“Too many creeps” the Bush Tetras sang on their most “famous” song c.1980 downtown NYC punk scene.
One of my all time favorite songs and performances (I saw them do it live more than once). And most people would have no idea who they are, or were.
That seemed to be the definition of “hip”—digging and “getting” “art” most people missed or went right over, or under, their heads.
Now and then an icon of the “avant-garde” or “downtown scene” or whatever “cutting edge” scenes think their taste is rare, would break out into the attention of the mass media and become known in the wider world, but for the most part the audiences for this kind of hipster-approved work remained limited.
And no one thought that was a sign of lack of success. On the contrary.
But, in recent decades, a lot of that hip sensibility was co-opted and commercialized and the criteria for success, even on the hipper scenes, became “gentrified” to the point of being measured by the amount of mass media attention and financial rewards.
Now I think that’s changing, and I think the reason is simply because there’s so many more people. Twice as many in this country alone since the Bush Tetras were first doing their thing.
It always cracks me up when in a movie, even serious ones, a character pulls their car up in front of where they’re going and there just happens to be an open space there. We all know how likely that is these days.
But back in mid-20th-Century, when I first became a regular on the Greenwich Village scene, it wasn’t that unusual. Because there were less people and less cars. (The actual population of New York City wasn’t much different back then, but the number of cars in the city and coming in from the surrounding area was a lot less.)
Back then it made sense that “little magazines” that reached an audience in the hundreds could validate the creative work of various poets, writers and artists, and it was more than enough reward. Now, where there once were a handful of little magazines, there are hundreds, thousands even.
When somebody says that’s too many poets, or bands, or whatever, they’re being nostalgic. Yes, there’s too many people, and it seems inevitable that if the earth doesn’t come up with its own ways of getting rid of vast numbers of us, we’ll end up doing it ourselves. But in the meantime, most people I read or hear don’t seem to get that the reason there are so many more bands and poets and etc. is because there are so many more people period, not to mention living longer.
Back in the 1950s you could visit the Museum of Modern Art and spend hours wandering around the galleries hardly seeing anyone. It wasn’t a worldwide family tourist destination, and even if it had been, there still would have been a lot less people.
It’s cool that more people dig art, but it’s also partly, if not mostly, a matter of population growth. As are, most likely, the motivations for a lot of the political and social turmoil of these times.
Too many creeps? Too many of a lot of things, including bands nobody’s heard of but are still great to listen to.