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Archie Bland: Awash in devotion
August 30, 2014
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Now I know how the football-haters feel. Throughout the World Cup, as every media outlet was overrun with coverage of the tournament and every armchair pundit made Twitter and Facebook their outlet for opinions of things they didn’t know very much about, I looked on the occasional complaints of those who found the whole thing alienating with a sense of beatific indulgence. You poor things, I generously thought. You just don’t get it.

Well, the Kate Bush fire has only been burning for a day, but already I have a slightly clearer sense of what those soccerphobes went through. After 35 years away, it’s not terribly surprising that the really hardcore fans should go berserk at the second coming; what I hadn’t anticipated was quite how many of them there were. Plenty of gigs sell out without the attendees universally declaring themselves diehard aficionados; not this time, or at least it didn’t seem like it. Twitter and Facebook were awash with the gleeful, devotional markers of those who had seen the show; it certainly felt like a lot more than the few thousand who had actually got in. Every member of the lifestyle journalism cognoscenti of a certain age seemed to have miraculously wangled a ticket, a phenomenon which, you might hazard, will have severely upset the faithful who did not find a way in. “I missed out on Kate Bush tickets, I hate myself,” one typically intense Twitter fan cried. “She is my everything.”

I had a vision of a giant, throbbing ball of Kate Bush rolling through London, protruding, white-laced arms dragging in bystanders as it went, the blob growing a little larger and more powerful with every ecstatic tweet, assimilating every other gig and play and film until the whole city was a great pullulating mass of 1980s eccentricity, daring the present to find a way to strike back. “We believe the Bush has been planning this for decades,” I imagined a frazzled looking aide-de-camp telling David Cameron at a Cobra meeting somewhere outside of the capital, as the strains of “Babooshka” echoed ominously over the hills. “And I’m afraid, Prime Minister, that for all this time, her agents have been among us.”

These operatives, you have to concede, have maintained their cover admirably. Before the recent rush of excitement began, I feel as if I’ve barely heard a peep about Bush in years. This isn’t a criticism – it is, of course, in large part because the silence from the woman herself has left so little to discuss. But it does explain why the whole thing seems so strange to people like me: I knew Kate Bush was a big deal, but I had no idea quite how big. Minor fan though I am, it had never occurred to me that she was, as one review put it yesterday, “the most influential and respected British female artist of the past 40 years.”

Lest there be any doubt, I should say that this is absolutely my own error of omission. And even if the whole thing was a bit baffling to those of us who weren’t a part of it, it would be absurd to think that that was any reason for holding back: there’s just no arguing with the general outpouring of joy.

All the same, it can’t help but be a little alienating. I felt a bit like I do when I attend a quiz, and the 40-something host’s questions are based on allegedly universal cultural totems that I’ve never heard of. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it – it’s just that it’s terribly strange not to feel a part of it. These moments come along every now and again, when a generational divide cuts a sharp swathe through the population, and we all realise how deeply formed we are by our youth – and, more than that, how unsettling it is to be reminded that your own generation will seem just as baffling to the next one coming up behind it. And if those of you who feel the same as me are already a little overwhelmed, consider this: we’ve only had two nights of the tour. There are another 20 left to go. It’s time, I think, to head for the hills.

Typewriter din

You’ll know the noise from classic movies, if not from any recent life experience: the satisfying clack of the typewriter, which produces so much more urgent a sound than the dull phut of your computer’s equivalent. Now the eminences who run The Times have struck upon a brilliant way to make the office more productive: pipe in a crescendo of typewriter noise to bathe staff in an atmosphere of hard work and determination as deadline approaches.

This is, of course, a stroke of genius, and I assume we will be adopting it over here imminently: if the office soundtrack can’t save journalism from the structural decline of print, what on earth can? If anything, though, I’m not sure the wheeze goes far enough. Typewriters might induce a sense of enterprise, but why stop there? Why not record the desperate cries of those who’ve been fired for inefficiency, or ask Rupert Murdoch to tape himself saying something scary? If the worst comes to the worst, of course, you could do something really extreme, and pipe in the chart music that I hear gets pumped out at the likes of new-media challenger Buzzfeed. The idea of a daily diet of top 10 hits will surely be enough to get a few of those grizzled old reporters hitting their deadlines at last.

The Independent

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