A ‘first’ of sorts here – “Get Down” is, I think, the first record on the lists to feature on one of Sean Rowley’s Guilty Pleasures compilations, which are recontextualising 70s pop and making a pretty penny out of it for lots of people. The Guilty Pleasures concept has become a kind of shorthand for badness among some of my friends, and it deserves quick consideration. The most common counter-argument I hear is “but pleasure shouldn’t be guilty!” – I can get behind this but I think it’s a misunderstanding of Rowley’s idea. His point is that this stuff used to be guilty and is now guilt-free – I don’t get the sense he thinks these records are ‘actually’ bad.
Part of me is just annoyed that good pop music should need ‘reclaiming’ and ‘defending’, while records that were more publically praised go uninterrogated – I want Rowley’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee to have more of a punitive aspect, I want dreck like Dark Side Of The Moon raked over the coals while David Essex and Noosha out of Fox clink champagne glasses and laugh and the Andrea True Connection plays. But this is petty, and I agree with Rowley that the point is “AND” not “OR”, and besides you can’t un-play a record.
So what still annoys me about the “Guilty Pleasures” idea? I think it’s the chummy appeal to assumed experience – the creation of a shared narrative – remember how “we all” bought those embarassing records, and how “we all” liked the cool stuff, and how “we all” can listen now and admit they’re great when “we all” didn’t before. If this was Rowley’s own experience it’s struck a big mass chord, but it’s still a huge reduction of the interesting, complex web of personal experience – who you wanted to impress, who you lied to, who you told the truth to, what was it about the records that made you embarassed, anyway? (Dark Side Of The Moon was a huge favourite of mine at 14, for instance.) As it stands, Guilty Pleasures is just the inverse of “What were we thinking???”, a smoothing over of the past rather than an attempt to understand it.
(And OK, you may say, few of us are going to take massive steps forward in self-analysis by picking over our old music tastes. But there’s no need to hand-wring about it – the Popular comments boxes are a lovely rich source of light personal commentary and real-life experience, none of it fitting glibly into a “Then I was ashamed now I’m not, cor” template.)
At the back of all this, meanwhile, there’s a pop song: “Get Down”, a rumbustious thing built on an enjoyable chugalug pop-rock groove. The best and most obvious thing about it is the chiming piano hits on the chorus, the worst probably a dog/girl metaphor which Sullivan doesn’t take anywhere (though perhaps this is for the best – you can feel him tempted to write a punning “It’s his girlfriend! No it’s actually a dog!” track, which might have been ghastly). I’m a little surprised it’s here at all, to be honest.