Funny old thing, nostalgia…
Like a lot of people, last weekend, I was at Glastonbury. Yes, I’m sure you’re sick to the back teeth of hearing about it. Hell, I am, and I was there.
There’s a point to this post, rather than shamelessly sticking it to those who weren’t there. Chiefly, this; it was the first time in my life that a band (that I can actually remember, and know most of their music) that formed a major part of a musical movement, were reformed. I remember both incarnations.
It’s not like the Smashing Pumpkins reforming. In truth, I was too young to properly remember the early Pumpkins – i’d have been about 6 when they first started making music.
No, Blur reforming and headlining on the Sunday was an odd experience for me. I was always more of an Oasis fan (they have two cracking albums, whereas, in my eyes, Blur have none, though they are a great singles band), and in all honesty, was keen to see Blur, but just as excited to have seen the Dead Weather earlier in the weekend, as well as Neil Young (who was the unquestioned highlight of the weekend for me).
And, looking back as the week went on, I failed to understand just what it was that led to such a mass outpouring of nostalgia for Blur. I mean, they’ve only not been recording for 6 years. Add to that Damon Albarn’s faux emotion at Glastonbury; I thought it smacked of a cash in.
I could fully understand the Neil Young fans cheering wildly when he played stuff from Harvest. I mean, imagine finally seeing your hero at Glasto (he’d never played there in his 40+ year career) playing songs from his most successful album. Absolutely brilliant.
But then, I thought about it some more. Do I think that because I wasn’t around then? Do my incredibly rose-tinted notions about the 60’s and 70’s entirely colour my beliefs about Neil Young?
I reckon they do. I lived through Britpop, and to me, Blur were a good band. But then, so were the Bluetones and Supergrass, and they weren’t still headlining (though not having split up probably has a large part to do with it) Glastonbury. They also weren’t seen to have begun the movement, as Blur were.
But my memories remain – Britpop, for me, doesn’t really feature Blur. It’s all about Oasis, about Definitely Maybe, about playing and watching football, about What’s The Story and knowing all the words to do, about discovering the Stone Roses after, about knowing the day it died (somewhere between Urban Hymns and the Spice Girls, in truth). I dislike what’s been seem to be a reframing of a musical movement that I was a part of. Hell, I base getting old on whether people I talk to can remember What’s The Story. If they were born late 80s or early 90s, they probably don’t, and fuck me, does that make me feel like i’m getting old.
Interestingly though (especially given the ranty nature of the previous post), when you look at the etymology of the word nostalgia, it comes from the combination of two Greek words (nostos a return home and algios pain). It’s not necessarily a particularly positive thing.
Listening to Blur DID bring on feelings of nostalgia for me – for what i’ve just outlined. And (God, I KNEW a smattering of Godin-like tendencies would creep in…sorry) it also made me think about the heavy reliance a lot of brands have on nostalgia.
Why would you willingly induce nostalgia if it can provoke such sadness? I know sadness can sell, but God, it’s not a long term position. Memories get fuzzy, worn and replaced (I’m sure in ten or twenty years time, I’ll believe Blur were one of the better Britpop bands). So then can the point of certain brands, unless they keep providing me with new experiences to show how they fit into my life now.
Blur stopped being relevant to me after 1997. And so did a lot of brands.