It's scary how quickly rebellious teenagers turn into grumpy old geezers. My friend Mark, who had been admiring Adam Ant's 'Prince Charming' outfit in the Victoria & Albert Museum earlier in the day, is sitting opposite me in the pub and we are arguing about One Direction. We are both 40 years old. Mark's daughter Polly is 15 and he delights in winding her up by only ever referring to Harry, Zayn and the rest as 'One Dimension'. He's not alone in his derision - Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn have attributed their shared hatred of the boy band as the reason a long standing hatchet was recently buried. Mark is outraged at my argumentative position that they are no different to the 1963 version of The Beatles singing I Want To Hold Your Hand, the song that would break them in America. Handsome boys, a simple, catchy song and girls screaming. It was ever thus.
I was never really going to win a debate about merit. It's difficult to see 1D going on to make a Sergeant Pepper or a White Album after getting turned on by a modern day Dylan's weed and embracing transcendental meditation. What I realised later was that our debate was not really about what constitutes talent, it was about the innocence of childhood. Despite a culture raising a generation of kids with eyeballs that flick from one screen to another (phone, tablet, telly), it's heartening to know there is still room for the teen idol. God knows we need them. With Rihanna and Beyonce all attitude and booty, teenage girls badly needed some boys to target their adoring gaze on.
From Sinatra and Presley through to David Cassidy and Wham!, there has always been someone for a young girl with a growing awareness of the way a man dancing around singing about love will make her feel. Maybe that's why my friend is so against them: he knows his little girl is growing up. Getting a little wobbly at a certain Harry Styles glance on YouTube is the modern day equivalent of screaming at a band on stage. Amen to that - having a crush on a pop star is a unique rite of passage in the sexual awakening of every teenager. Obsessing about someone you have never met to that extent will only result in restraining orders later in life. Yes, there were legions of middle aged women attending the recent tours of Take That but the truth is their pulses will never quicken like they did in their teens.
In the end, it was the screaming that lead The Beatles to give up touring. It was a waste of time trying to play music when no one could hear it and as Lennon later admitted, half the time they were out of tune anyway. For Harry and the rest, it is evidently music to their ears. Their 'Take Me Home' tour, which kicked off last month, will see them play over 100 dates, including 41 shows in the States. All knowing smirks and laddy larking about, America's teenage girls will fall for them all over again (they toured there last year too). That's pop music and I wouldn't have it any other way. Even if my mate Mark would.
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