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Going Underground

Stuart Bailie | 11:39 UK time, Thursday, 13 May 2010

After the general election of 1992, when John Major kept the Conservative party in charge for another term, the left wing media folk were depressed. This was certainly true for the young hacks at the New Musical Express, a publication that had campaigned for Labour values throughout the Eighties and which had harboured a Socialist Worker's Party tendency for much of that. Where to now?

Enter Steven Wells, otherwise known as Swells, a mouthy, amusing and intelligent soul from Bradford. He would not be beaten and with a great rash of ingenuity, he delivered an alternate rock and roll story that compared the great moments of pop culture with the incumbent political parties. He concluded that rock and roll and the counter culture that feeds it are nearly always better under a Conservative government.

His rationale is that there's a common enemy, a reason to be exiled from the mainstream, a mandate to rebel against. It was classic Swells and people in the office were laughing at his cracked logic and twisted chronologies. But of course we ran it, and the readers responded with enthusiasm.

The kicker to the story was Tony Blair's election five years later. Pretty soon, Oasis were hanging out at Number 10 and there was an odd befriending of rock and roll. It didn't last of course and the NME followed up with a cover image of Blair and the headline 'Ever Get The Feeling You're Been Cheated?'

To extend the Swells theory, it would follow that music culture is going to have to earn its alternative stripes again. No bad thing, surely.


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