All that potentially racist musing about funny foreigners making a desperate stab at authenticity raises all sorts of questions about perspective. Since the Englishness they are aiming for only truly exists in the collective id of a few thousand UKIP members, who’s to say they’re wrong? Maybe an England concocted from repeat viewings of Miss Marple and a frenzied dash round Bicester Village has just as much claim to be real, whatever that means. And the same, of course, goes for Brits who visit China, sample the wonders of the cuisine, but still yearn for the crappy chow mein from their local takeaway.
However wrong it is, that first experience has a hold on the soul that doesn’t let go easily. An example from another medium; the first time I consciously heard the song ‘Money’, it sounded like this:
Of course, subsequently I heard the famous version, by the Beatles; and after that, the original, by co-writer Barrett Strong. I know the history, the official version. But deep down, I’m still 11 years old, watching Top of the Pops, and this may not be *the* original, but it’s *my* original, just as Thames Town is the real deal to the people who want it to be.
And then YouTube has its rhizomatic way with me and I happen across this (probably because the Marshall out of Marshall Hain went on to be a Flying Lizard for a bit):
And I remember what an extraordinarily bleak and depressing record this is, in an entirely good way. Has the phrase “have fun tonight” ever been uttered with such a sense of foreboding? Has a handclap ever been less celebratory? Has a song with the word “dancing” in the title ever made you feel less like dancing?
And I’m not sure whether any of this is relevant to anything, apart from the fact that both songs were released in the late 1970s, just as the great experiment of capitalism with Chinese characteristics was shuddering into shape, a phenomenon that leads us to Thames Town.