Saturday 16 January 2021

The Saturday List #292 - Ten cultural moments that redefined the UK

 I have a confession to make. I meant to publish this list last week, but I bumped it back a week because I wanted to tie in my nasty people list with The Serpent, while it was still fresh in the mind. Todays list is what I consider to be the moments that changed the UK from a prim and proper society, where curtains twitched and Vicars having affairs was front page news into what it is today - irreverent, open, tolerant and inclusive. 

I am sure that the likes of Peter Hitchens will find this list abhorrent, for me it is what has defined us. 

1. 1967 - Mick Jagger being interviewed by William Rees-Mogg for World in Action. This was the moment when the old norms started to crumble. Jagger had been jailed for drug offences. William Rees-Mogg was the influential editor of the Times. He saw the injustice. The program had a massive impact. It was a clear signal that the old order was coming to an end.

2. 1972 - Bowie and Mick Ronson on TOTP. Bowie puts his arm around Ronson. Ten million parents recoiled in disgust. Ten million teenagers decided that Bowie was the coolest man on the planet. This moment was the moment when being flamboyant and having suggestions of same sex attraction went mainstream. Without this we would not have the high camp of Strictly. 

3. 1975  - The Naked Civil Servant. John Hurt's portrayal of Quentin Crisp. To the best of my knowledge, the first sympathetic portrayal of an openly gay man. My parents were fascinated and insisted we watch it. In truth, at the time I felt uncomfortable. It turned out that all my friends families also watched it. As you can imagine, being at an Irish Catholic school in 1975, this was not with sympathy, but my parents instilled in me that you had to understand what an interesting story it was and that there was a lot of unfair discrimination. Years later I discussed it with my Dad. He simply said that during the war, he'd learned that you judged people by how good they were at their job, not what they did in their bedroom or where they came from. I wish I'd asked more.

4. 1976 - The Sex Pistols on Today with  Bill Grundy. I can remember watching this. I was still at FCHS at the time. I'd never seen anything like it before. It was like me and my mates from class 4B had been given a slot on Prime Time telly and been given carte blanche to misbehave. I knew nothing about The Pistols at the time. I wasn't interested in music, but this was hilarious. It was absolutely shocking to hear swearing on prime time telly. My mum didn't like Bill Grundy and she was shocked by Grundy asking to see Souixsie after the show. She thought Steve Jones was quite right to call Grundy a dirty old man, although disapproving of the language. It made a whole generation realise that the likes of Grundy did not deserve the respect show. It was the moment that Punk introduced itself to the world. Until then it had been a very niche movement. We wouldn't have Gordon Ramsey F'ing and blinding on TV if it wasn't for this

5. 1977 - Roots. The story of how Alex Hayley uncovered the horror of his ancestors mistreatment as Slaves. This was the first time I could recall seeing a program exposing the rotten underbelly of the USA. Everyone talked about it and many, for the first time, realised that African Americans had been victims of huge injustice

6. 1982 - Culture club on TOTP - Do you really want to hurt me.  When Boy George appeared there was widespread confusion. Was he a boy or a girl? He put the issue of gender politics in the national gaze. It seems incredible to recall the outrage of some at the time. George and the gang weren't too bothered. The single was a global smash hit. A whole gang of copyists sprung up, most of whom couldn't sing. That was George's USP. But after that, it would never be shocking to see someone with a non defined gender identity on TV

7. 1987 - Michael Fish announces that "there will be no hurricane". We all know what came next. This was the moment when many of us realised that maybe the BBC wasn't quite as trustworthy as we thought. If a national treasure such as Michael Fish could get it so wrong, then what could we believe.

8 1997 - Tony Blair announces Princess Diana's death. Blair had only recently been elected. He looks so young and his voice seemed rather posher than I remember. This was the first time a PM had really hammed it up for the cameras. This was the moment that politics went populist in the UK.

9. 2002 - Pop Idol. This was the moment that the music industry changed forever. As a studio owner, I was unprepared for the Tsunami that this unleashed. Pre Pop Idol, people joined bands, rehearsed, got gigs, did recordings, looked for deals. All of a sudden the way to stardom was simply to get on a TV Talent show. It normalised singers singing to backing tracks. It set loose a whole generation of singers that hadn't done the hard graft on the circuit. The sea change away from bands started here. With streaming and downloads, the old way of doing it with expensively recorded albums and careers built over a period of years ended.

10. 2016 - The Death of Bowie. I think that for many of us, this was the moment we truly grew up. Peter Pan had passed. To be quite honest, it's all been rather grim since then. Sadly his last release was Lazarus, but Bowie was not raised.

Have a great weekend!

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