Monday, April 1, 2024

"aristocratic glam"

Mark Fisher would say that glam is intrinsically aristocratic. 

But it's supposed to be a Tom Ripley type interloper - someone from the lower echelons of society who sneaks his way in. Borrows the clothes and apes the manners of the nobs. Artfully, cunningly, through unstinting attention to detail, becomes "one of them".  

As if to the manor born - but actually an upstart of lowly birth. A parvenu. 

Glam as aesthetic class war. Usurpation in the realm of symbols and representation. 

Although the wealth and fame thereby won can enable a literal form of infiltration. 

Bryan Ferry as pit-worker's son who first imitates - and then penetrates - impregnates... the actual upper classes. Marries into blue blood...  breeds some Eton-bound hunting 'n' fishing brats... hangs out with Dukes and discusses vintage wines. 

Or - fictionally - the narrative arc of that silly film Saltburn

What would Mark say, then, about an actual blue-blood doing glam?  

Hark at this for a pedigree! 

Daphne Guinness - socialite / fashion model / fashion writer / curator / film maker / actress turned pop singer.

Scion of the Guinness dynasty and the Mitford line. 

Her grandmother was Diana Mitford, who divorced Guinness and married Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.

Daphne grew up moving between country houses owned by her family in England and Ireland and a villa in Spain. Salvador Dali was a family friend. Later lived in New York (where her sister worked as a PA to Andy Warhol).

Muse to fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Karl Lagerfield. Friend to Isabella Blow

Has her own Comme des Garcons scent, named Daphne

Encouraged by David Bowie to purse music. As a result... 

Produced by Tony Visconti

Claimed to known nothing about her step-grandfather's politics when Mosley's death announced. 

And yet here is a song named after hierarchy-obsessed Emperor-admirer Mishima!

"Named after the renowned Japanese poet Yukio Mishima, who Daphne was introduced to by a Japanese nanny she had when she was between the ages of three and five. Her name was Etsuko, she recalls, and when I was three and Mishima died, my father found me on the back staircase trying to commit seppuku. I said to him, 'I think I'm Mishima.’ The track also features traditional Japanese instrument, the shamisen. I bought it when I was in Japan with my friend Nori. He took me to this man who was about 85 and still making shamisens and they couldn't believe that I wanted it."

Introduced by her nanny

New single

A bit "Warm Leatherette", a bit Deborah Evans-Strickland from Flying Lizards, a bit Marianne Faithfull

"I might look like an icicle, but underneath I'm a volcano"

This triptych is - sonically - a bit sub-White Noise / Julie Driscoll / Broadcast 

I've heard.... more wieldy voices, let's say. 

Discography includes Optimist in Black (2016), Daphne & the Golden Chord (2018) and Revelations (2020), the contents described variously as "drama-pop with a gothic tinge",  "glam-rock-ish," and "aristocratic glam fuelled by wit, character and a clear and abiding love of rock'n'roll".

"I'm a rather private person - and armor to me is many sorts of masks... Japanese Noh theatre... make-up... you become a different persona"

It's a bit Glam 101.

"I like haute couture because it's the last vestige of something that's been an integral part of Western Civilization from very early on"

Last-vestige-ism = a bit of a political giveaway. 

Relates perhaps to my idea of fame as a secular version of royalty / royalism. 

At the top I wondered what would Mark Fisher think of a member of the actual ruling class becoming "glam". 

To me, it would seem to be... not much of a journey, more a case arriving back where you started, or confirming what you already are. 

So the opposite of the pop idea of self-reinvention. 

Concentration of wealth addendum: 

"In 1987, she married Spyros Niarchos, the second son of Stavros Niarchos... Her $39 million settlement, obtained at the time of her 1999 divorce, was added to her Guinness inheritance."

More recently partnered with philosopher and public intellectual Bernard Henri-Lévy, whose own inherited fortune had grown by 2004 to be in the vicinity of 150 million Euros - probably more now unless he's a complete bumbler. 

What does it say in the Bible? 

'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.


  1. Aren't the Last Dinner Party rich kids, if not aristocrats in the sense that Guinness is?

    1. i don't know anything about them. Are they modern-day neo-glam?

      There's certainly been a fair few upper-crust types who've been involved in pop over the years. Behind the scenes certainly, but in front of the scenes too.

      Funkapolitan, a pretty good British funk outfit, got a lot of flak because they had members who had been in Oxford dining societies or something like that, I can't remember. I think one of them had a title! Accordingly they were felt to be lacking in street credibility by the likes of the NME and The Face.

    2. The Last Dinner Party are an all-female/non-binary band who owe a lot to Sparks and Queen, while dressing like early 20th-century aristocrats.

    3. Ah, interesting, interesting... But they're also from wealthy backgrounds?

    4. Apparently. They're huge in the UK, and much of their press has brought this up. (They've been accused of being "industry plants," which sometimes means "rich people who bought their way into the music industry.")

  2. What of your plebby glam acts, your Slades, Muds and David Essexes? And remember Alice Cooper's second signature song may have him riding round in a gold Rolls Royce, but wishing to be elected is decidedly an unaristocratic sentiment. That word "innately" only works selectively.

    As an aside, Keith Moon loved seizing the symbols of the upper classes and rendering them as lower class as possible. Just reminded of that.

    (I don't especially want to go into it now, but I have issues with how Mark Fisher interpreted Nietzsche in that blog post. Nietzsche was not defending aristocracy, but rather attacking democratic attitudes, as part of his program of bombast against any and all ideologies and mindsets that emerged in the aftermath of the death of God. Still, I can't deny that Fisher's take has been a very common take on Nietzsche, even if I consider it mistaken.)

    1. I don't think Mark would have included the lumpen glitter types in his conception of glam... he would have seen them as tacky end-of-the-pier entertainment. He had a very precisely focused Glam Aesthetic... Roxy Music, Grace Jones, Japan, Associates, Siouxsie, Roisin Murphy...

      Whereas I prefer to embrace the messy sprawling historical reality of it, so along with the core of Bowie / Roxy / Mott / Lou Reed / Dolls, you also have the lumpen stompy teen and pre-teen targeted outfits... oddball art-pop things like Cockney Rebel and Sparks... theatrical types like Sensational Alex Harvey Band....

      Yeah "innately" is the wrong word (I've changed it to "intrinsically") because the point is that these people are not "to the manor born", they are of low birth... they appropriate the look of the ruling class and celebrate the idea of a self-created elite.

      I suppose it's glam as an extension or development of the mod idea - looking smarter than your superiors = the best revenge.

      Which is why Bryan Ferry covering "The 'In'-Crowd" was so perfect.

    2. "He had a very precisely focused Glam Aesthetic... Roxy Music, Grace Jones, Japan, Associates, Siouxsie, Roisin Murphy..."

      i.e. the good looking people.

      I don't think Glam is inherently aristocratic, but physical beauty is. Both Bowie and Ferry looked more aristocratic when they left Glam behind. Bolan sadly succumbed to the chip butties, though. Thinness, paleness, tallness, sharp cheekbones, aquiline noses, those are the markers of aristocracy. Within the Brazilian upper class, there is a fetish for the aquiline nose, and that country is replete with plastic surgeons who can supply you with one.

      In a sense, if you are low-born but have the looks and physique of the aristocracy, you can still feel somewhat aristocratic - this was visible in the self-assurance of the likes of Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Stanley Baker etc. They were natural aristocrats, if not accredited ones. I think this is also what gave Brian Ferry the confidence to actually become an aristocrat.

      I suspect that the source of Mark Fisher's rather morbid fascination with this phenomenon was, to put it bluntly, that he himself didn't have the looks or bearing to transcend his class. Neither a real nor a natural aristocrat, he was destined to always have his nose pressed against the window.


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