There’s No Riot Goin’ On

At this weekend’s Hard Rock Calling gig the headline act, Bruce Springsteen, had bought Sir Paul McCartney on stage for a gig-goers dream of an encore. Alas, the entertainment was cut short 😦  The 10.30pm curfew for the event had been breached and the police pulled the plugs. The crowd streamed home, somewhat miffed.

“It made for a slightly bizarre, anti-climactic end to what had been a fantastic show” said the BBC reporter.

Would never have happened back in the 70s!

December 1973 saw an infamous and much chronicled gig at Hammersmith Odeon (now Apollo) from Mott the Hoople (supported by an up and coming glam metal band called Queen) for which high ticket demand had led to the staging of a second show. Touring schedules being what they were then there was no alternative date, so two shows were scheduled for the same night. The second show started late – the police and venue security eventually pulling the plugs (literally) at 12.15 am precipitating a near riot…whilst the final trains of the night waited patiently at Hammersmith station for the crowd to empty out!

Would that happen now? Clearly not! (Even though the Bruce Springsteen fan demographic would indicate that there may well have been people in Hyde Park on Saturday night who had been at the Mott the Hoople gig!)

Just contrast with today’s gig going…tickets bought up to a year in advance, set lists pre-publicised, a running order on the door as you arrive – with a curfew! Hell, even Led Zeppelin in their heyday were known to come back for one last encore to satiate the demands of a few hundred fans who wouldn’t leave!

Coincidentally I’ve recently been catching up on the Dominic Sandbrook documentary series on the 70s and the BBC4 series Punk Britannia. When the latter was first aired it lit up the post Jubilee blogosphere with chat of youth anger, rebellions and the tepid conformity that many old punks see in today’s yoof. I was debating this over a few beers with FlipChartRick a few weeks ago, just after he had published a blog which in turn had been inspired by one from Chris Dillow.

Rick felt that the some of the perceived anger and rebellion was largely misty eyed nostalgia…

“Are today’s youngsters any less rebellious than we were in the late 70s and early 80s? Perhaps but, then again, I’m not altogether sure that we were really that rebellious anyway. We did a lot of things that shook people up but that’s because our easily identifiable youth tribes made it look as though we were hell-bent on a single cause. Most of the time, though, we were just doing what teenagers have always done; seeing how far we could push things without getting into serious trouble”.

Whilst Chris Dillow was in little doubt that Punk offered anger that shocked their elders…

“Punk was more rebellious and more disquieting to the establishment than anything we see today. Nobody of my generation is as appalled by dubstep as 40-somethings were by punk. It’s unlikely that a single today would be banned for political reasons and get to number one, as God Save the Queen did. And try as I might, I can’t imagine Rizzle Kicks doing to Alex Jones what the Sex Pistols did to Bill Grundy. In this, music reflects a wider social fact – that today’s young people are much less gobby than we were.”

During the ale-fuelled conversation Rick encouraged me to record my thoughts, something I haven’t got round to…but last night’s mild mannered frustration at the early concert curtailment gave me a good example of how things have changed since those romanticised 70s days. I guess I wanted to see the full Punk Britannia series first, and I think that watching them in conjunction with the 70s documentaries gave a context that the music programmes alone may not have reflected.

I could have started a blog on the difference between the mid-70s and now with a question. If you are a parent, when we you last really shocked by something that your children did, liked, watched or said?

I remember an op-ed piece by a female journalist a few years ago (can’t remember who I’m afraid) in which she accompanied her teenage daughter to a boy band concert. She was appalled. Appalled by the conformity and niceness of it all. At the same age her band were The Rolling Stones – their primeval, sexual and narcotic take on pop blues horrifying her parents…yet here she was consumed with boredom. She was shocked…but the shock was at the conformity and mawkishness of what she was seeing. Continue reading “There’s No Riot Goin’ On”

Generation Bowie – the original flexible workforce?

“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it” (George Orwell)

“Talking ’bout my generation” (Pete Townsend, 1964)

‘Trying to forget your generation/I say your generation don’t mean a thing to me’ (Billy Idol, 1977)

I’m reading a lot of blogs lately concerning generational demographics, particularly looking at how the attitudes of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y differ. Now here’s my view…

I don’t believe Generations are a state of mind; they are a question of influences and experiences. Whilst we may often try and use these demographics to define workplace behaviours, their real raison d’être is to define age groups by their cultural, socio-economic and parental influences.

The cultural historians will look at the outside influences during adolescence, specifically the years 13-19, to define generational traits, and see how they impact on a whole range of behaviours, including attitudes to work. Hence the generational type they belong to is usually governed by the decade in which they were teens.

The Baby Boomers were born into post-war austerity, usually to parents who themselves had grown up in the Great Depression (the original one) and they matured during the 60s, whilst Generation X are usually seen as the ‘slacker’ generation, growing up with constant access to TV and with lives shaped by Thatcherism/Reaganomics and the rise of home computing in the 80s/early 90s. Their title, Generation X, was popularised in the novel by Douglas Coupland, written in 1991, which concerned American and Canadians who became young adults during the late 80s, yet the actual expression ‘Generation X’ was first used in 1952 and then again in 1964 to describe teenagers of loose morals and little respect in the mid 60s!

Standing back for one moment, and trying hard not to vainly squeeze oneself into the next generation down, it’s clear that these 3 ‘Generations’ cover 70 years…7 decades which have seen incredible changes and advances, with each one bearing little similarity with the last. Generation X, for example, allegedly contains everyone who will be between 30 and 50 next year.  In my opinion 3 generational classifications are not enough, and are misleading as they ignore age groups who have shown their own identities.

After all, in my quotes at the start Billy Idol clearly felt he was a different generation to Pete Townsend, yet both are considered to be Baby Boomers.

So let’s accept that the Baby Boomers grew up on the 60s, and Generation X in the 80s…yet in between there is a whole decade of very different influences that are usually ignored as being a crossover between the two. Yet meet anyone who grew up in that decade and you will find someone who is flexible and adaptable.

Anyone growing up in the UK in the 70s will tell you that this was a tough decade, underpinned by constant change, fluctuating fortunes, unrest, violence and cultural extremes…4 elections, 4 Prime Ministers, 3 day weeks, bombs on the streets, mob violence, industrial unrest and a whole spectrum of music and fashion trends..Glam, Punk, Disco, Electro…flares and drainpipes, big collars and big statements.

In a decade of such change it’s hardly surprising that people who grew up then have had careers underpinned by change…interview someone who was a teen in the 70s and it’s likely that they will have had many different careers, utilising a whole range of skills and competencies, and their development has been marked by change and a restless quest for new experiences.

This generation has no badge, no obvious name, neither Baby Boomers nor Gen X; yet in the workplace they have shown themselves to be the original flexible workforce. Adaptable, open to change and new ideas, hard working, constantly looking to improve and gain new experiences, not scared to take a step into the unknown…restless and always looking for something new.

Well, I’ve decided to give them a name… a tag that recognises their unique influences.

I’m going to use a cultural icon who defined the 70s…high work rate, constant change and re-invention, always ready to try something new and never standing still.


From now on I will call them Generation Bowie…or BowieGen if you like…the original flexible workforce!

What do you think?