Monthly Archives: January 2012

The world turned upside down or a tale of two cities

Some curious worrying things I learnt in the Guardian today:

  • The proportion of stock owned in UK companies by individuals fell from 47% in 2008 to 10% in 2008
  • The percentage of stock in foreign hands rose from 7% to 42%

Yet I am convinced that if you asked a reasonably well informed person in the street what they thought had happened to ownership over that period, they would recall the heady days of ‘Sid’ and Thatcherite popular capitalism and believe that the opposite was the case with ‘the people’ now having a greater  stake in companies.

And further in this vein:

  • the share of national income captured by the top 0.1% rose from 1.3% in 1979 to 6.5% in 2007.

Again to many that might seem counter intuitive.

And even more curious, Giorgio Armani reported a rise in sales of 50% between 2010 and 2011 and Valentino’s couture sales rose by 80% over the same period.This decidedly robust upturn in the couture market while everywhere else the economy was plunging was nicely summed up by one of Armani’s people who said ‘Couture customers are better equipped to face economic uncertainty’.Indeed I’d go so far as to say they arent facing any uncertainty.

What are we to make of all this at a time when the Social Fund is being cut and the undeserving poor are lambasted by the Mail and such like for being the architects of their own personal downfall .While the PM berates the unemployed with fatuous talk of ‘going out and getting a job’.He clearly doesnt get north of the M40 very often.

What I do know is that we are a long way from Bedford Falls!

Some burning questions for 2012?

After a quiet break followed by a nasty bout of something that had me coughing my way through all too many nights, something like a New Year is starting to emerge, although for me any new year only starts with my birthday( which is testimony to my endless capacity for egotism I guess!)

A lighthearted start to 2012 with three questions that have been worrying me this year :

Firstly, why does nobody talk about Jefferson Airplane? This was prompted by a review of yet another book about the Doors whose influence has cast such a long shadow (think the Editors,the National etc and the provocative posing of all too many an indie band frontman!).There would be no Americana scene without the groundbreaking music of the Band, everybody wants to recapture the harmonies of Crosby Stills and Nash and the jangling guitar chord signature  of the Byrds  (stolen from  those stalwart Merseysiders the Searchers of course!) is ubiquitous.Every contemporary female singer song writer references Joni Mitchell while Dylan is still up there on his throne for many of the Sixties generation.

Lets us recall that in the mid sixties it was the Airplane that were most aligned with the counter culture of west coast America and particularly San Fran. For me, in spite of being very young back then, it was ‘White Rabbit’ that alerted me to the fact that something not quite ‘business as usual’ was being  put together on the streets of Haight- Ashbury.It was the Airplane that appeared to be the real representatives of  the anti war  movement and with songs like ‘Volunteers’  seemed more than most to embrace its remarkable if fleeting counter culture.

Sure their albums are still selling on Amazon and in places like Fopp for a respectable price which indicates that they are still seen as significant enough that new customers will buy at less than giveaway prices.But I never ever hear them spoken about, referred to, shown in TV documentaries etc.

Why might be ? Well they fell from grace (excuse the pun)  with their mid 70’s descent into something like maintsream pop (think of ‘we built this city’).Rather like Brahms, their primary sin may have been to go on for too long ,unlike most of their contemporaries, and have to deal (unsuccessfully maybe) with the loss of artistic relevance in middle age.

But I have another theory – name another significant, popular, influential rock band still selling albums at 8.99 that were fronted and led by a woman? (and take it from me Grace Slick was always a woman, never a girl!).Do I see a patriarchal conspiracy of  forgetting ?

Or maybe their music has just dated and their influence isnt obvious to the naked eye?

Second – and even more provocatively- why isnt Bruce Springsteen seen as a symbol/hunk by most women? (or have I got that wrong?).  Bruce sings about men to men, but then so did Jagger.He sings often sympathetically and with insight about relationships and the existential dilemmas of life much like any foppish singer songwriter has done from jackson browne onwards.Yet it would seem to me that he hasn’t won  the adoring female following that so many of those others have. Im sure Bruce cares not a jot for this and I dont have a pet theory this time so would welcome views.

Thirdly -and this will not come as a surprise to my friends – what is it with Mayo?! Where did it come from and why is it everywhere? Of course I have a real axe to grind since  I cannot eat products with raw eggs in  and hence the M&S sandwich counter is effectyively a no go area for me.But even those of you who profess to like the stuff must surely draw the line at cheese with mayo?! N0, for me the triumphant march  of mayo (from the dollop on the side of the plate with a salad to the essential bulking ingredient of every snack) is the very best example of how the market and its advertising power can create, shape and then meet a need that never before existed. And its such a dream result for the catering industry – a very cheap, very high fat cheap as chips agent that can dramatically cut the cost of any real sandwich .And you the public now want and demand it in your every lunchtime take away.Remind why you havent woken up to that and when will you start going back to real food?

There – three very different questions to kick off 2012.More serious and considered material is waiting in the wings….

PS there is a 4th question – why did the BBC bother with that outrageous production of Great Expectations this Christmas? As some wily critic wrote ‘ it was Dostoevsky not Dickens’. In their desire to say something ‘new’ they ended up saying nothing.Thank god the makers of Sherlock have had the good sense to keep faith with Conan Doyle.While watching it I could hear John Mills turning in his grave.