Saturday, May 10, 2008

we all want to change the world

Joe Boyd, Robin Denselow, Sukhdev Sandhu @ Royal Festival Hall, 9th May.

There's an extensive programme of events in London at the moment to commemorate the various political upheavals of May 1968 in France, the US, Czechoslovakia, Mexico and even the little old UK.

Tonight's event discusses the part music played in these different political contexts. There are plenty of examples of the extent to which this was the case: at the height of the Vietnam War Hendrix imitates gunfire in his Woodstock rendition of the "Star Splangled Banner"; there is a burgeoning radical arts movement in Prague, sadly soon to be quashed by Soviet tanks; music plays an important part in the US civil rights movement, in 1968 at crisis point after the assassination of Martin Luther King; Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil are main movers in the Tropicalia movement in Brazil; the Rolling Stones release of "Street Fighting Man" coincides with violent Anti-Vietnam demonstrations in London.

Joe Boyd, the main contributor tonight, is convinced that music has lost its political power, claiming that nowadays any new musical genre which sets out to shock and subvert is soon appropriated by the media, becomes a "brand" and often even acquires a commercial sponsor. Interestingly one audience member recalls the Laurie Anderson gig a week ago where several people walked out supposedly objecting to Anderson's anti-American stance. Maybe there is still a place for politics in music, and vice versa...

Read more:
- A chronology of the main events of the year
- A review of Joe Boyd's book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s
- Peter Wilby writes in this week's New Statesman
- "Revolution 1968: politics and culture united" (Socialist Worker)
- "Year the music died" (David Aaronovitch, Observer)

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