returning to a favoured theme: what is the point of . . .
This week: why do people do graffiti. I think we've established a few reasons here at The Corn Poppy.
One is, of course, that graffitists are egomaniac prima donnas who feel the need to inflict their whims, ideals and half assed ideas on a wider public (like bloggers) whether that audience wants it or not (this is where graffitists differ from bloggers - dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people will see a piece of graffiti while a blog rests unnoticed and unloved outside the walled gardens of the Internet).
Another is that many graffitists feel disenfranchised. They feel that their patch no longer belongs to them, having been hijacked by advertisers, outsiders and incomers. For some, like Stik, this is the incentive to shout I AM HERE. In paint. Here's an art installation which speaks volumes as someone tries to reclaim a park bench.
Have sex at home, not here; unknown, 2015
Here's another, asking graffitists from out of the area to ply their trade elsewhere.
I like to listen to pop music. The stuff I like I wouldn't call pop music, I might call it rock, Sometimes, alt or indie, americana or punk. But it's all pop. Constantly eating itself. The first big Pop was Elvis. The bastard son of rhythm & blues and country music. It was simple, fast, dirty, angry, fun, rock and roll. But it is a straight line from Elvis through the Beatles to Cream to Emerson Lake and Palmer, Which ended up complicated, establishment and no-fun. Which is odd because Keith Emerson liked to stick knives through his keyboard in a way that wild-thing-redneck-ultra-conservative-13-year-old-cousin- marryin' Jerry Lee Lewis could only dream about.
But it isn't surprising. If you can play three chords and put a few songs together just imagine how mind-blowing to discover there's more, there's four chords, no five, six and minors and sevenths and diminished and there's not just rock n roll, not just garage, not just punk, there's funk and krautrock and jazz and prog and a capella and stuff that hasn't been thought of yet. And there's Hendrix and Dylan and Coltrane and Copeland and Cobain and cocaine and lsd and Willard Grant Conspiracy. There's Johnny Marr and Johnny Burnette and Steak Knife.
And let's go back to that stuff that hasn't been thought of yet. How do you get there? You have to experiment. You gotta go through a lot of bad to get to the good. And as a musician you want to try it and as a listener you want to try it and as a musician you wanna get there and as a listener you wanna be there when it comes. As you get older you feel you don't need to plough through the bad, either as a musician or a listener. You can concentrate on the good stuff, there's enough out there.
It's the same with graffiti. Street art, Urban art. Of course the first graffitists were rock n roll punks. They only knew three chords. They only needed three chords. Painting Skido23 on the side of a train was enough. It was Rock round the Clock. And then Elvis came along with a colour palette and tags got wilder, stronger, better. If this train was going all round the Five Boroughs it needed Hound Dog not Puppy Love.
So graf develops from simple tags to pieces and from pieces to commissioned murals. Which is not the same. When Nike and Sony are paying for it, it is not the same.
If you like listening to pop music (as I do) you want to move on from rockabilly (or punk or One Direction). You want a bit more variety. You can listen to the first Clash album a hundred times but you'll get bored. You can listen to London's Calling 1,000 times without getting bored. You can listen to Sandinista! 10,000 and still be finding new sounds.
If you like looking at graffiti (as I do) there's a limit to how many times you want to try and decipher a throw-up. There is some phenomenal street art out there. But . . . . but . . . . is it graffiti? is it even street art - just because it is on the street?
Back in 1976 when Emerson Lake and Palmer and Yes and Pink Floyd were cleaning up Mick Farren wrote something about "it won't be the Beatles reforming that will save rock n roll, it'll be four guys/gals jamming in a cellar that will do it". We don't need no new Pink Floyd album. As Bowie almost said "This ain't rock n roll, this is Genesis".
So what we need now is not Dismaland, nor a mural commissioned by the Council; not a new piece coinciding with somebody's gallery show or a tv programme about graffiti's roots in the French Revolution. What we need is some punks getting out there and annoying people. Some kind of secret society of Super Villain Artists.
Let's see an end to polite street art!
Viva la revolution, baby!
Get angry, bandito!
although there'll always be a place for the personal touch
Must be you then, Karen, Hedge End, 2015