The past is the present : a pseudo-intellectual look at music (and cycling) tradition

One of my favourite bands from the Britpop era is Suede.

In 1992 they released their debut single The Drowners with a cacophony of Glam Rock and grinding guitars, the first in a series of great singles, followed up by a No1 & Mercury Prize-winning debut album.

Over the years Suede’s sound changed as the band-lineup was reshuffled and I fell away from listening to them.  The band all but broke up in the early 2000s and that was that.

But like their main influence David Bowie, they recently returned with a brand new single and album.  They seem to have re-energized their old sound, while writing some new material which echoes their past.  It sounds great and I am reminded why I liked this band.

I have asked myself a couple of questions about this resurgence and my enjoyment of it.

1) Have Suede intentionally tried to sound like themselves 20 years ago, or have they always sounded like that?

My answer is that I stopped liking them sometime down the line.  Maybe I changed or maybe they did. Maybe we both did.  But I know I like them now because they sound more like they did then.

2) My second question is what the hell does this have to do with cycling???

One of the most popular (and newest) races on the cycling calendar is the Strade Bianchi, a one-day race in Tuscany which is ridden partly on unsealed, ‘white’ gravel roads and finishes in the medieval centre of Siena.  This Pro race is inspired by the  Granfondo l’Eroica which encourages amateurs like me (and you?) to race over these roads on old-school bikes and gear (eg shifters on the down tube).

Strade Bianchi is just one example of how the past informs the present in cycling.  You only need to look at the hysteria which surrounds Spring one-day classics like the Tour of Flanders & Paris-Roubaix for confirmation of this.

We are able to connect with cycling’s past through this continuation or affirmation of tradition and this allows us to enjoy the race more than one which has no history.

Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past and often with a happy personal association.  In the case of Suede I can apply nostalgia as I do have the happy association of a time when i started university and was ‘making my way in the world’.

But can I feel nostalgic about an era I was not part of, an era when I was not even born?

Of course we can read about how great races and racers where in the past, and in many cases we can talk to and read about them.  At the same time I feel cycling (as with many sports) is very good at building up its own mythology about the past in a kind of invented tradition.

In the past there was no past to live with, but now it seems we can’t live without it.


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