A New English Renaissance

It is over 40 years since The Beatles worked together. Others, who made what I think are significant contributions to English music of the 60's and 70's have also, mostly long gone. David Bowie, Roxy Music, ABBA, Jethro Tull, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, Steve Winwood, Family, The Pretty Things, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes, to name but a few as they say, no longer produce anything of real interest, and those who are still around, quite reasonably prefer to mine their rich back catalogues. I am not talking about Rock and Roll here, or Blues, for that matter, for they are eternal. John Mayall is the same as he ever was, and Clapton and Jimmy Page and the rest still worship at his feet. It's the same with rock. Rock is rock, and it transcends time and circumstance.
But there were strands of the English Renaissance; there was Folk, which was revived due to the tenacity of people like Martin Carthy, and popularised by Richard Thompson and all those musicians who floated in and out of the bands that collectively got known as Folk Rock. Film was full of talent and depth. To see "The Servant", for example, with talent such as Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter, and a score by Johnny Dankworth, was to witness the blooming of intelligent film, unfettered by the needs of commerciality, but also inventive and watchable.
But what popular music of the 60's did was to revive the Englishness of things - so much so that the Americans were affecting English accents and trying to sound like us and everyone wanted to be in London. Even Poets had number one hits in the charts. David Hockney and Peter Blake and all those trendy snappers like Terence Donovan and David Baily were shaping an era and making sure we had a visual reference to remember it by.

Let's cut to today. Our art is anti-art. Our music is derivative. Our cultural and theatrical output is moribund. no British films are being made, other than those financed by America. Our theatre musicals are dire and produced for popular consumption. When was the last time you were able to spot a Playwright's name near the top of the bill? As for light entertainment, I cannot imagine any of today's stuff being repeated in 40 years time, like Morcambe and Wise is. Popular culture is not immune from the decline; Sean Connery was outfitted by Turnbull and Asser and Anthony Sinclair of Conduit Street for his Bond Films, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig by Brioni, the Italian House.

It is an unassailable fact that in order to understand the zeitgeist, you need look no further than the James Bond franchise, now reaching spitting distance of its 50th year. So yeah, he had a British Car, but for some reason, you never see Bond these days, running around England. (Not since The World is Not Enough) No, even Saville Row has been eclipsed in international favour. In the old days, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire sent to Anderson and Sheppard of Saville Row for their suits. Jack Buchanan toured America but sent his shirts to London by ship, in order to get them laundered in the way he liked.

So what we need is a new English Renaissance. Something, a phenomena that will cause people once again to flock here and to copy us and our ways, since, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It may be that the vanguard of this Renaissance will be Comedy. English Comedy is crossing the water like a plague of frogs, but I still think it is too gutless and cynical to mean anything. English actors are in demand for American programmes, though at present, they have to pretend to be American. As for music and Fine Art, we have a long way to go.

I wonder? Can it happen? Can there be a burst of energy which again revivifies England as a cultural hypocentre?

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