key thing is that they used it as a jumping-off point. Eventually they produced stuff that was uniquely theirs. That's what all acts need to do or they will be just retro copyists.

  3. Be honest, Royston. This cartoon is just a re-hash of one you made years ago.

  4. No, you're thinking of the one I posted today! ...



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