I have been a little tardy in posting a review of Dominic’s new book, The Great British Dream Factory, but it is up to his usual standards (that is large chunks of it are driven by one or two sources) and many of the judgments and comments are nonsense. For example, Dominic’s suggestion that the the cover of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is “teaming” with Victorians is a distortion, as is the overemphasis on its music hall quality; this is actually a modernist album and the presence the two other musicians on the cover, Stockhausen and Bob Dylan, is telling, as is the well documented direct influence of avant garde composers on its music, such as that of John Cage on A Day in the Life.
Similarly, the claim that the Netherlands has contributed nothing to global popular culture is driven more by a sneering English snobbery to small European states than close attention to the facts – however much one may decry the influence of Dutch Endemol TV empire, they did introduce Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, and The Voice to the world.
The main theme of the book, that British culture is a commodity that is made just as manufactured goods were once , is imposed on the material in a one-sided way. It is a conclusion around which the evidence is selected and squeezed, rather than a nuanced understanding that flows out of the evidence. Indeed, this theme of culture as commodity swamps any other form of understanding, particularly what the content of the culture is as being dominated the pre-existing culture, that of the Victorians, which is (Dominic claims) repackaged for the global market.
I will be trying to work up a Twitter storm at 9pm this evening (@MattCooperX), using the hash tag #LetUsEntertainU (unless a better tag comes up).