There was a meeting point in the 1970’s of a variety of virile creative ideas and minor ‘pop’ movements which, after a brief period of popularity, were directly-after attacked and ever-since maligned by a familiar combined force of envy, bourgeois superficiality, and materialist commodification. Though they continue to inspire and are never without cult appreciation, they are well overdue a renaissance as one of the last untainted art forms of the largely disastrous modern age.
Theirs was an identifiable symbiotic attitude to art and fiction which is nonetheless difficult to categorize, and recognizable only to the true culture-adventurer. It was a time of high-analog, before the disastrous quantity>quality overhaul of the digital. Their roots are in the then unbroken longstanding tradition of ‘modern’ (not Modernist, just the opposite: imaginative aesthetic optimism) imaginative narrative, but influenced greatly by certain cultural energies of the 1960’s. They pinnacled in the late 70’s, and lived on to an extent into the 80’s before their opposition rose and they largely descended into disfavour, parody and decline. A victory for the mob hatred for the aristocratic excellence of the intellectually unusual.
This strange landscape was a bizarre world of freedom of consciousness, accentuated by a decade of psychedelic experimentation, influenced by popular science fiction and fantasy, and strengthened by the availability of quality-essentialist high-analog technology. It was a time of prog rock, un-radio-friendly popular music focused on musicianship, experimental fusions, analog synth, and unrestrained fantastical visions (before being shackled by hubris and irony). A time for epic fiction (Frank Herbert, Stanislav Lem, Colin Wilson) and for epic or experimental movies (Star Wars, Taxi Driver, Mad Max). Themes and ideas that have now so thoroughly influenced the cultural lexicon it can be hard to recall how strange and groundbreaking they were, how brave in their execution compared to our current com-modified cultural trivia.
There were many crossover works, where experimental prog or hard rock met film-making or science fiction or high fantasy, and these themes were explored in an essentialist way, and not with the random abstract filter of (Post)Modernism. There were specific parochial strains, from behind the iron curtain there was a hard, realist science fiction, from America a lusty sword and sorcery, from France a strain of illustration and animation with greats such as Moebius, René Laloux, and Philippe Druillet. Britain was particularly famous for progressive rock and NWOBHM bands (inventing heavy metal itself). If one reads the ‘making of’ stories of epics such as Star Wars (sadly now com-modified to high-parody but very experimental at its time of creation) one finds the stories of working crews of such men drawing storyboards, crafting puppets, and making wooden space ship models while reading Metal Hurlant and listening to Jethro Tull. There was existing then, impossible to believe now, a popular option to feminized or purely materialist junk-culture which was specific and catering to them. This option was masculine, highly creative, semi-autistic in depth and scope, and unburdened by economic concerns or political correctness. Indeed the songs were crafted to be intentionally long for the purpose of NOT being radio-friendly, the books of unrecommended length and subject, the films populated with the creators unfettered eccentricities, all as an active middle finger to the establishment posturing and restraining influence of the market-people. These strange worlds they created were utterly incomprehensible to ‘normal folk’ outside a specific demographic, both then and now, and if they ever broke through to the mainstream it was through sheer ferocity of entertainment or stimulation, and not the needling com-modification of marketeers, financiers, and imagination-impoverished routine-rats of all varieties.
This was a window, a brief magical period where the geek was pumped with testosterone, and the goon had an imagination. Where skies were green or pink, and dark oceans roiled with fantastic creatures or beautiful nymphs. And this strange gem of an era was hated and attacked by the later small-brain cultural reactionary counter movements of punk rock, disco, and the mocking hubris of the junk-normie film industry (irony attacks such as ‘spinal tap’). These attacks chose to belittle the risky, imaginative, big-brainedness and psychedelic intellectual freedom of these uncaringly anti-consumerist tokens of cultural treasure. The punks to this day are celebrated for their ‘attitude’ of folky small-brainedness, just like the wino loser GG Allin traipsing about with his diminished manhood and a banana up his ass. A living parody of the false-art idea (for all his self-proposed-anti-system integrity, a poser). They were the fashioned tool of attack, they hated the expansive, the overlong, the highly detailed richness of these worlds. They hated this from the viewpoint of the common man’s envy, his inability to understand over-reaching concepts, and the bourgeois preference for false or superficial impressions, and a desire to look downward and champion nihilism from an envy based in their inabilities. The materialists further countered with a juggernaut of formula TV shows (sit-coms), radio friendly dance music (disco) and a bad culture of preening falseness, culturally corporate and packageable. To both these groups the former period, though it influenced all, was over-the-top, self-important, presumptuous, undemocratic, and overblown.
And to this day, still feeding off that brief few decades of high energy, they ride its coat-tails like vampire bats, bleeding it hubristically while swimming in a junk culture utterly devoid of true experiment, imagination, or essentialist intensity. By controlling popular media these vampires control the language, the allowable, and the evermore-easily angered opinion of the average cowardly nobody, who will like or ingest only the approved. The concept of branding is now a universal, but this would be an unthinkable evil to the men of that day, they would have fought continually to be individual explorers, likely to come out with anything, providing it was unexpected, original, organic, energetic. Though in some ways they created these ‘brand archetypes’, they were themselves against this, to their core. And that is because they had a concept, which is since utterly lost, and is true, that commercialism destroys art.