I’m country. I grew up in Broad Marston, Worcestershire: population: 80, number of houses: 28. I now live in London, England: population: 8,415,535, number of houses: does anyone know? The statistical difference between the country and the city can be staggering. As a consequence the experiential difference is often misunderstood.
City dwellers can idealize the countryside as a retreat, a place where you go to escape the technological barrage of modern life. However, if you grow up in the countryside, you’re not only keyed in to mass media, you are glued to it. There’s no live entertainment on your doorstep, at least not from established performers, but you do get to hear all the hit records and you do get to view all the hit TV. On winter nights, in particular, there are few entertainment options, and so you turn on, tune in and sit down. You become mediatised through and through
Many of my friends made music, but we didn’t necessarily want to do gigs, as that wasn’t a form of entertainment that we understood. Our currency was records and so it was as record makers that we saw ourselves. I’d made dozens of ‘albums’ before I’d learnt to play an instrument. I’d designed their sleeves and I’d written their sleevenotes. I’d also worked out dance routines for when I was going to appear on TV.
Several of us went on to write songs that had a sense of place – we celebrated our environment - but there was nothing ‘organic’ about our outlook. We knew that we’d have to be uprooted from our villages if we wanted to make the big time (none of Broad Marston’s 28 buildings housed a record company) and we realised that it would be hard to keep a band intact if this transition were to take place. We were constantly projecting. Although we were rooted in the countryside, we were envisioning success in the city.
Did any of us make it? Not really. There was too far to travel and too much to do. Did any of us resent the mass media for selling us an unobtainable dream? Not at all, it was our Huckleberry friend.