# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - March 2014

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 23 / 2 / 2014

Miscellaneous - March 2014


After David Bowie's outspoken comments at the The Brits in February, Ben Howarth in 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' asks why so few bands or other musicians have failed to engage in the Scottish Independence debate

Having seen their 2013 ceremony roundly panned, the BPI promised to put a bit more effort into this year's Brit Awards. They will, therefore, have been delighted that their choice for 'Best British Male' was trailed as a lead item on Radio 4's Today Programme the next morning. And even more delighted to find that said male had managed to whip up a minor controversy. In his acceptance statement (with Bowie staying at home, it was delivered, inexplicably, by famous drug-user Kate Moss), David Bowie did something the Brit awards hadn't witnessed since Chumbawumba chucked water over John Prescott in 1998. He waded into a political debate. “Scotland, stay with us,” he said. Short – but simple. In case you've not been following the campaign for Scottish Independence, a referendum will be held this year on whether Scotland should sever its formal ties to the rest of the United Kingdom and become an independent country. Independence has always been the ideological goal of the Scottish National Party, whose leader Alex Salmond has been Scotland's First Minister since a surprise election victory in 2007. Polls suggest it might be a close-run thing. 'Yes' campaigners might feel reasonably entitled to ask which “us” Bowie is referring to. Such is Bowie's commitment to his native land, that he didn't feel the need to come to Britain to collect his award. His remains in permanent exile in New York – a Brit by birth, but not by residence. His comments were roundly attacked by SNP supporters on Twitter, and by their leaders in Holyrood. But, in secret, Alex Salmond might be rather pleased by Bowie's intervention. You see, the debate over Scottish independence has failed to really heat up. Salmond has desperately tried to get things going by baiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has refused to join Salmond in a face-to-face political debate. Cameron – perfectly aware that his plum voice and right-wing politics go down badly north of the Scottish border – has studiously avoided becoming a lightning rod for discontent. Scotland has had its own Parliament for nearly fifteen years now – distancing it politically from England and removing any sense that it was England's little brother. In fact, many of us south of the border look on rather longily as Scotland calmly gets on building a green economy and a modern manufacturing industry. This has rather dampened the political ire of the current generation of Scottish rockers. Were the vote taking place in the early 80s, you sense no musician would get through an 'NME' interview without being expected to give an informed – and inflammatory – opinion on the matter. When a group of Scottish bands were asked their opinions recently, “Don't Know” was the overwhelming winner. Compare this to Spain, where the 'Basque Radical Rock' explosion of the 1980s still has a strong influence on a modern generation of bands. Basque musicians may have broadened their ears to music from the rest of the world, but a distinct Basque identity lingers on in their music. Meanwhile, Barcelona football fans chant 'Independencia' at 17.14 on match days, lamenting the year the Spanish army defeated the Catalans. Just as Scottish football fans appear to have watered down their hatred for the English game (indeed, many Celtic and Rangers fans openly pine to join the English Premier League), so too do bands seem reluctant to be associated with either side of the independence divide. Even the minority with a strong opinion seem reluctant to let that affect how their music is perceived. Part of the problem is that the independence campaign is being fought on pragmatic grounds. People are wondering what exactly would happen to their standard of living. Deep down, Salmond must know that he would have a better chance if he could whip up a decent anti-English sentiment. In this, his own damned competence is letting him down. “We've got a better social care system than you,” while true, is unlikely to strike up the latent patriotism of Scotland's youth. And this is what worries me most about the failure of Scotland's music scene to engage in the Independence debate. If we can't rely on rock bands for outspoken opinions and strident statements of intent, then what exactly are they for? Many of the musicians surveyed for the poll I mentioned earlier even said they were waiting to see how the country as a whole went. Shouldn't these tastemakers and cultural adventurers be the ones forming public opinion, not following it? I's hard not to see the self-confidence that leads Morrissey and John Lydon to say so many ridiculous things about politics as indelibly linked to the confidence that allowed them to write so many remarkable songs. It's sad that such a pivotal part of Scottish history (whatever the outcome) will pass with only one contemporary musician - a long emigrated Englishman of pension age - having anything at all to say about it. But there is still time.

Also In Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll

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