Pop doesn't make sense on its own. It never did. It never can. It needs a wider narrative.
(production begins. the film opens with images of shops that already look antique as supermarkets spread, a rather cosy analogy for a higher quality of public services.)
"Hand Held In Black And White" shimmers. It encapsulates the beginning of a new love, a journey, at a time when such ideas - romance transcending everything, heading for utter beyondness - are still taken seriously. You could distill the emotions and survive on them for life, without ever needing to eat.
("and young Brown needs to be in London ...". what a wonderful turn of phrase that is, straight from a wartime propaganda film. they desperately want to hang on to it, and you can share their wishes.)
"Mirror Mirror" sweeps in, breaking windows and stopping traffic in its course. The desire to perfect everything and stay this way for life is absolute (and strips away the meaning of the working day). The echoes are as plain and bare as you could get. It is cold, and ultimately knows no such thing as soul. That's for Hadley and the Kemps, isn't it? The ones who, as someone once said, have no soul for redemption.
(the winter hits hard. snow covers the land, and somehow it looks like 1947. it could feel like that, if you grab the moment and hug it for all it's worth. but the Swan and Edgar department store in central London finally closes down, killed by something called "consumer choice", and Roy Plomley looks terribly confused as he is driven through the city, the snow violent and epochal around him. the battle is on.)
Then an uncertain spring.
("... running the gauntlet in a whirl of lace" ... hmmm, hasn't even gone Top 20, maybe it's all over?)
"Give Me Back My Heart" cries. The sense of loss is palpable. The emptiness sighs, but somehow it's as though it could not be any other way. The poignancy of a romance ended, never to be revived or equalled, is almost inevitable.
That's wrong. That's plain wrong. But it's happening.
"Videotheque" is the climax, two failed lovers existing only as computerised microdots on a frozen VDU, where they can possibly find some happiness for the rest of eternity, but can never exist as anything else. From the eloquent humanity of "Hand Held In Black And White", it's taken us less than twelve months to travel 30 years to this, the ultimate dehumanisation (or, at the very least, decollectivisation) of the human race.
And that's it, really.
("burning the ground, I break from the crowd ...")
("and that's what keeping our business is all about!")
The former dominates the world within a year. The latter withers and dies forever within that time.
Yes, the spirit has died.
(silence. desperate quiet. the building is boarded up. no-one comes here anymore. the album is never made; what is ultimately released is an out-of-sequence bastardisation. they'll be back some years hence as a flukey one-off, appropriately laughing and joking looking out over a freezing winter sea, but this is where it all ends, really.)
20 years gone, pretty much everyone is hungry like the wolf, however this might upset and unsettle some of us on a personal level (I always thought I basically had a Pentangle side and an Eminem side and Absolutely Nothing In Between; I was never going to have a Duran side to my character, though I quite like some of the records).
Maybe this was the last moment before hungry-like-the-wolf set in. The last time gentle, artistic modernity, as opposed to the aggressive, ultra-commercial kind, hogged the mainstream. Maybe the last ever. All I know is that I'll never forget it, even if I don't really remember it.
Robin Carmody, 2nd November 2002