Least 'Haunted'

WOOOOOOO! ZINC POLICY! Ironically for a post that pretty much gave up on being provocative halfway through and admitted as much, this ended up becoming one of the most contentious pieces I have written in recent times, with lots of comments box hoo-hah from people who clearly felt their fundamental human right to sing Fire Leap whilst watching It's Kevin was being threatened. But, as I have recently been described as an 'expert' in 'hauntology' yet again, and not in any way because it was cut from Not On Your Telly for being too strident (or, in old money, 'opinionated'), here's my rejoinder once more...


This was originally going to be a bit of a tetchy post dismissing 'Hauntology' - which, for anyone who doesn't know, is a bit of a media-art-cult fad thing based around some kind of intertextual collision of early electronica, Britfolk, seventies film and television accidental weirdness and a general 'don't play on the railway'-type sinister Public Information Film vibe - inspired by the fact that, for reasons that will become obvious below, I've seen my name attached to it twice in the past week when I don't really, again for reasons that will become obvious below, want anything much to do with it.

Anyway, I'd got this far...

As those of you who follow my various projects will doubtless already be only too aware, I've written a book about fabled late seventies malevolent-energy-in-rural-village Children's TV serial Children Of The Stones, and the numerous other similarly-inclined serials that aired around the same time. I'm also a fan of The Wicker Man, Vashti Bunyan, Bagpuss and The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and have been known to indulge in the odd comic riff on the stentorian oppressiveness of the Open University logo and fanfare, the Moog-scorched ill-fatedness of 'Jimmmmmmiiiiiiieeeeee' and his frisbee, and the nerve-jangling Tim-Buckley-falling-down-the-stairs dischordant strum from the end of the end theme of Camberwick Green. I've even been known to argue that controversial 1974 Play For Today Penda's Fen is quite good, and not the pile of pretentious wank that practically everyone else I know thinks it is. You'd assume then, on that basis, that I'd be right into all this 'Hauntology' lark. But I'm not.

...and had planned out a big argument based on how you should appreciate these things on face value without trying to read a false narrative into them, how people like Dominic Sandbrook do a good enough job of threading together the actual facts into an actual narrative, how it hardly accounts for those Rowntree Mackintosh selection box covers with exaggeratedly thick snow and alarming spiral-eyed cartoon reindeer, and how this is just a very small part of a 'seventies' that actually seemed to be about gaudiness and artifice and Hartley Hare (with a link to my Christmas In The Seventies DJ mix as 'evidence'), not to mention urban upheaval and those rampaging 'punks', as well as borrowing Justin Lewis' observation that most 'Hauntological' efforts seem to be "the work of someone who saw Look Around You Series 1 and decided that was the entire seventies", and repeating my assertion that anyone who claims that Summer Is Icumen In from the end of The Wicker Man is the same song as the 'We Will Fix It' one from Bagpuss needs to fall in a bin with immediate effect. There was going to be some tongue-in-cheek stuff about Hole Hearted by Extreme being 'hauntology' too, but if you can guess how that would have worked, you'll be doing better than me.

But on reading it back, it all seemed to be a tad self-important and a bit too dismissive of something that a lot of people are clearly enjoying, and verging on "you're liking it wrong!!" territory. Which, to be fair, is generally true of how people like Bagpuss, but that's by the by. If you're going to attack something, you might as well make it George Osborne. So yes, 'Hauntology', don't get it, but if you like it then good for you. You are missing out on some pretty good Steely Dan records though.

And anyway, the best thing about Penda's Fen is the alarming hairstyle of this chap...