What am I going on about? Well, the other night a friend mentioned that a gig we’d just seen had had a strong air of “malevolence”. Blimey. Who were these evil musicians? It was A Fat White Family (AKA Fat Whites), a group who do a nice grinding twisted blues-rock thing that works pretty well … when it works (ie maybe when they haven’t drunk too much).
Are the band members actually malevolent? No, I don’t think so. They just generate a (faint) feel of menace (in fact, barely that; not quite sure what my gig companion was so concerned about really).
But my (rather over-obvious?) point, of course, is that pseudo-malevolence often underpins some of the best music. The panto-satanism of The Rolling Stones, the (also theatrical) anger of The Sex Pistols, entire genres like grindcore and black metal. The camp antics of rock (Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss). John Lee Hooker. Emo bands. Black clothing (everyone). Death, destruction (smash it up), disease … the devil!
Bloody hell! Maybe rock and roll is the devil’s music. Except it’s all - or nearly all - a pose.
So for example …. it’s often argued that the “peaceful” 1960s ended on 6 December 1969 with the violence at the Altamont Festival during The Rolling Stones set, but I think that’s too easy. Yes, Jagger was hardly “into” the violence of the Hells Angels at the show (“We’re splitting, man, if those cats don’t stop beating up everybody in sight”) but the Death Of Meredith Hunter footage shows Jagger later reviewing film of Hunter’s death following by a long sequence of “heroic” hippies walking across a sun-drenched landscape. For some people - not necessarily Jagger himself - the look and feel of violence and the “glamour” of music-making are made for each other.
I don’t think Jagger et al were malevolent or violent, but I think they were happy - like Faust - to conjure up the theatrical devil. I don’t think A Fat White Family are genuine bad boys, but like all scuzz rockers they don’t mind acting like they might be.