Let's be clear about this, British music is in a shocking state of disrepair at present. It can be of little surprise to anyone that a British act failed to chart in the States recently for the first time in six hundred years. Once more, if anyone should like to take issue with that carefully weighted critique, then please do so here. But away with such maudlin thoughts; let's accentuate the positive.
It's my contention that pop lyrics when sensitively rendered are the poetry of the modern age. One only has to cast an ear over the rhyme free doggerel that pollutes Radio Four's "Poetry Please" to know that verse has gone the route of the Oozalum bird and disappeared up its own chuff. To illustrate the point, I've put together an anthology of the greatest couplets and stanzas in pop's canon. I'd welcome suggestions for others.
|The morn that I was born my old man beat up the doctor|
He clocked the doctor cause the doctor said I looked like Chewbacca
The doctor said sir you're misled sir which infers you mistook me
I did not mean your lovely wife was shacking up with a wookie
What I mean is Wolverine is less hairy than your son
He looks like Chewie (Baba Booie, Baba Booie) and Hong Kong Phooey all in one
To put it mild your new born child's completely nutty fu-fu looking
I'd shove him back into the oven until he is done cooking
But why is everybody always picking on me?
(Cause my fifteen year old cousin has less acne)
But why is everybody always picking on me?
(Aint brushed them teeth since 1983)
But why is everybody always picking on me?
(Because you're white but have a nose like Bill Cosby)
(The Bloodhound Gang)
Ahh, it's almost Larkinesque this piece, with its ironic, iconoclastic bathos. Add to this the tune, which is a blinder, and you have as an adroit slice of social commentary as I've laid eyes on in 25 years. I think it takes an American to get away with bitter self-effacement like this; from a Brit it would sound unbearably arch, I suspect. Furthermore most unctuous, self-satisfied cultural commentators will try to tell you that Americans have no sense of irony, to which I say bollocks. These lines give to lie to that misplaced, post-imperialist notion.
|I knew a poet, said she didn't like the smell of it|
Then took her clothes off in a restaurant for the hell of it
(Presidents of the United States of America)
Another glimpse at modern America's florid underbelly here. This couplet differs in tone from the preceding verse in that the metaphysic that underpins the author's world is showing its age here. There's no kernel of transcendent truth at the heart of this work; there is only the work. I'm risking a slap from the thought police, I know, but I'd go as far to suggest this is post-modernist pop of the highest order. Beckett to the Bloodhound Gang's Joyce. The author is indeed dead. Long live the author.
|Think of Emma - wonder what she's doing|
A husband, Terry, and your Grandchildren
Think of Edward - still at college
You send him letters that he doesn't acknowledge
Cos he don't care
They don't care
They're all going through their own private hell.
No examination of pop poetry would be complete without a contribution from the Wordsworth of Woking. And it's typically straight stuff from Weller in this stanza. The situation renders the poetry; Weller is simply the conduit through which it flows. This really is folk art par excellence. The writer is giving a voice to a people who have had theirs appropriated by "the man". And, as befits its folk genesis, the work utilises some charmingly deft rhyme. Others would have eschewed this slightly archaic form in favour of something more contemporary, but this, I feel, would have undermined the work. There's not a hint of irony in the authorial tone in stark contrast the preceding pieces, but that's deliberate. The lives of the characters are imbued with irony already, ironically.
All right? Not 'arf.
Alan "fluffer" Freeman summarized the situation with admirable brevity there. It is indeed not all right. Alarmingly that catchphrase dates back to Alan's first appearance on British television, in 1924. But, with uncanny prescience, his criticism could have been spake only yesterday.
I, for one, have had a gut-full of the charts. Even my seven-year-old niece rolls her eyes with poorly disguised ennui at the array of bumbling idiots on Top of the Pops. The singles' chart is there now simply to prop up the shite on the telly. It's a shame Colonel Tom Parker is no longer with us. I dare say if he could force a chicken to "dance" on a heated metal plate, it would be the work of a moment to make it cluck Unchained Melody. Unfortunately, a two-week timeshare option on that particular tune now costs in the region of nine million pounds to buy.
Given the state of the actual charts, I've decided to put together an ersatz one. A perfectly valid reaction, I reckon. So, pop-pickers, hold on to your hats as I unveil this week's top ten...
Last week's positions shown in brackets
Chart Week Ending 19thMay 2002
- Boysie from Only Fools & Horses singing "Don't Look Back In Anger" (1)
- The Theme from Rising Damp (26)
- The Johnny Vegas incidental music from Shooting Stars (7)
- Shake & Vac (10)
- The "manga" BBC World Cup trailer. Not such much the music actually, just the graphics. Top marks for entertaining borderline xenophobia, fellas. (-)
A second week at the top spot for blue-collar Britain's third favourite fictional cockney. Does he have the makings of a Bryan Adams? Only time and my patience will tell. It's nice to see the theme from Rising Damp making its way back into the top ten after an absence of eight weeks. That makes it fourteen consecutive months in the hot one hundred, which is a record. Proof writ large that despite the best attempts of the witless, quality will out in the end. Hip, hip...
Chart Week Ending 1stJune 2003
- The Theme from Six Feet Under played by The White Stripes (2)
- Jerusalem (played on the mandolin by yours truly) (-)
My own legitimate self-interests aside for a moment, it's not an unfair result that for Jack and...(I forget the turkey drummer's name for the minute). They are red hot at the moment, and you can't argue with a hook like 6 feet's. Also I'm the first to admit that my own oeuvre needs practice. Maybe next time.
Chart Week Ending 20th March 2005
- Metal Mickey (Theme) - Kelly Osbourne & Eddie Izzard (-)
- Hit 'Em Up (I Fucked Your Bitch You Fat Muthafucka) - Prefab Sprout (22)
- The Alan Clarke Diaries Read by Robbie Williams (spoken word) (1)
Another charity record straight in at number one this week. Will the nation ever tire of these hastily cobbled together collaborations? Apparently not. For the record (no pun intended), Kelly's breathy vocals add the only moment of depth to this otherwise predictably lightweight offering. Actually, I have plenty of time for la Osbourne. She's got a comfortable looking rack on her, which is unusual for a lady of her tender years. Most young women these days are too toned and androgynous looking. It must be like sharing a bed with a teenage boy who's been at the Bullworker too long. Anyway, Izzard's "comic" riffing adds absolutely nothing. I know it's for a good cause (Portuguese donkeys), but a bridge too far perhaps?
The success of this record is doubly annoying as it keeps Paddy McAloon and cohorts off the top spot. Their cover of this Tupac choon from 1994 deserves better. This is the third single release from their album of hip hop covers, Miscellany at Large, the year's most unlikely smash.
The less said about Robbie Williams the better. I have been advised by my solicitors though that I am legally bound - having just mentioned his name in print - to point out that Robbie is quintessentially English, ie. overweight, tattooed, and poorly educated.
Chart Week Ending 31st July 2005
- Harry Potter Rap - JK Rowlinn & The Scriveners (new entry)
- Gertcha - Pete Doherty featuring "Mad" Frankie Frazer (2)
We're certainly au millieu of the silly season. JK Rowlinn (That isn't a typo by-the-way. They're simply trying to avoid being sued. Joanne is notoriously litigious, and gives out writs like a tramp gives out expletives.) & The Scriveners aren't a real band you'll be distressed to hear, but a loose collective of Japanese businessmen and pension fund managers with access to a digital studio and not one ounce of shame between them.
Pete Doherty is obviously skint if his offering is anything to go by. I hope he invests what meagre returns he realises on this ill-advised enterprise wisely. Once the public's patience has worn transparent (and that won't be long with guff like this), he's in trouble. They won't take the bait again.
It's a brutal observation I know, but presentation is all in showbiz. Keith Richard & Eric Clapton lived on little more than smack & Twiglets for the majority of the 70s, and yet both looked absolutely superb. Keith was wire thin and bronzed while Eric sported a think, well-washed mane at all times. And that's important because fans don't want to feel disgusted by their heros. Pete Doherty looks and I dare say smells appalling - flabby, white, & spotty. I don't want that from a popstar; I want dangerous élan. It's like Superman turning up at a disaster in an unironed superman suit. It looks bad. Pull yourself together, man. Crack can't be any more addictive than fags, say, and my Dad gave those up.
And if I were "Mad" Frankie, I'd be straight on the 'phone to my agent asking why he'd embroiled me in something as tawdry as this. One has one's reputation to think of after all. Pete's not going to see Christmas at this rate, is he? (silly twat)