So continuing on from my Nick Kent, Brian Wilson and a plastic Les Paul post I want to ask what are the qualities that my favourite popular culture products have had authored into them down through the glory years of western consumerist culture; the qualities that make the best music, moving image and literature so emotionally compelling, memorable and breathtaking?
The reason for this cultural enquiry? To discover some methodologies for investing newer popular culture media forms with some of that same magical juice. And so we can start to see projects rise up from the mass market mediocre middle ground – rising above anything we have ever really experienced before – let’s take some breath away and up the game!
So many of the newer entertainment forms: ARG’s, games, interactive social and transmedia products suffer: from being genre based / over intellectualised / nothing more than low grade interactive TV repurposing / just plain crappy!
I have been ruminating on this theme and for a while it looked like music could be the only form of existing media product I would really make sense of with this line of enquiry. Music has such a strong emotional recall for me, it gives me such massive emotional energy; a resonance with my inner thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes I hear a song after twenty or thirty years and I instantly remember what I used to feel when I listened to it all that time ago. Often the lyrics are still hard-wired in my brain and I can sing along instantly. Songs from my childhood bring me vivid recollections and the most positive feelings I can remember from being a child.
This brings me back to the Beatles and Beach Boys. I didn’t experience either act at the time they were releasing. The Beach Boys I never had a love of as a kid, I got into ‘Pet Sounds‘ about 10 years ago (and it blew me away) but the Beatles were our family obsession. I loved listening to their records, singing their songs and I really liked the fact there were lots of other Beatles experiences: the record sleeves, the films and the personalities being projected.
I used to pore/paw over the red and blue albums – the photos of young and old, the consistent vertical horizon, the interaction between the team. The Beatles were a whole experience and their output was consistently shot through with positivity, intelligence and a simplicity that I totally engaged with. And of course tunes you couldn’t stop singing.
In the Nick Kent book, Brian Wilson says: (and I misquote as the detail of this is unimportant): he wanted to make music that made the listener feel special or loved. When I listen again to Pet Sounds and some of their other best songs I see that he really made his product work on that level – I challenge anyone to sit watching a September sunset listening to “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” and not feel moved – even special or loved.
All members of the Beatles were (mis-)quoted similarly about their incredible body of work – they were proudest that all their output was about love.
So this gets me thinking – could it be love that makes a thing special? It can definitely work as a theme but whereas a pop song works very well as a love thing most new media products don’t work the same way. But attention to detail and artistic investment in creative output never goes out of style. A special thing is a special thing!
I’m also thinking that at this critical time in the trajectory of western culture going down the toilet that a revolutionary political edge should be applied to the best new interactive transmedia work. I’ve not seen anything out there yet but the very idea gets my juices flowing…
More soon when I get chance to think this through – – TBC!
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