A Midsummer Night’s Meme

In the mid 1990s there occurred a glorious couple of years when my cultural tastes and references (particularly in music) coincided with those of what is nonsensically called the “mainstream”. The music I loved was being played on the radio; you couldn’t switch on the television without seeing someone you thought was the epitome of cool, wearing slightly trendier and more expensive versions of the clothes that YOU WORE. England were briefly quite good at football; if only Gascoigne’s (fresh from scoring one of the most wonderful goals of all time) leg had been a few inches longer we may have made it to the final of Euro 96. And who knows, we could have won it (although that perhaps is a fantasy too far). The Boo Radleys made it to number one in the album charts – that’s THE BOO RADLEYS, not Cher or Bryan Adams or U2, but raggedy collection of indie-blokes The Boo Radleys sold more records that week than anyone else. Jarvis Cocker showed his arse to Michael Jackson at the Brit Awards and was consequently adopted as the nation’s de-facto Prime Minister. And talking of Prime Ministers, I will never forget getting gleefully drunk in our dingy basement flat in York as a generation of self-serving, overly-privileged, Conservative men were ousted from power for crimes against the poor and the weak. We were never going to see their like again (we thought; hindsight you whore, you make tits of us all) as we raised our bottles of cheap red wine and toasted OUR new Prime Minster Mr Tony Blair. What a glorious future he promised. What a glorious chance to start again, to make something fairer in this country, something better than ever before, all scored by a beautiful cacophony of jangly Britpop guitars . .

Yes, well. Best not to talk about what happened next really for fear of getting angry and sad on what is actually a beautiful summer’s evening.

This feeling of beautiful synchronicity with the age could not last. I knew that even at the time and as the new millennium approached so my grip on what was current slowly began to loosen and then it eventually gave way altogether. The Boo Radleys made a wonderful album called Kingsize that only about thirty five people bought and then they split up and their drummer became a music teacher. Other bands faded too; singers got fat and released terrible solo albums,  television changed, film changed and then in 2001 the world changed and as easy and inaccurate as such sectioning off of one’s personal history undoubtedly is, then the post 9/11 world coincided with a realisation that my days of beads, baggy jumpers and cherry-red DMs were probably over.

For a while this bothered me. I felt disjointed and adrift. But then I quickly realised that it did not matter a monkey’s ball whether I knew what was at number one or not. And so I began listening to folk music and wearing women’s clothes from the bargain rails of Marks and Spencer, those items that they really, really can’t shift unless virtually giving it away to lying fauxvestites like myself or dumping it silently on the steps of a provincial Oxfam store in the darkest hours of a winter’s night.

And in my own silly way, this state of contemporary ignorance has made for a largely jolly time over the years. Of course the young think I am desperately, even wilfully unworldly (in all seriousness I thought for some time that Rihanna was British. And white. And that her song “Umbrella” was a paean to our habitually wet summers) but that is fine; I know about the Boo Radleys and THEY DON’T. So who really is the winner? (they are). However, every now and then strange and disquieting ripples of culture wash my way and knock me off balance. Two of these ripples lapped by shores recently. They were as follows:

1. I owned the Number One single in the UK for the first time since . . . . god, I really couldn’t tell you. Maybe even since “Country House” by Blur (which remains a terrible stain on an otherwise wonderful career). Because we now live in THE FUTURE I don’t own a physical copy, but I paid for and downloaded Daft Punk’s Get Lucky because I like Daft Punk and I like this song. Especially the bit when the robot sings. For all their global kudos right now, for all their parties at the top of the Shard and spacesuits and lasers, Daft Punk are essentially just a couple of middle-aged French blokes in helmets. And I respect that.

2. I discovered “memes”. I say discovered, what I actually mean is that I realised what people were talking about they used the word “meme”. Not that it had happened with great frequency but when it did, I had just smiled and said “yes” meekly. However it turns out that “memes” are a thing and people make them and then share them on the internet. Sometimes they are “funny” and sometimes they are “cute” and sometimes they feature “cats” (no need for inverted commas I know but I am in the swing of things now) or “babies” or “ugly people” with some sort of “amusing” slogan plastered across the image using Impact font.

And they are weird. Deeply, unsettlingly odd. Not terrible necessarily but fundamentally bizarre. I realise I’ve missed out on ten or more years of meme evolution and so the jokes and references are not simply self-referential but they have reached such a level of meta-meta-meta-meta-comedy that even Professor Brian “Brian” Cox would have trouble explaining them to a mid-evening weekday audience whilst standing on craggy peak looking wistfully at a high-definiton sunset whilst the secular gods beteem the winds of heaven not to visit his hair too roughly. However, this does not account for some of the utter incomprehension inspired by this entire culture of ball-clasping oddity that is clogging up the electronic veins and passages of Old Father Internet.

Punch in “best memes” into Google images now. And look what happens. Look at the carnival of cracked and wonky humanity that parades across your screen: some of it satirical, some sexist, some racist, all of it just a little disturbing. And surreal. Rene Magritte would have flicked through the results pages and thought “I can’t compete with this; bugger it, I am going back to painting bowls of fruit. And boobs”.

But I come here to praise the meme, not to bury it. So I am coming to the meme party. I have a bottle of red and some flowers for the host. I am wearing my shirt with artichokes on it and I’ve brushed my hair. And I bring some memes of my own. Watch as these GO VIRAL BABY!

Nonsensical Meme Number 1: Leichtenstein and assess. 


Nonsensical Meme Number 2: Rain and dairy products. 

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Nonsensical Meme Number 3: A picture of Michael Stipe

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Nonsensical Meme Number 4: Existentialist high tea

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Nonsensical Meme Number 5: One for fans of Westcountry railway stations (and I know that there are many of you out there)

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 21.35.32

So there. I can compete. I do understand. I can sit at your table of pop-culture and shake the pepper-pot of relevance. I am now. Ich heisse Herr Zeitgeist. Wo is das schwimbad bitte?

In other news, we are approaching the end of our crowdfunding campaign for our feature film High Tide. People have been really kind and we’ve responded by making a series of silly videos.

Here’s one I made about REM.

And another about cheese.

If you’d like to support the film then you can donate via our campaign page here. Even small amounts of money are very, very useful indeed.

Anyway, I think I have probably used up enough of your remaining time on earth with all these words and half-baked thoughts so from you all I shall take my leave.  But what to call this post . . . . hang on. Yes. Easy – MEMEBETH.


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