David Lister: The Week in Arts

The rock snob's guide to getting annoyed
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The Independent Online

The Beatles were getting on OK in 1967; they most certainly appeared live on TV again, famously performing "Hey Jude" in 1968 on The Frost Programme; and "I Feel Fine" was released in 1964.

Then suddenly I stopped reading and correcting any further. An awful realisation hit me. I had become a rock snob. It's an achingly boring thing to be, but alas very common. Indeed, next week a book is published entitled The Rock Snob's Dictionary. It's a guide for those who don't want to show themselves up at dinner parties, in the pub or at the bar at the gig. It defines the term rock snob on the front cover as "noun: reference term for the sort of pop connoisseur for whom the actual enjoyment of music is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge about it".

The great rock snob film scene occurs in the movie Diner where the newly wed couple have a savage argument because she has disturbed his filing system for his records. He sledgehammers home the niceties of it and she wails, tears in her eyes: "But I just want to listen to music."

That has long since ceased to be an option. The listening to music has to be accompanied by an appreciation of why that piece of music is important. I particularly like the authors' description of the annual Meltdown festival at the South Bank Centre as an event in which "a guest Snob curator rounds up his favourite 'seminal' acts for a de facto Snob Woodstock". One's favourite music is, of course, seminal.

It's ironic that rock is the most inclusive and wide-reaching art form of them all, touching every household. Yet it is more susceptible to snobbery than all the other art forms put together. Classical music used to have snob aficionados, but the struggle for inclusiveness and increased access has shut them up in recent years.

Film has its snobs, but they are vastly outnumbered by normal, human film fans. Theatre never seems to have suffered from it. In dance, it would feel faintly ridiculous: "Well, if you really think that Darcey Bussell is better than Sylvie Guillem, then frankly we have very little to say to each other!"

No, it's just with rock music that a striving for one-upmanship is an integral part of being a fan. It's time to live and let live, or listen and let listen. And so, when I opened The Guardian the other day to find it telling me that Bob Dylan shocked fans on his British tour of 1965 by going electric, when every Dylan fan on the planet knows it was 1966, I resisted the urge to throw it against the wall. That way snobbery lies.

A bit of class won't go amiss

The new film of Pride and Prejudice stars Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Donald Sutherland as her father, Mr Bennet. Its director Joe Wright admitted this week that at one point he told Donald Sutherland he was overacting. "That was really scary," he said, "but that's when they trust you."

I find one of Mr Wright's own comments pretty scary. He says: "I'm not interested in the class structure. I'm not interested in English heritage or traditional values. What I am interested in is that these people are experiencing the same emotions, the same problems of falling in love, that we are today." Perhaps he should be a little more interested in the class structure and English heritage.

The problems of falling in love today are not quite the same as when you were unable to marry out of your class, and a dangerous liaison could ruin your reputation and shame your family.

In selling his debut movie, Mr Wright overeggs the pudding. But I'll leave it to Donald Sutherland to tell him that.

* The BBC's visual arts series A Picture of Britain showed an unexpected side of the broadcaster David Dimbleby. The man best known for Question Time and election night coverage proved a consummate late entrant to arts broadcasting.

One of his virtues as an arts broadcaster was that, unlike so many others, he analysed artists rather than hitting us over the head with his personal opinions. He did, though, mention that John Sutherland was his favourite painter, and this has proved enough for the Dulwich Picture Gallery to issue a press release for its Sutherland exhibition, headlined "David Dimbleby's Favourite Painter". Six months ago, that endorsement would have failed to bring a single visitor to Dulwich. Now it's seen as a marketing tool.

David Dimbleby knew he had some small influence in the world of politics. He probably never realised that a throwaway remark can make or break an exhibition.

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