I saw a funny clip from the BBC over on the twitter:
It’s light-hearted, obviously, but it made me laugh cos I’m a Radiohead fan who could talk forever about how much I like them and I am also a Stewart Lee fan and could talk forever about how much I enjoy his stand-up.
Am I as blinkered as the stereotype they’re talking about in the video? Maybe not. I mean, Radiohead genuinely do interesting and different things with timbre and rhythm compared to other rock bands, and the way they’ve woven ideas from outside rock – bits of jazz, classical and EDM – is really creative. They’re progressive in a way a lot of ‘prog rock’ bands can barely comprehend let alone emulate.
But I also had a long period of not listening to their stuff, particularly around the Hail to the Thief era, and I can absolutely see why, for example, some people can’t get on with Yorke’s voice or find them a bit too miserable.
Anyway, this got me thinking about snobbery, particularly because the idea turned up in relation to sports the other day. I am not a sports fan. I find it confusing in general, and in the case of football actively unpleasant. Why? Because I associate it with a kind of masculinity that just is not me.
I was a kid in the 90s, which in the UK meant the height of ‘lad culture’. This meant football, Oasis and Loaded magazine. Loaded was a ‘lads mag’ that, according to it’s founder, was founded in part as a reaction against the feminising nature of dance music and rave culture (according to this podcast).
Yes, I know, can you imagine such a thing?
It was blokey, masculine, and as anyone who has ever heard Oasis can confirm, offensively incurious.
That wasn’t me. I was listening to Radiohead, and all the things that got put under ‘alternative’ which ranged from proper metal, to metal adjacent things like Placebo. Some of that is pretty masculine of course, but it was the kind of masculinity that was accepting of make-up on men, and singing about your feelings, and in the case of Radiohead of actually doing new things and thinking about the music.
Liking football went hand in hand with listening to Oasis, reading Loaded and wearing your football shirt with the collar up for reasons that were never clear to me.
So, when I amused myself be pretending to not understand what football is it was really interesting when a friend or two objected. I got the impression that to some people, football is not ‘established, high culture’. They seemed to think football was still the solely working class pursuit it once was.
And it ain’t. It is a working class thing, but it isn’t just that any longer. Football is all encompassing, established culture. Not liking football doesn’t make you a snob, it makes you the underdog. It makes you unusual.
Whereas, yeah, declaring Radiohead the best thing ever, and not really listening to anything else is definitely snobbery.
Is there a point to this rambling blog post? Erm… ‘snobbery’ implies looking down on something. Hard to do that when that something is being put on a pedestal by almost everybody.
Also, Radiohead is quite good, but not the be all. And football’s rubbish.