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In Mo Stewart’s exploration of the intertwining fortunes of sport and music, the sports journalist and DJ investigates the poisoned chalice of nostalgia, and whether memory lane is the best road to take.
Although this issue covers December and Janaury, I wanted to say something about Black History Month. October should be a time for anyone with an audience to shout a bit louder than normal about Black culture, Black industry and Black people, for those who are still unaware. It shouldn’t be a token gesture to avoid bad PR. Believe it or not, we’re actually here all year round. Black people are for life, not just October.
If you’re Black and have been asked to contribute to a project that you believe to be disingenuous or box-ticking – reply on 1st November. You will know one way or another.
History of another kind has been on my mind recently. Despite some improvements, the present still kind of sucks. Remembering former glories can ease the pain, but as a society, we’re in danger of becoming addicted to nostalgia.
Everyone’s at it: 20th anniversary reissue/movie/tour of artist’s ‘classic’ album. Limited edition throwback jerseys. Christmas covers albums. Hiring a popular but ill-equipped former hero to placate a restless fanbase.
Which brings me on nicely to Exhibit A, our neighbours over in Manchester. Their biggest football team (they are still the biggest) have a manager – at the time of writing – whose main qualification was scoring a goal 22 years ago. They then spent £75m and two years chasing “the next Ronaldo”, only to put him on the bench and sign the real-life Ronaldo.
Anyone who lives in either city or felt the shockwaves from Manchester United 0 Liverpool 5 will know how well that’s going. One of the oldest maxims in sports is “you never go back”, and people have been ignoring it for just as long. The temptation is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to relive the best time of their life? Nevertheless, I’m not digging my skateboard out and drinking snakebite and black. Time has moved on. The landscape has changed.
Over-indulgence in the past becomes a barrier to the future. Instead of fixing the problems of the present, nostalgia acts as a distraction, waving in front of our eyes like a bad magician.
There are no magicians in our current government, but there are plenty of clowns. The latest joke came in chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn budget, where, as part of the levelling up agenda, £2m was announced for a new waterfront development billed ‘The Pool’ – an immersive, future-focused celebration of The Beatles. Yes, another one. Aside from some fantastic lyric-related putdowns on social media, it’s an utterly pointless exercise.
Promises of a sleek waterfront attraction comes at a time when live venues are closing across the city, an iconic, world class recording studio on Parr Street has been lost, and Brexit red tape has made it harder than ever for our musicians to share their music with the world.
What about helping to create the next Beatles, instead of wringing these ones dry?
All this sounds familiar. Oasis, once tipped as the next Beatles, also have a complicated relationship with nostalgia. Noel Gallagher will tell you with a straight face that he’s against it, which is why the band are yet to reform. This despite thinking that three High Flying Birds albums warrant a greatest hits collection, and knowing in his soul that every single audience member at every single gig is just waiting for Don’t Look Back In Anger. Liam has no such qualms. He hits them with Rock ’N’ Roll Star straight out of the gate, although he’s always been a little more… Shameless.
Nostalgia can have its uses. A friend of mine loves Oasis, and passed that love onto her son, after years of car karaoke. They’ve seen Liam in London, the Knebworth documentary and have tickets of their own for Liam’s return there next summer.
Oasis might have been the catalyst, but the boy has plenty of modern heroes of his own, such as Jamie Webster and Tom Rogan. He’s starting his own band, inspired by his peers as much as his heroes – and more than any museum.
Nostalgia will always be big business. While humans are still achieving, other humans years down the line will remind us of those achievements, usually for their own benefit. Manchester City claims Madchester as their own to sell T-shirts and no one bats an eyelid as their culture is eroded. I look forward to the advert featuring Shaun Ryder singing about Pep Guardiola to the tune of Hallelujah.
I can’t say that I’m completely immune from the odd indulgence. I will be watching the new Beatles documentary by Peter Jackson just as intently as I watched Paul McCartney breaking down his songwriting process with one of the modern giants of production, Rick Rubin. I’ve spent hours on YouTube watching Aaron Rodgers make unbelievable plays in the aftermath of defeat for my own Green Bay Packers. It’s great to remember the good old days once in a while, but we can’t stay there.
It’s all well and good using the past to inspire the future, but if you can’t secure the present, what kind of future will it be?
Mo Stewart is a writer, presenter, pundit, and DJ. He can be found writing for Liverpool.com, presenting for The Anfield Wrap and DJing in Motel on Friday nights.