Friday, June 17, 2011

Iggy only knows

It’s an odd day when you get to confront your own hypocrisy. In many ways I’ve been doing that in public (though not with great visibility as it was via this blog) over the last few weeks in trying to square my views on ‘synching’, or the use of popular music for commercial/brand purposes.

It was spurred initially by a knee-jerk reaction, a ‘how dare they’ moment, to the VW commercial and its use of what I consider to be one of the greatest songs ever recorded. I did make the point at the time that my thoughts and views were compromised and far from clear cut. There’s a grey area where sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and your position is influenced by your views on that artist or piece of music.

So, that’s my ‘get-out clause’. I accept that it’s flawed and I was forced to try and reconcile these thoughts in the middle of the mosh-pit at the Isle of Wight Festival on Saturday. It was from this position that I saw the great Iggy Pop, no stranger to advertising and a subject of similar anti-advertising bile over two years ago.

I clearly still regret that he is most well known for starring in ads and regret that this, alongside allowing the song ‘Lust For Life’ to be synched in an ad for cruise ships (as well as better use in the film Trainspotting), is probably the source of his greatest income.

I still love the music though, and can see the possibility that the advertising earnings have allowed his ‘art’ to return to the extremities. No-one could call his Stooges-era music ‘easy-listening’ and if doing ads means that The Stooges carry on playing (as they have for the last five years or so) then it’s something that I should accept, or even welcome.

There lies the hypocrisy; can I accept the taking of commercial money if it allows art to flourish? Can I say for certain that Iggy uses one to fund the other? It could be that re-forming The Stooges was a financially-rewarding decision in itself, that the demand for the band was there and not for a solo Iggy Pop.

Without doubt it irks me that someone of his historical import is recognised for appearances alongside a puppet in ridiculously irritating adverts and it is unquestionable that it undermines his credibility. This much was obvious from the initial reaction of the crowd on Saturday, some of whom were less than interested and given to shouting ad-related abuse – all of which was sadly lacking in wit. If the best that you can think up is shouting the advertiser’s name or ‘I prefer the puppet’ then you really shouldn’t bother sharing.

On the flipside it allows me to be ‘holier’, to recognise Iggy’s role in the formation and fermentation of punk and to be able to argue that The Stooges were formed as part of an anti-hippy sentiment rather than being anti-corporate and thus it’s not the sell-out that you could accuse John Lydon of. Similarly Lydon claims that his Anchor money helped him to reform PiL (who also played at the Isle of Wight) proving that it’s an ongoing argument.

Perhaps it’s the very definition of a dichotomy (or this is)one that rages within and will never be resolved.

Back in the day (the 1977 type day) it was all about credibility, the faintest whiff of commercial taint and your cred was history. Bands wouldn’t even appear on TV for fear of losing it. I disowned certain acts for daring to spend too long trying to break America; desperation was not credible, chasing the cash was really not credible.

Now the line is blurred, for some acts any commercial association is seen as a badge of honour – a trophy, because you can never have too much bling. Commerce and art have to live together and we probably have to accept it, particularly if you believe that music is free. There are still levels though and it’s clearly an individual choice to where you draw the line and whether you forgive those who cross it. Iggy is redeemed, largely due to his back-story and unassailable cool, others will struggle.

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