Magazine article The Spectator

Grow Old Gracefully

Magazine article The Spectator

Grow Old Gracefully

Article excerpt

Once generation gaps formed ahead of you; now they form just behind. My latest is the discovery that only the very elderly and infirm (30-plus) watch Top Of The Pops 2 on Saturday afternoons. I had always assumed that this ragbag of old clips from shows many years past had some modern and ironic (or post-modern and post-ironic) significance for today's teens, who wanted to see what David Bowie looked like when he was any good. But, no, the teens all want to watch the Brookside omnibus or the repeats of Are You Being Served?, which they stare at with genuine fascination.

TOTP2, by contrast, is universally regarded as 'sad', as indeed are the millions of us who tune in every week with a nice cup of tea. Indeed, many who watch are probably unaware that the original chart show still plies its vaguely reprehensible trade on Friday evenings, somewhere in among all those dull Watchdog and Holiday programmes. As a result, the cultural chasm between the two Top Of The Pops shows has never seemed wider.

On Saturday: fat old 1970s has-beens in ridiculous clothes miming to rotten old songs. On Friday: scrawny 1990s jailbait in ridiculous clothes miming to the same rotten old songs with disco beats. If, as John Tavener said recently, `the worst of pop music appeals to the genital organs', at least TOTP2 reminds us what we used to do with them. Or perhaps, on second thoughts, it doesn't. If, like me, you saw Mud performing `Tiger Feet' the other week, you probably find it hard to imagine that anyone in the 1970s ever had sex at all.

To breach this cultural chasm, and straddle the generations, takes guts, hard work and a lot of plastic surgery. Cher had a go at the end of last year with 'Believe', a disco single so wretched it eventually spent seven weeks at number one. `Do you believe in life after love?' she sang, and we all shouted `Yes! Now shut up!' Although she still dances like your gran, which is not surprising, as they were probably at school together, she doesn't exactly represent the TOTP2 generation, as I see it now has to be called. She is both much older than all of us and much younger - a hugely successful multi-millionairess we all tend to feel a bit sorry for.

A far more credible challenge has come from Blondie, whose comeback everyone agreed would be doomed to failure, until the single went straight in at number one, at which point everyone agreed that they had always been a terrific band and why had they left it so long? …

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