Posts from October 2001
I should make it clear I’m no fan of “What’s Going On?” in its original form – a heartfelt and well-sung cry of anguish for the woes of humanity, but it says less to me than anything I’ve heard that Marvin Gaye did before it. Berry Gordy’s wish to scotch Gaye’s album says plenty about his insensitivity to his artists and his decline as a pop weathervane, but aesthetically I’ve got a sneaking sympathy for him. Anyway the album came out and the rest is history. All of which is just to say that I’m not one of these people who would slate the new “What’s Going On” for ‘butchering’ the original in charity’s name.
We are needed more than ever. It’s an undisputable factoid that following Pumpkin Publog’s – ahem – vacation, the pubs of Britain have slumped in quality. For example the King Of Corsica, never admittedly a nice boozer but now entirely beyond the pale. Evidence (garnered from regular attendance at KoC karaoke nights):
i. Removal of nice karaoke bird with nasty karaoke bird (evidence of nastiness – never picks our tracks, forced me to sing Crazy Town, called us “hoggers”). There is no truth in the suggestion that nice karaoke bird had a breakdown after hearing Pete sing “Yesterday Once More” in his special voice.
ii. Arrival of karaoke bloke who is even more incompetent and shares nasty k-bird’s trait of doing all the songs himself.
iii. Decline in good manners of KoC clientele, eg the one who threatened to beat the crap out of a Publog associate in the toilets. There is more chance of being approached in the toilets of the KoC than any other pub I go to. Not for anything exciting like gay sex, but just by mad drunk men. They say something completely incomprehensible in a kind of vaguely question-ish way which means you have to try and make the most non-commital noise you can, like “Ahhmmmrm”, and nod quickly and then dash back to the bar.
iv. End of 2-for-1 alcopops offer.
v. Crowd of boorish yobs standing in corner singing over the top of U2 songs. Oh wait hold on.
It would be sad if Pumpkin Publog became a graveyard for decent pubs, but I feel it only fair to erect a textual tombstone in honour of two sadly-deceased and much-missed Edinburgh pubs, both cellar bars near the uni, and both long-term refuges from the tyranny of style bar, theme pub and student pub which swamps the Southside. Yes, gentle reader, both Maxies and the No 1 Cellar Bar are no more. I drank copiously in both the night of my viva earlier in the summer, went on holiday and returned to discover both have been closed. One for redevelopment as a giant multi-level student bistro-bar (also involving the destruction of a regular lunch-time haunt on the street above); the other because the boss wanted to go for a proper restaurant, although as yet there’s no indication of whether the site will be redeveloped. Such are the times, my friends. Despite the high prices, appalling food, iffy memories and high chances of running into colleagues associated with both places, these fine examples of the licensed premises will live forever in our hearts and minds.
So there’s this pub. Native State. Well, it’s more of a bar-cafe-pub thing: food, drink, long beerhall type tables and all that. And the decor! It’s one of those theme pubs that doesn’t seem to know what its own theme is: random junk, polished metal, videos playing on big screens behind the bar, arty black and white photographs of vaguely ethnic types. (Which could fit the name, but half of them look like rock stars). The menu’s no help either, a mish-mash of Italian and Mexican cookery, all at a price which is too high for a pub, but not high enough to force you to take your custom elsewhere. Anyways, we’ll forget all that, since it’s one of the few places to be sure of getting a seat and a pint around Edinburgh University, so a blind eye will have to be turned.
But. BUT. BUT. There’s this problem, see. Come five o’clock, out comes the BIG RED BUTTON. The B.R.B is connected to a video screen on which are a set of options: Full Price (three of these, funnily enough); Half Price; Same Again; Free Drinks. Each flashes in turn (but I’m certain Full Price flashes for longer). Here’s the deal. You order your round. Before you pay, you get to push the B.R.B. and stop the flashing options. If it’s one of the good ones, wahey, if not, what a waste of time, eh? Just fun and games? A little amusement to spice up the lanquid hours between five and seven? Now I’m all for jukeboxes; quiz machines; pinball; pool; space invaders or whatever (so I’m no luddite) but this is clearly a step too far. How can one drink in peace when the very foundation of pub life, the ritual buying of the sacred round, has been pimped out to profiteering and gambling; when the necessary condition of drinking routine has been given up to the vagaries of chance and contingency.
Or it may just be that I’ve not managed to win any free booze yet.
“Who has the best voice in modern music?” asked an I Love Music punter. It seemed a simple enough question and I was surprised to find myself struggling to answer it. The idea of the ‘good voice’ is central to pop music, from Sinatra to Sigur Ros – voices that “could sing the phone book”, which of course Sigur Ros might as well be doing. The question is, what is the relationship between the good voice and what it sings?
Bran Van 3000 are a Montreal nonette known primarily for a one hit wonder. In fact I am not sure how popular “Drinking in L.A.” was outside of Canada. So when I got Discosis I was shocked by it. They have managed to make one of the most complex and layered disco/funk/house albums and then add lyrics that are both exquisite in their eroticism and divine in their absurdity.
But that’s where you’re wrong…
With apologies to PUBlic Enemy (and, more relevantly, Star Turn on 45 Pints).
Once again, back is the incredible
The pub animal
The incredible PP. Pumpkin Pubs is number one
Landlord said “Time!” and I got numb
Can’t I tell ’em that I never had a man’s rum?
But it’s the facts that the Peter Baran got some
Now they bought me a Martell, will I drink it – no, hell
‘Cause a drunkard like me said “Well
Ayingabrau’s a great drink and I think you ought to drink it
What it can do to you, what you ought to do”
Follow for now, power to the people say,
‘Get some dough and buy a cider armadillo’
P-PUBS is back, all in, we’re gonna win
Check it out, yeah y’all, here we go again
Shhhh…a PUMPKIN PUBS relaunch may be gathering momentum…
I hear the music. Which is patently obvious, I suppose, give what I write about for both pleasure and for pay. Started with my youth, very very young days, Sesame Street, Free To Be, You and Me, that kind of seventies upbringing. And from those albums into AM radio, Madonna, the Cure and Timbaland, straightforward enough.
What I hear is the music — more so than the words. Thus the point here, I don’t hear the words, not consciously, not with focus and obsessive reading. It’s not what I need, it’s not what I want. It’s not what I desire. Thousands upon thousands of singers, lyricists and more have poured their time, thought and energy into catching the spirit of something, perhaps purely functional in their eyes, perhaps a mining of the deepest human revelations of the heart.
And generally speaking, I don’t care.