Blue or black jeans? It’s a crucial question!
Last weekend was a first for Pete and I – we went to see the “mighty” Status Quo in Inverness. 30 years ago when Cairns had hair down to his waist and his neck and back joints were just a wee bit looser, he’d have been in there with the throng of headbangers in their stonewashed denims and black waistcoats. I never fancied it way back then but hearing endless tales of Quo gigs from Hammersmith Odeon to Manchester Apollo, I’d imagined that 30 years on, little would have changed. Wrong!
Yes there was a hardcore of slightly overweight and balding Quo fanatics with denims that had frankly seen better days and rarely a washing machine, but the majority opted for black jeans, an altogether more sensible, contemporary look. The gig was outside and it rained constantly. I know that in yesteryear Pete would have shrugged that off and wouldn’t be seen dead at a Quo gig in waterproofs but he, along with thousands of others, went for the very middle-aged option of goretex to go with their black jeans.
Even Quo (Rossi minus his legendary ponytail and Parfitt with a few extra pounds) had been told by their PA that faded blue denim was no longer a look befitting of an ageing rock band. The headbanging was slightly reserved (more of a head nodding and foot tapping really) and the whole affair was more rock than roll. The band, I have to say, were superb and if you closed your eyes, it could indeed have been 3 decades ago. It was great to switch off for a night and wet and weary, we returned not to the gutter or railway station bench that would have historically provided post-Quo accommodation, but to a rather plush hotel nearby. We enjoyed a nice cup of tea before turning in and you’ll be glad to hear that Pete’s black jeans dried very nicely overnight (in case you were concerned about his arthritis). I wonder if Led Zep are still touring?
Colleague Niall Benvie made me chuckle with his ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ blog post recently. Once you get to grips with Niall’s skewed thinking (and I’m not sure I ever will), this particular post is a satirical poke at the Scottish psyche and its unwillingness to tolerate anyone who gets ‘too big for their boots’ or advocates innovative thinking.
Niall is Scottish by birth and can say such things without fear of a dawn raid from the Political Correctness Police. I was born south of the border and would suggest that such a trait is not confined to native Scots. Conservatism is a British thing, something we’re comfortable with. Innovation makes us nervous. Innovators are mavericks intent on upsetting the status quo; hellbent on making a name for themselves; obvious exploiters and out for their own ends. Like the over-ambitious poppy, they need trimming back.
Now, you might detect a raw nerve here and yes, hands up, I’m a bit pissed off. Why? Well because I’ve met many people (from within the conservation community) who don’t like tall poppies. They rub their chin long and hard and shake their heads. “It can’t be done.” “It’s not possible.””It’ll never work.” These chin-rubbers are often at the forefront of conservation policy making and in my humble view, forget one thing: one thing that was highlighted in a superb report called Branding Biodiversity. That is that for the vast majority of people in this country, nature conservation is a very long way down their priority list and if you want to address that, you need to tap into their value system. “People aren’t rational, they’re emotional” says the report. Quite so.
For my money then, anyone who puts their head above the parapet, tries something different, seeks to touch people on an emotional level, strives to be a tall poppy – they deserve encouragement, investment. They’re not mavericks, they’re heroes. We can sit and rub our chins as much as we like but in the meantime, we’re failing as a society to protect our most valuable asset.
Somewhere in the unfathomable depths of our minds, we all connect differently with places, people and cultural trends like music and fashion. I guess it’s what’s referred to as taste. Most would say…well at least my wife…that I’m not over-endowed in that department: she’s seen my 30 year allegiance to Status Quo (try as I might Hip Dizzy Doo-Daa Wotsit just doesn’t do it for me)! And so it is with photographic locations.
Last autumn I visited Skye for the first time (yes OK it’s taken me a while) and I wrote about it in this blog. It was a great trip (fun group of people always helps) but in many ways, not radically different from any other. So why is it niggling away at me? Why is it I can’t wait to get back? Is it that for some reason I connected with the place…or the people? I’m not sure to be honest. What I do know though is that in spite of it’s well-visited iconic landmarks, Skye is somehow tugging at my creative apron strings.
As time goes on working in Scotland is becoming increasingly exciting – I’m seeing new opportunities for creative imagery and perhaps more significantly, visual story-telling. Skye is right up there on my list, a list which in the past might have been topped with ostensibly more rewarding locations much further a field. So perhaps my photographic perspective is evolving (I hope that’s the case) and perhaps too are my tastes. As for the Quo, well some things transcend fickle cultural trends. Down Down y’all.
ps. If you fancy joining myself and colleague Mark Hamblin in Skye, take a look in Photo-tours.