Riffs

Volume 2, Issue 2 – Joe Muggs – Bass Culture and a Very Tangled Englishness

This piece reflects upon the book BASS MIDS TOPS, which I am producing with the photographer Brian David Stevens. It is a story of soundsystem culture and the way it has infiltrated British clubs, radio and the pop charts over the past forty years.

BASS MIDS TOPS, and by extension this piece for Riffs, is also a story of Englishness – in the sense that Peter Ackroyd paints it in Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination. “Englishness,” he says, “is the principle of appropriation.” Our language and literature in this view is a tangled, meandering “line of beauty” stretching from Beowulf to today. It’s an endlessly unfolding story that reflects its roots in an oral tradition and also in the nation’s constantly-refreshed hybrid, palimpsestic nature. It’s characterised by tricksiness, absurdity, love of wordplay and shaggy dog stories; it tries to evade seriousness at every turn, yet is inexorably drawn to the mystical. It’s the Englishness of Chaucer, Sterne, Carroll, Tolkien, but also of costermongers, spivs, pub anecdotalists and bullshit artists through the centuries.

Joe Muggs

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