I realised how old I was getting during the course of a recent, quite amicable, conversation with a representative of the younger generation (perhaps X or Y, I’m never quite sure what the age brackets are). The conversation turned to music, upon which the tattooed and much pierced representative of said younger generation asked for my preferences, rather like the way a child might ask his or her grandparents about an artefact in a museum display cabinet. I offered the usual for my own generation – AC/DC, Cold Chisel, Billy Ray Cyrus, the earlier Van Halen – after which the question was turned to my partner, who replied, genuinely and instantly, ‘Duran Duran.’ ‘Who sings that?’ Gen X or Y type asked.
A gap of another sort appeared over the apparent use of Cold Chisel tracks at a recent Reclaim rally. The gravel voiced lead singer of the band was non-plussed, and insisted the Reclaimers desist from belting out Khe Sahn or Flame Trees on the barricades. Apparently Mr Barnes does not like their cause. I expect Bach did not write his Cantatas to be elevator music, nor did Albioni necessarily produce his Adagio to be the moment of mutual climax for entwined lovers in a cinematic love scene (or perhaps he did). I’m sure, however, Beethoven did not anticipate he was composing his 9th Symphony to accompany vision of someone being beaten into a bloody pulp in a scene from A Clockwork Orange. We can safely assume Barnesy did not drop a bottle of vodka in order to come up with the immortal line ‘You got nothing I want, you got nothing I need,’ so some overweight guy in a denim jacket could sing along to it at a rally pointing out the less attractive features of sharia law.
But isn’t that the point? Whatever the artist intended, once out there, gone commercial, and in the public domain, it’s gone baby, and, in many ways, it’s yours no more. The punters will do obscene things with your creativity, both in private and in public, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it, short of enforcing copyright for commercial misuse. If some pimpled bogan downloads your track onto his itunes and plays it really loud over a battery driven sound enhancing contraption of some description at a rally, and a hundred other unwashed bogans sing along with him, not only is it looking and sounding a lot like a Chisel gig ca, 1982 in an RSL somewhere, but who’s going to stop them? And why should they listen to an ageing rocker anyway, even if you wrote the bloody thing and first recorded it?
The only thing more perverse than a once screechingly decadent ageing rock star taking the high moral ground, is a human rights lawyer taking the high moral ground. Get down off the high horse Barnsey, reconnect with the punters who made your fortune, and let it rock.