Saturday, June 02, 2007


(Below): Julien Temple doing a Q&A session at the Duke of York's in Brighton, May 2007. (Right): Julien Temple in central London, June 1982. Original photo by Adrian Boot.

The Audio Generalist is proud to present an exclusive interview with Julien Temple, director of 'Strummer' the new feature-length documentary on dear Joe. You can hear it here.

[From the detailed research for the interview I would single out these two pieces as being of particular note:
'Joe Strummer: the film' by Stephen Dalton (The Times May 12, 2007). The strapline reads: 'Julien Temple's life uncannily reflected Joe Strummer's. No wonder he has filmed the biography.'
The immaculate punk' by Alexis Petridis (The Guardian, 10 May 2007)

Julien and I had not seen each other since 1982, when I interviewed him for Time Out magazine about his recently cancelled project 'Teenage', made for Granada with Jon Savage and Peter York. (I was, I believe, one of the few outsiders to see it). 'Three big egos in one small video box' is his comment on the episode 25 years later. Here is the original Time Out piece.


(Time Out June 11-17, 1982)

At the age of 28 Julian Temple has already made some 30 promotional videos; he has also directed two feature-length films, the Sex Pistols, 'The Great Rock and Roll Swindle' and 'The Secret Policeman's Other Ball'. A graduate of the National Film School and of the somewhat less institutionalised Malcolm McLaren Charm School, Temple is popularly regarded as being in direct contact with the Zeitgeist of modern youth, and was centrally involved in the production of 'Teenage', a TV series on teenage culture made for Granada that has since been shelved.

Temple regards the development of teenage culture since the war as 'an incredibly illuminating window on the historical process in Britain', but ironically believes that teenage, having become obsessed with the trappings of style over content, has ceased to be relevant as a social phenomenon. In other words: Teen­age Is Dead.

'The Sex Pistols were the first people to say that in 1976,' says Temple. 'That's where it comes from. The Sex Pistols said there was no future. Teenage has been very identified as an idea with pop music. I think the whole frontal assault on the Sex Pistols on the notion that that idea is timeless and can go on for ever was the key thing in everyone's development.

'If you went to the Club For Heroes you see 49-year-olds still des­perately trying to be teenagers. If you visit your uncle you see little kids aged four desperately identi­fying with Adam Ant. The kind of spectrum that exists now just makes total nonsense of the defined idea that the years 13 to 19 are anything very special.

'The other thing that rams it home now is the economic situation. In market terms, the people who have money to spend are older people who spend it on their young kids or themselves. The teenage thing has been isolated and age groups either side are actually con­suming more.

'Kids did begin to have a certain spending power in the late 1950s but have now lost it. It's been interest­ing researching the programme, how many of the parents of the kids to­day — who were involved in the first wave of teenage culture in Eng­land — were saying how much better off they were as kids in terms of having a good time, having money to spend and things to do, than the kids of today.'

Temple believes that teenage cul­ture is also linked 'with the absence of a defined left-wing political tradition that is exciting to young people'. This differentiates Britain strongly from countries like Italy and France. Furthermore, over the last 25 years teenage culture has become less and less rebellious: 'The act.of being a Teddy Boy in 1953 was a heroic one compared with being a Nazi SS Guard in 1982.'

The fact that youth today has no understanding of its place in this cultural tradition is what concerns Temple most: 'If they don't under­stand that it's all been done before, that it's the endless recycling and re-exhumation of old ideas, then they won't reject it.'

This rejection, he feels, is impor­tant if youth and its culture are to progress into the modern age. But Temple's version of events not only differs from the official view, it sub­verts it. It is not widely realised to what extent there is an official his­tory of youth, passed down by rote from one writer to another, from one paper to another, endlessly repeated and enshrined, repackaged and resold, and in which large vested interests are at stake.

Temple says: 'It's like a litany. It's based on the received biblical theory of rock & roll that has emphasised the music and icons of guys with guitars for 25 years. It's amazing how it's gone on that long.

'The whole idea of what we were doing (in the TV series) was to re­write that history from the perspec­tive of the thing now being over. Hindsight is a very useful perspective that hasn't really existed until now.

'What is killing any really new development in music is this old car­cass of pretension and art, with NME theorists like barnacles all over the thing. They need to be cut off and music just needs to be like any other creative function in society. You dance to it and enjoy it but you don't have to read Paul Morley's ideas about it anymore.

'The notion of teenage now is a notion of controlling people, packaging people into a loop. It's like joining the army almost. You're fed in, you go round in a loop and every three years the rockabilly style comes up. It's just endlessly repeating itself and stopping people seeing beyond this stupid little whirligig.'

While many of today's pop figureheads have adopted a much more practical modus operandi than that of their predecessors, Temple believes that there's still a disturbing level of pretension in the manner in which they present themselves to the public.

'I didn't like the New Romantic style of music, thinking or videos. They all seemed to go hand in hand. "Let's run up to the attic and get out the dressing-up trunk." Every Ultravox mini-thing was more pre­tentious than the last one and further away from any kind of meaningful statement. It's very pre­dictable in its decadence.

'I just think there's something a bit cleaner and healthier in the kind of one-finger synthesizer music that has replaced it, the Depeche Mode thing or the Human League. It actually seems one step nearer to the end to me, because anyone can do it.

'If you dial a push-button phone you can play your own tune. If you add up your royalties, you're actually writing your next song on your melodic calculator. Very ter­minal exercise but it's fun and less pretentious.'

See previous post: NME: The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music
This was the first major piece on the first Sex Pistols film, published in late 1979.

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