If I were to frame Larkin’s Law of Reissues, it would say that anything you haven’t got already probably isn’t worth bothering about. In other words, if someone tries to persuade you to buy a limited edition of the 1924-5 sessions by Paraffin Joe and his Nitelites, keep your pockets buttoned up; if they were any good, you’d have heard of them at school, as you did King Oliver, and have laid out your earliest pocket money on them... Everything worthwhile gets reissued about every five years.
Larkin was writing in 1969, in the days when music fans were expected to wait patiently for any audio scraps to fall off the table. But he also seems to speak of an era when nostalgia was rooted in accurate memories, with no potential for revisionism. For example, I certainly didn’t watch this
when it was first on TV in 1980. But in true postmodern style, I’m quite capable of retrospectively absorbing it into my childhood. If, as Roland Barthes suggested, the Author is Dead, did he take the Past down with him?