The worst-ever year for pop music

posted by Nick Hornby March 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm Books, Films , , ,

In his review of the new Elbow album, the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis wonders which was the worst-ever year for pop music. He suggests that 1960 and 2000 must be front-runners, while referring to the late Tony Wilson’s belief that 1975 was the pits. 1960 and 1975 make complete narrative sense: 1975 was the year before punk, which, we like to believe, came as a response to something. And 1960 is seen as a low point between Elvis’s heyday and the birth of the Beatles.

And yet a little research shows that what makes complete narrative sense doesn’t take much account of the facts. Quite a few of the greatest albums ever made were released in 1975: Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’, ‘Born To Run’, ‘Blood On the Tracks’ AND ‘The Basement Tapes’, ‘Physical Graffiti’, ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’, Curtis Mayfield’s ‘There’s No Place Like America Today’, ‘Al Green Is Love’, ‘Bob Marley Live At The Lyceum’ AND ‘Natty Dread’, ‘Young Americans’… I would include the first Kate and Anna McGarrigle album and Emmylou Harris’s ‘Elite Hotel’, both of which have retained their charm for me over the last thirty-odd years. ‘An Education’, which begins filming on Sunday, is set in 1962, and while trying to find some tracks that demonstrated just how awful a period this was, I was disappointed to discover that you could, if you so wished, put together a pretty great soundtrack. I would have agreed with Alexis Petridis about that period, but the truth is that in 1960 you could have heard Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’, ‘Cathy’s Clown’ by the Everly Brothers, ‘Shop Around’ by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline, ‘Wonderful World’ by Sam Cooke, ‘Spoonful’ by Howlin’ Wolf, ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’ by Jimmy Reed, ‘Shoppin’ for Clothes’ by the Coasters and ‘Only the Lonely’ by Roy Orbison… The idea of the album was still in its infancy, but ‘Sketches Of Spain’ came out that year, too. My suspicion is that every year is a great year for music, if you look hard enough (although 2000 was certainly one of my least favourites.) In ‘An Education’, we’re sticking to the narrative, and ignoring the facts – or rather, we’re working with the idea that England hadn’t even begun to think about swinging yet.

Orlando Bloom, by the way, is no longer a part of the cast of ‘An Education’. There was – ahem – a misunderstanding. It’s best not to say any more than that. He’s been replaced by the excellent Dominic Cooper. Earlier this week, there was a readthrough of the script, and as Alfred Molina wasn’t able to make it, I read the part of Jack. It was more fun than I am prepared to own up to. And though it’s not for me to say how good I was, some of the professional actors looked pretty intimidated by the end.