The unseasonably warm weather brought out shoppers in summer attire. Without the autumn colours of the trees, it would have been easy to imagine it a day in mid-July. Among the short-sleeves and the tee-shirts, a middle-aged woman walked through the precinct deep in conversation on the mobile phone held firmly against her ear. Across the front of her black shirt in white letters there were the words, “Mrs Dave Grohl.”
Of course, it is possible that the wife of one of the world’s greatest rock stars could be walking through an English provincial town on an autumn afternoon, though it seemed unlikely that the real Mrs Grohl would need a tee shirt to remind her the name of her spouse. Presumably, the tee shirt is among the merchandise that can be purchased at concerts by Dave Grohl’s group The Foo Fighters, or is stocked in shops frequented by fans of the band. What seemed odd about the tee-shirt is that someone would want one declaring themselves to be the wife of the singer, is rock music becoming very domestic?
In former times, it seems unlikely that female admirers of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones would have worn shirts proclaiming themselves “Mrs John Lennon” or “Mrs Mick Jagger.” Many might have aspired to such a relationship, but it would have seemed to have embraced the very conventionality against which rock music was a declaration of rebellion. The times are changed.
But if music has been domesticated, if even a leading rock band is now embraced within middle class, middle aged culture, where now is to be found rebellion? The very visible youth sub-cultures of the 1950s, 60s and 70s seemed focused upon identification with particular music. The teddy boys, the mods and rockers, the hippies and the punks, that were so troubling to the media of the conservative mainstream, followed their own bands, played their own music, and had a strong sense of counter cultural identity.
Walk through a crowded street now and it is difficult to spot counter culturalism, those of an age where people once wore loafers, or parkas or leather jackets or safety pins, now opt for “labels,” there seems a wish to look similar rather than different.
If a distinct youth culture only began in the late Nineteenth Century and only fully emerged in the post-war era, it seems in danger of disappearing in the early Twenty-First Century. Mrs Dave Grohl seems a declaration that music is no longer a focus for counter culture, perhaps a declaration that counter culture itself has disappeared.