LAST NIGHT'S TV: Enough Jive Talking to Put You in a Funk ; Soul Deep " the Story of Black Popular Music SAT BBC2 55 Days " the Fall of Saigon FRI BBC2
Sutcliffe, Thomas, The Independent (London, England)
According to Soul Deep, BBC2's new history of black urban music, soul music 'charts the transformation of the 20th century like nothing else'. Like nothing else? Really? What about the archives of the New York Times? True, if it comes to the details of Papa's brand new bag or the ins and outs of why he done treat her mean, soul is going to win hands down but, for any larger event, you might find it wanting as a register of social change. It wouldn't even deliver a workable account of the civil rights movement, since much of its lyrical energies were given to the sorrow that fuelled the activism, rather than what it achieved. But if you want to get on down, an old copy of the New York Times is going to be useless, whereas soul can move you inside and out.
Faintly meaningful abstractions are an expected hazard in big cultural series, and Soul Deep quickly showed that it was going to be no exception to the rule. There was a lot of stuff about 'leading the way for an entire generation of musicians' and 'fusing opposing traditions to create a brand new sound', the kind of rhetoric that treats culture as a kind of Lego construction, in which one brick fits neatly on top of the other and the demarcations are always neatly defined. But just as you were snorting with irritation, they put a record on and you forgot everything in the thrill of the music. Even better, they let the musicians talk, and you realised how anaemically formal the script was.
'It's like a guy having sex with a woman and his johnson keeps slipping out,' said the black musicologist Stanley Crouch, describing the embarrassment of a band losing the groove. …