Today, in journalism, the anniversary is king. With more and more pages to fill and more and more content to pump out, even the most insignificant of milestones is worthy of thousands of words and hours of screen time. Instead of just writing about anything because it might be interesting, journalists are writing about something because it happened a certain number of years ago.
Of course, everyone’s complicit: film companies crank out anniversary edition DVDs and Blu-rays; record labels plug remastered copies of seminal albums; governments and political interest groups use emotive dates to recruit and convert. With that in mind, I thought I’d save you a little reading time next year by telling you how things are going to pan out anniversary feature-wise in 2013.
1st: Historical pieces on the 2153rd anniversary of New Year’s Day itself, first celebrated by our “surprisingly sophisticated” (The Times) pagan forebears. “Let’s hope the EU doesn’t go and bloody outlaw this key part of our great British heritage,” roars Jeremy Clarkson in the Telegraph.
13th: Pete Townshend opens up on the tenth anniversary of his arrest on suspicion of possessing and making indecent images of children. “I thought I could help, I thought I was above the law”, ruminates the legendary axe-swinger in a frank interview with a Sunday supplement. “But no one is above the law. Not even me… for now”.
27th: Second anniversary of JD Salinger’s death. Speculation around the writer’s secret stash of unpublished novels reaches fever pitch once more. An ex-lover releases a pornographic poem about living with Salinger in the woods. Thousands of essays on the importance of Holden Caulfield are published. What would Holden be like today, many ask. Would he be rioting in the streets? The Mail suggests that as a godless, privileged, work-shy teenager, he surely would. Repeated for anniversary of Catcher in the Rye’s publication.
28th: The 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. Radio Four clears its schedule for three days of events. A new version of the hit TV show, with the same cast, is released to great acclaim. Every newspaper and women’s magazine features a story on Colin Firth, Mr Darcy and that scene in the lake. Twelve new Austen adaptations are commissioned.
3rd: The tenth anniversary of Phil Spector’s shooting of actor Lana Clarkson. The New Yorker publish a 29-page story on the visionary producer’s life inside prison. Various magazines carry interviews with psychologists about the “link between madness and genius”. The NME interviews the band Spector. A series of articles feature the phrase, “of course, I don’t want to be seen to be condoning murder”.
11th: The 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s suicide. All literary magazines feature long appraisals of the depressed poet. The Mail and the Express write pieces about “difficult women who think too much”. The Sun goes with a picture accompanied by the caption “God, cheer up love!”
20th: First anniversary of “Call me Maybe”. The bros from Abercrombie do a Vanity Fair spread. Canadian papers try to remind the world that Carly is Canadian. The world ignores them. Journalists famous for liking pop music write about how liking pop is radical.
22nd: A massive new vinyl suitcase marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Please Please Me. Everyone agrees The Beatles were just the best.
5th: The 19th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. “He would have been 46,” sigh commentators across the globe, imbuing the age with a near mystical significance. Perhaps he would have quit the music industry and self-released the music he wanted to make. Perhaps he would have become a lumberjack and lived a quiet life in the woods. Perhaps Nirvana would have become a bloated stadium rock band. All these theories are explored. Courtney Love wails in public. Tabloids call her "crazed and unpredictable". Universal releases previously lost tapes of Kurt and Michael Stipe humming feedback into an eight-track.
10th: Tony Blair returns for a round of interviews celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. “His greatest achievement,” say all broadsheets. “The early optimism” of those days is recalled. “But we can’t forget Iraq,” The Guardian reminds us. The perma-tanned cipher Blair erupts, rages about his legacy. The Mail wonders if the Labour party shouldn’t think about bringing him back.
5th: The 200th anniversary of Kierkegaard’s birth. “If he was writing today, he’d be writing The Killing,” says The Guardian.
16th: The 70th anniversary of the Second World War Dambuster raid. The Telegraph produces a 75-page full colour supplement.
22nd: The 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth. Radio 3 dedicates a week of coverage to him. Right wing papers unapologetically trumpet his brilliance. Left wing papers apologetically trumpet his brilliance. They talk about how “he’s actually very good” and that he “shouldn’t be blamed for his appropriation by the Nazis”. A band with bookish aspirations gives the NME a quote about how influenced they are by Wagner. No one hears from the band again.
22nd: Sixth anniversary of the uploading of “Charlie bit my finger – again!” The Mail writes about the delightfully human humour inherent in YouTube’s formerly most watched clip. Gawker claims Charlie is in fact an actor. A respected author writes a broadsheet feature lamenting the “end of culture as signified by Charlie’s repeated biting of the finger. In many ways, the finger represents our once intact artistic life, while Charlie is the Internet, mauling the finger 'til it can point no longer.”
29th: The post-punk prophets come out in force to pay tribute to the 35th anniversary of Joy Division’s first gig, as Warsaw. Curtis’ spellbinding, doomed personality was evident even at the beginning, says Charles Shaar Murray in The Observer. “I remember their vital importance. I remember how I thought of Ian when I wrote the first of my many novels about normal men who have feelings,” Tony Parsons opines in the Sunday Times.
4th: The 37th anniversary of the Sex Pistols gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall. The NME and the broadsheets all publish pieces that include mention of the following: Everyone at the gig went on to form a band. The memory of what Britain was like back then: mass unemployment, castles of rubbish blocking the street, human bodies everywhere. That punk was a call to arms for “the working class”. That the Sex Pistols “changed everything” – music, society, the Dow Jones – everything.
12th: The 15th anniversary of France’s world cup victory. A nation longs for harmony. The Le Pen family stays silent, hoping no one will mention the whole “we won it with a bunch of players stolen from Africa” thing. Zidane says enigmatic things. International news outlets focus on race riots involving rappers in the suburbs.
27th: First anniversary of London’s wonderful, uplifting Olympics. Every single tabloid paper produces a standalone supplement dedicated to the Mobot. Boris Johnson writes an op-ed in the Telegraph, in which he talks heartily about the unparalleled feeling of inclusion and community the Olympics brought. Iain Sinclair writes a 1,243-page book about the rotting of Stratford. It is reproduced as a two-page feature in The Guardian. The Mail writes about the loss of the “Olympic spirit” and suggests that while Mo Farah is a good sort, his fellow Somali-Brits have shown “no desire to learn about their adopted country”.
7th: “The Riots: What have we learnt?” asks every single broadsheet. The second anniversary of the London riots and the shooting of Mark Duggan by the police leads to an outpouring of “state of the nation” pieces. Huw Edwards revisits some key riot sites. Every single news channel speaks to “real Londoners” about their experiences.
20th: Fifth anniversary of the Dow’s worst point drop during the economic crisis of 2008. Everybody continues to be confused by economics. Various predictions about “what will happen” are made.
24th: The 22nd anniversary of the release of Nevermind. The NME runs a week-long poll to find out everyone’s favourite song before agreeing, along with The Guardian, that it was the best album of all time. The Sun runs a picture of Kurt looking depressed alongside the caption “Cheer up, mate, your album’s number one again!”
4th: Global politics and Hollywood combine for the 20th anniversary of the Black Hawk Down incident. A Somali journalist writes about America’s continuing meddling and use of drone bombing in Somalia for The Guardian. No one reads it. But everyone reads a Grazia interview with Ewan McGregor, which ties in nicely with the re-release of the film on Blu-ray.
29th: Second anniversary of Jimmy Savile’s death. The tabloids ask: “Who is worse? The BBC or Jimmy Savile?" The BBC issues a day-long apology, which it then congratulates itself for. The Observer publishes an in-depth investigation that reveals a paedophile ring connected to every single powerful human being in the UK.
14th: Every broadsheet – except the Telegraph – features essays discussing the brilliance of Jay-Z to mark the tenth anniversary of The Black Album. He is referred to as the “CEO of rap”, “the world’s first truly global black superstar” and a “true poet”.
22nd: The 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination prompts a shitstorm of conspiracy theories. Sentimental baby boomers talk about “what might have been” on news shows across the globe. Obama is endlessly compared, unfavourably, to the assassinated preppy king.
10th: “Computer games changed forever”, writes everyone, to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Doom. People who remember its release talk about how old they feel.
25th: Anniversary of Jesus’ birth overshadowed by coverage of football, weather conditions and presents. Vicars complain. Pope goes on Twitter rampage. Forgetting it is winter, newspapers and news channels talk about “the cold snap”.
Follow Oscar on Twitter: @oscarrickettnow
More ruminating about the future: