A couple of my recent posts have been about the music that made up the soundtrack to the noughties, but obviously a decade is made of more than songs, even for someone as obsessed with music as me. So here’s a random list of the things that I will forever associate with the first ten years of the 21st Century.
- The day the music died: John Peel introduced me to the Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets & Stone Roses and, with a little help from fellow Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson, essentially set me on the musical path that has taken me through the last 20 years. His death, at the tragically young age of 65, was a very sad day and led to an out-pouring of tributes that highlighted the fact that he had become so much more than ‘just’ a DJ. He was a cultural institution and a national treasure. His incredibly poignant autobiography (finished by his family as he hadn’t completed it by the time died) and the renaming of the new band stage at Glastonbury in his honour were scant compensation for such a massive loss.
- Things didn’t get better: May 1st 1997 was one of the best of my life: the utter collapse of the hated Tory government, along with the joy of watching people like Michael Portillo being humiliated by Jeremy Paxman (“Yes, but you lost”) was fantastic. But, as the years went on, Labour refused to live up to expectations. They did great things including introducing the minimum wage (opposed by the self-same Tories who would now like us to believe they’re all soft & caring) but, due to their obsession with the wealthy, an illegal war and poorly planned peace, badly managed investment and a reliance on the dubious security of PFI, they have ended up almost as loathed as the Tories of 12 years ago. The tragedy for Blair is that were it not for Iraq his success in bringing peace to Northern Ireland would plant him firmly in the ranks of the greatest ever British Prime Minsisters.
- Unreal TV: When the BBC sent a bunch of worthy types to live on a barren island for a year, or Channel 4 put a group of mildly extroverted people in a house for 9 weeks, reality TV seemed like an interesting development: a mixture of the documentary style of shows like Seven Up, with entertainment. But now, as the decade limps across the finishing line, it looks like a horrible joke, an experiment gone-wrong. If proof were needed that reality TV is now the Frankenstein’s Monster of modern TV, the ghoulish coverage of Jade’s path from pariah to martyr, and Jordan’s return to the jungle looking like a drag queen impersonating Amy Winehouse, surely provides proof enough.
- Candid Camera 2.0: He’s never really matched it, but when Dom Jolly & Trigger Happy TV hit our screens it was really quite incredible. Giant fighting cuddly toys. Men coming out of pron shops being congratulated for being the 1,000th customer. A really shit spy. A MAN SHOUTING INTO A MASSIVE MOBILE PHONE. It was all beautifully surreal and played out to a charming soundtrack of mid-90s indie-pop. Elastica would never sound the same again. Enjoy.
- Rise of the singletons: Although the original Bridget Jones diary ran in The Independent in the 1990s, the film came out in 2001 and, in many ways, the film version encapsulated the early years of the decade. Women drinking chardonnay with gay best friends wanting to live near Borough Market and fancying Hugh Grant. It was also, along with About A Boy, another adaptation of a 90s novel about an adult struggling to hold down a relationship, and also starring Hugh Grant, one of the best British films of the last 10 years, and I’m not ashamed to say that (well, maybe a little bit).
- Comedy’s the new comedy: I actually find it hard to watch The Office now. It’s so brilliantly painful, shorn as it is of the comfort blanket of a laughter track. From its setting in the provincial town we all kind of know, to the perfect choice of Handbags & Gladrags as the theme-tune (not the Stereophonics version), to that dance, The Office changed the way we looked at comedy and made a plump man with bad teeth from Reading into a global brand. It also led, if only indirectly, to Little Britain, Russell Brand, Frankie Boyle and the rest trying to see how far they can push the envelope whilst Ricky Gervais looks on from Los Angeles.
- New media is old: In the last ten years global internet penetration has grown by close to 400%. In the same time, broadband penetration has rocketed at an even greater rate whilst mobile penetration has left both of them for dust – in the UK there are now mobile phones than there are people. Chuck in the rise of web 2.0 technology and the meteoric rise of the Facebooks of this world, and all of a sudden it seems like the internet isn’t the future, it’s very much the present.
- Google wins: In 2000 the search engine was two year’s old and I had just got back from working at an internet cafe in Sydney where most of the customers associated the internet with Hotmail. Now, Google is bigger than ITV in the UK, takes on Microsoft without raising a sweat, and has changed our lives in ways that we probably don’t even realise yet.
There are of course a million other things that have shaped the last ten years, many of which will be particular to individual people. What are your memories of the last 10 years? What will be the things that you think about when you hear the music that sound-tracked the decade? Feel free to post yours in the comments or, in the style of a good old-fashioned blog meme, on your own site.
2010 graffiti by sillygwailo on flickr