Posts from 19th March 2005

19
Mar 05

FT Bottom 25 Animals* – 1. Spiders

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* Okay, we haven’t taken a vote and there may be no more than one – this is just me remembering something I’d intended to write way back in the Month Of Fear but forgot.

Years ago, my then-wife started getting seriously into photography. One day she was reading a new photography magazine, and she suddenly SCREAMED, absolutely 100% full force and as I looked around the magazine was hurtling across the room. Once she had calmed down enough to speak, which took a while, she told me, still shaking, that there was a photo of a spider. I knew she was scared of them, but a photo? Presumably a full page tarantula or some such… No. A photo maybe two inches high of an ordinary house spider, it turned out. So I’ll tear it out and throw it away, yes? No: tear it out and burn it to ashes. Okay. Done. Then I had to check through the magazine, page by page, to ensure they didn’t sneak a second such pic in later. The magazine then hung around on a coffee table for some days, until she finally accepted that she would never be able to so much as touch it again, let alone open it, and I threw it away. From then on, I always had to go through anything of the sort first.

A political rant that only barely belongs here…

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A political rant that only barely belongs here…

I had hugely mixed feelings about something I saw outside the Spurs ground earlier today, when I walked past while Tottenham were beating Man City. It was one of those weird narrow vans with sides sloping in to make a high triangle, viewed from the back, acting as a mobile placard. This one was from the Metropolitan Police. It started something like “Your throat gets hoarse from shouting at the ref – but that won’t stop you going home and shouting at your wife later.” It continued on a very good line about domestic violence not just being about hitting but including psychological abuse, and pointing out that the police no longer require a statement from the victim to make an arrest. This is an area I feel particularly strongly about, and the statement here is a real advance on the last police position I was familiar with.

But there were a couple of things that bothered me. Firstly, some of the people shouting at the ref in the crowd would have husbands rather than wives (and that is leaving aside those with neither, of course). But since the crime they are talking about is predominantly men abusing women, I can forgive that.

But the other bothers me more: does anyone think they park a version of this in the city, with “at the ref” replaced with something like “across a commodities floor”?* This thought troubles me on two levels – the old and repeatedly disproved notion that this crime is restricted to or more common among certain classes, and the assumptions that it implies about football fans, that they are more likely to commit such crimes. I’m well aware that football is sometimes the occasion for violence, and that some of its supporters are violent, but I’m not convinced that that is anything like sufficient evidence of a specially strong correlation.

* Obviously if someone tells me that yes, they’ve seen just that parked outside the Stock Exchange or some such, I withdraw the rest of the paragraph unreservedly.

Great Moments: ‘Basin Street Blues/When It’s Sleepy Time Down South’ by Louis Prima 2:27-2:33

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(an occasional series reviewing all of music* a few seconds at a time)

The late ’50s were an awkward time for Louis Prima. He’d had a terrific career as the Italian-American answer to Louis Armstrong, but rock ‘n’ roll was growing, and the audience was leaking away from his trad-jazz-entertainment modes and towards this more fiery and energetic form. Prima wasn’t going to turn into Elvis (look at the cover shown here – this track isn’t on that album, but it’s the same year, and I can never resist a chance to show it), but he could take his old jazz repertoire and play it FASTER AND LOUDER.

But he hardly does that at the start of this recording of two Armstrong standards: what I am talking about specifically here is a lost skill: how many modern acts do medleys? Prima did lots. Obviously he knew what to do with both songs, but the problem is joining them together. The solution here is one of the most extraordinary brief feats of vocal dexterity and rhythm imagination I have ever heard. It’s apparently stumbling, but in fact it’s a brilliantly controlled and calculated transition. The music stops, and he sings, sort of. It’s untranscribeable, but it’s something like “Notice the moon is pale, and the sun i-, and then the sun is gone, and, and the steamboats are coming, and they’re splashing and they’re going WOO WOO ah babazoozaa” ending in scat, leading in to the second song. It’s the unnecessary nature of this – he could have recorded them as two separate songs – that I love, as well as it’s absurdity. I remember a terrific conversation with Sinkah once where he was pointing out that Louis Armstrong’s sense of rhythm was extraordinarily more nuanced than most anyone else’s, that he heard musical time in smaller slices than the rest of us, giving him more options. I regard this six seconds as proof that Prima had some of that same rhythmic complexity.

* not a guarantee of completion