One of my resolutions for the New Year was to try and avoid nostalgia. I've since been debating with various friends what activity is allowed under this regime. First I was picked up on liking Fleet Foxes. Not a fair cop as I don't even like Neil Young or CSNY, though I do like weird folk music. Then perhaps revivals of plays should not be allowed. Did I only like the Fluxus show at Baltic mainly because the graphic style made me nostalgic, albeit for a time largely before I was born/conscious? Did all those lovely printed things actually make me nostalgic for the punk and post-punk that picked up on them? And so on.
So I've been buying new records, seeing new plays and looking for new things - or known people doing new things. (Last year's album from the revived Portishead, for instance, strikes me as an astonishing piece of work on any terms and definitely didn't make me yearn for the This Life years.) But then today I heard a report that's it's Motown's 50th birthday.
Although I was only born in 1964, and thereby can't really be nostalgic for Motown, the impulse is in there, alongside a love of many of the songs, and an appreciation of the change Motown made. It was the first black-owned company to cross over - previously black musicians had made music which crossed over, but for white employers. I've actually never felt the need to 'choose' between Motown and Stax, which many (mainly white, it seems) critics portray as more authentic - even though many of the key musicians were white - but I know the whole story is not rosy. But where ever you sit on Motown as expression of cultural identity or as employer, any number of fantastic, life-affirming songs came from a company that 'embedded' (as we bureaucrats like to say) black music in the mainstream like no other.
If you don't enjoy this excellent video of the Greatest Ever Robinson and his Miracles, odd dodgy note and all, please seek immediate help. (Oh dear, I can hear that final straw breaking some poor puritan camel's back somewhere...)