Posted by: davidjmarlow | 24/12/2012

Déjà vu – but we all just have to ‘Carry On’…

A couple of years ago I was in Birmingham on business. At the end of my meetings, I wandered up to the ICC to see what was on – just on the off chance. To my huge delight, Stephen Stills was playing and tickets were available.

Obviously, I took the opportunity to see a legend of the Woodstock era. Stills was never one of my heroes – not even a favourite of mine from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y – I am more a Young fan). But Déjà Vu is a superb album, and, even without Neil Young, several CS&N efforts are highly listenable.

The concert was an immense disappointment. The first set was Stills acoustic – but the poor old man had difficulties holding a tune. After the interval, Stills was joined by his rock band. They seemed intent on hiding their embarrassment by basically drowning him out with what were, therefore, their ‘cover versions’ of his classics.


All of which was brought to mind this xmas eve evening as I contemplated what to do. I could choose the local pub to meet an assortment of regulars I last saw last xmas eve pretending to generate a shallow but pretty harmless festive bonhomie. I could watch something I didn’t particularly want to on TV. I could surf the web looking for inspiration. Or I could write a blog trying to give a sense of how I feel.

I decided on surfing the web, in a fairly random way that eventually brought me to a CSN&Y live performance of ‘Carry On’ – the opening track of their seminal album. Clearly smashed, but enjoying themselves, the performance was hopelessly out of tune – rather like Stills’ Birmingham gig.

Rather depressed, I ‘you-tubed’ the studio version from Déjà vu and enjoyed the perfect harmonies and genuinely uplifting reminder of an era when ‘love [was] coming to our song…’. And then I drafted this blog.

You know you are getting old when everything seems to be coming round for the third or fourth time in your life. 2012 has been one of those years. The reinvention of Enterprise Zones reminds me of the 1980s. The Heseltine review (‘No stone unturned in pursuit of growth’) actually left many stones unturned, but managed to regurgitate ideas from his long career. His calls for another unitary local government debate took me back to the Banham commission of the 1990s, and the subsequent new unitaries of many cities (Southampton, Peterborough, Plymouth etc.,) with whom I have had long-standing relationships of which I am proud. Community-based budgets and city deals are reworkings of old decentralist classics, whose most recent manifestations were Total Place and the MAAs of the noughties. The Heseltine review and the subsequent autumn statement look suspiciously like an attempt to reinvent the 39 LEPs as mini-RDAs. And, immensely sadly, like CSN&Y, the more times the classics are replayed (rebranded in coalition terms), the more out of tune and contrived they sound.

I will go to the pub and indulge in superficial bonhomie – it’s Xmas! Déjà vu, 2012-style, is hard to stomach. But, at the end of the day, we all just have to ‘carry on’. Maybe in 2013, ‘love will come to our song….’

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