a short site about The Divine Comedy

Neil Hannon Of The Divine Comedy

How music now is no worse than it ever was…

Today I would like to have a big rant about all those silly people who say that today’s music scene is rubbish while everything old was great. I’m not going to start listing all my favourite contemporary bands because a) that’s just a matter of personal opinion and b) it’s not really what I’m talking about anyway.

What I’m interested in is the percentage of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ music - which in my view has not changed since the idea of pop music was born. You can say what you like about such contemporary luminaries as Steps or Ricky Martin (and I often do), but you can trace a direct route from their modern irrelevancies all the way back to the 60s.

Ah, the 60s - that mythical decade with its plethora of amazing bands and revolutionary music.

So many of today’s artists and journalists seem to want it to be the 60s again, or the 70s - or the 80s, if they’re super cool. What these people conveniently forget is that the hit parades of the 60s were clogged with just as much superfluous tripe as those of today. Here, again, I must heroically resist the temptation to start reeling off the names of these acts. The whole point is that they are unmemorable. That is their role.

When constructing the epic first album Spice, those clever folks behind the Spice Girls were not trying to make a lasting musical experience. They were merely creating a product that fufills all the criteria of that sort of record. They had to push all the right buttons with the singles and grub together enough fillers to get it in the shops. It was never designed to be a long-term record. It had to sell buckets in a short period of time and it did.

Now I’m not defending that way of working - in fact, I find it abhorrent. All I’m saying is that it’s not a 90s phenomenon. Look at the Osmonds. Look at Phil Spector’s packaged proteges - as long as there have been kids there have been acts designed to rip them off.

So, everybody - just calm down and stop complaining. If you really can’t find the music you think you want to hear in today’s vast record emporiums, then simply borrow a guitar and make your own. Believe me, it’s not half as difficult as us rock’n’rollers like to make out.

And the next time you’re watching Top of the Pops and you spend the whole programme sighing, tutting and boring your friends with your thoughts on the top ten and what it says about the great British public’s appetite for shite, just remember: Jonathan King was once a famous pop star. I rest my case.

The Divine Comedy’s new single, The Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count, is out on Monday.


Neil Hannon
The Guardian 06/08/1999