Got any change, guv? No 237: ROVER 200

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The Independent Culture
THERE ARE THREE carbon-dated versions of the British miracle: Swinging London, 1966; Fantasy Island, 1981; and Cool Britannia, 1996. They have common themes and elements, principally anachronism - what Robert Elms described as "10 years ahead and a hundred years behind" - and they all contain a lot of youth, music, fashion, and art school.

Roxy Music's first hit single, "Virginia Plain", caught you by the throat with its stylishness and knowingness. And Sparks' "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" was the epitome of early-Seventies transatlantic camp: the Mael brothers were so thin and so mannered, a veritable Gilbert and George of pop.

The Sparks ad for Rover 200 is jam-packed with what people now call Cultural Icons of Modern Britishness. The Mockney voice-over, by contrast, makes reference to the styles and habits of Ancient Britons. We open with the Notting Hill Carnival - cool persons of colour, dancing policemen, etc. The voice-over says, "It's good to know you can see bobbies off the beat." A Zoe Ball-type modern" girl is driving her Rover 200 slowly through the happy throng - shots of sound-systems and Spidermen. She opens her eyes wide to camera, and - swock! - she's got bullseye contact lenses in The Who style.

"Or take a quiet drive through the countryside in the land where an Englishman's home is his castle," the voice-over continues, as we drive through a surreal purple landscape with Stealth aircraft screaming over the car, and pass a terrace which seems to include a Rachel Whiteread-style concrete house. These English castles are owned by cool black folk. "And you can see a pearly queen or two": we see a tall, elegant tranny in a lilac wig.

"It's good to know things haven't changed a bit," says our all-purpose Phil Daniels type. And the real irony is that he's dead right: it's been the same story since 1966.