Archive for August, 2015

The Village Against The World

22 August 2015

Dan Hancox’ The Village Against The World (Verso, 2014) is an account of Marinaleda, the anarcho-syndicalist village (my label) in Andalusia that has remade itself through 40 years of intense political battles with the Andalusian authorities. It turns out to be refleftive rather than uncritical, listening to the less sympathetic witnesses as well as the admirers. 

But there is a lot to admire. Some 20 years of smart and relentless political activism won the village enough land to farm, and, later, investment in processing plants. There is cheap co-operatively owned housing and good social facilities. The unemployment rate is a fraction of the rest of Andalusia. Sancho Gordillo, the mayor for 40 years, is the central figure in this process, is clearly an astute and principled politician, and an interesting theorist, who could have played on a bigger stage, though would likely have achieved less. 

Along the way there is some rich insight into the state of post-Franco Spain.

Will the village and its ideals survive Gordillo, who’s now in his 60s? That’s an open question, with which the book ends. Recommended.


Graveyard smash

2 August 2015

The mind works in unexpected ways, and out on a bike ride this morning I found myself singing the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band’s “Monster Mash.”

It was a graveyard smash
It was a smash
It caught on in a flash.

Nothing dates an age as exactly as its humour, or dates as quickly. And at this point a small group of older readers (pushing past 50+, I’d guess) will have a flicker of recognition, and the rest will be bemused.

So the Bonzos were an accomplished group of musicians in their own right who made a good living out of sending up the music of the late 60s and the late 70s, and the entertainment ropes that went with it. They mixed rock, jazz and some surreal lyrics and performance: the “Doodah” in their name was a deliberate play on “Dada.”

Their song “Urban Spaceman” was a top ten hit. The band mixed with the Beatles, played at the Isle of Wight Festival, and supported The Who on tour. The Bonzos’ Neil Innes was also the core of The Rutles, with their precise and affectionate satire on The Beatles and Beatlemania.

The Bonzos were more creative and more accomplished than the early ’60s parodists The Barron Knights, whose humour was only lyrical.

And this raises a question about why there is not a similar set of parodists out there now. Two thoughts, both about fragmentation. The first is that culture has fragmented: parody needs a cultural core so that people recognise parody as parody. I’m thinking here of of their song “Can Blue Men Sing The Whites”, for example.

Second, perhaps that parody is a function of modernism: the post-modernist fragmentation of text and meaning means that every author, and every artist, is also their own parodist.