A week without music? Not even the top 40? It could be just what we need. Luke Haines sets out his manifesto for the first national pop strike
The Guardian, Thursday 31 May 2001 01.20 BST
"From this moment despair ends and tactics begin. Despair is the infantile disorder of the revolutionaries of everyday life."
Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life
"We all remember what happened to Princess Diana but it doesn't seem to have deterred anyone at all."
"A pig is a pig until it is offed."
Red Army Faction communiqué
This manifesto calls upon all pop stars and karaoke singers to down tools and cease to make, distribute, discuss or perform their "work". The term "pop star" is used here generically to refer to artisans, automata, circus titallantes, pimps, whores and illuminati. The idiot- savant songwriter must ignore the calling of his muse in the wee small hours. No one is exempt. You, me and the pop stars are all in this together.
We propose one week of silence from Monday July 2 2001 and call for all musicians, all record labels, all record shops, all live music venues and all related media to cease activity. During this period there will be no top 40. (Covert listening to already purchased music will be frowned upon but inevitable.) First there was Hear'Say; this is the heresy.
The storming of the Bastille notwithstanding, July is a month not usually associated with insurrectionist activity. Anti-capitalist riots, Paris 1968, the general strike - all May. Valerie Solanas taking a pot shot at the pop art Aunt Sally, Andy Warhol - June. Nevertheless, July will herald the first national pop strike. (It is also the month that my new album is released, but don't let that deter you, gentle reader.)
For the purposes of Pop Strike all music is pop music. S Club 7, Schoenberg, Laibach and Lolly - you are now all equal.
I was recently asked by a London evening paper to pose burning a Steps CD. This is not the point of Pop Strike. A style mag quoted me as saying Pop Strike is about "getting rid of all the pop dross". Getting rid of all the pop dross is not the point of Pop Strike. The new Steps CD is the same as the new Nick Cave CD, the same as the new Vanessa Mae CD, as the new Starsailor EP, as the second - as yet unrecorded - Moldy Peaches CD. Promotion is relentless. Even my own works of genius such as Baader Meinhof are punted out to restaurants by my own record company. I don't want to listen to Baader Meinhof any more than I want to listen to Judy Garland while choking on my sushi.
The more astute or educated reader will by now have noticed that the seeds of the first national pop strike can be traced to the art strikes of Gustav Metzger and Stewart Home, whom I have shamelessly plagiarised here. Metzger founded auto-destructive art in the late 1950s, whereby buildings, sculptures and structures would be realised only to be destroyed or to disintegrate. Unsurprisingly, auto-destructive art did not receive much public funding.
In 1977, Metzger called the first international art strike. During a three-year period, artists would "not produce work, permit work to go on exhibition and [would] refuse collaboration with any part of the publicity machine of the art world". Artists being artists, no one came out on strike. The second art strike (1990-93), initiated by the cultural worker Stewart Home, fared better - a handful of artists downed tools. Sadly it failed to bring about the total collapse of the art world. Pop Strike will not fail.
Our aim is to dismantle the apparatus for the music industry, to afford ourselves some peace and quiet, thus enabling us to rethink popular culture. This can only be done in total ascetic silence.
In light of the most exciting general election in modern history, it should be pointed out that the first national pop strike is social as opposed to political (although it will certainly test the socialist mettle of my contemporaries). I was saddened to see my fellow musician and neighbour Graham Coxon aligning himself with the Green party - something about not being able to skateboard on the pavements of Camden. Well Graham, if I want to be mown down by a man with the charisma of a sick pet in a hot car, I'll let you know.
Someone once made the very postmodern claim that "pop will eat itself". Well it did, years before Hear'Say. Time to put it out of its misery. One-week trial period. If you miss your fluffy pop bunny you can have it back. Back from the dead. I promised you a miracle; I can deliver.
Alan McGee, Eminem, Badly Drawn Boy, Simon Fuller, Neil Tennant, Cathy Dennis, Geri Halliwell et al - opportunity knocks. I call you all out on a strike action. Cease to be famous. Strike for less pay, socialist musician or scab whore. Join me in silence. This is my altruistic gesture for the world.
• Luke Haines plays the ICA, London SW1, next Wednesday and Thursday. Box office: 020-7930 3647. His album The Oliver Twist Manifesto is out next week on Hut. The first national pop strike runs from July 2-9.