Steranko is one of the characters that inhabit Geoff Dyer’s 1980’s Brixton in The Colour of Memory. Dyer depicts him as a slightly cooler version of himself. At one point Steranko’s political commitment is his challenged. I enjoyed but was prickled by his response:
‘Listen, I’ll tell you how I’m involved in politics: I never eat at McDonald’s, I never play electronic games, I’ve never seen five minutes of soap opera on television or any of the other shit they put out. I try not to listen to pop music, I never listen to Radio 1; I don’t read the review pages of Sunday papers. I don’t buy any South African goods, I don’t own a car and generally I don’t spend any money on the kind of crap shops are full of. I’ve no interest in getting a proper job and I don’t care if I never own my own house – when people talk about house prices I don’t listen. I don’t know any bankers or any people who work in advertising – I’ve only been to the City once. If someone is reading a tabloid newspaper I try to make sure I don’t see it. OK? Now we come to the really important things: I spend quite a lot of time painting and thinking about art. In other words I try not to go blind. I don’t read shit books and I never go to shit films. I play as much sport as I can and I listen to Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Lester Bowie, Beethoven and Shostakovitch – in other words I try not to let myself go deaf. You get the picture? I’m engaged in some of the most important political battles of our time.’
My sentiment in the mid-’80’s was similar (and broadly remains so today) though my musical tastes differed. I am satisfied that I left behind anarchist sympathies but less pleased with the disengaged, liberal blandness that has crept in to take their place.
When my paths diverged I took the well-used one towards career. To the person I left behind, by the late ’80’s I had ‘sold out’. Twenty ‘successful’ years of corporate life has left me looking back, sympathetic but bewildered. Literature and music keeps me inspired and balanced.