Jul 07


FT + Popular69 comments • 6,020 views

#328, 7th April 1973

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.



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    intothefireuk on 10 Jul 2007 #

    …….and this is almost where I enter the fray. Almost, because although this was the first record I’d ever bought, I can’t entirely claim ownership as it was in fact a Mothers Day present ! Yes that was obv my idea of a pressie for my long suffering Mum. What a little treasure I was. Still, I can’t deny that I actually thought the Synth/Electric piano riff was actually pretty nifty. So I have a soft spot for it that not even the ‘now’ (or perhaps even ‘then’) laughable Pans People rendition can ruin. It still bounces along without a care and I have never been too ashamed to play it in company (well perhaps for a couple of years in the 80s I was).

    I am extremely grateful for SR’s guilty pleasures CDs as they did round up a number of tracks I’d loved during the 70s and had never owned. Maybe it’s my age but I can’t feel guilty about any of them. Why is it though that it’s almost exclusively 70s tunes that we are supposed to feel guilty about liking ? I’d feel much more guilty about liking some of the terrors lurking around in the 80s. I then took GP to generally be shorthand for well crafted, skilfully played & beautifully produced pop songs that have been criminally ignored until now. Have I got this horrendously wrong ?

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    Lena on 10 Jul 2007 #

    What other songs are on these CDs?

    I don’t know this one at all, as either it flopped in N. America or was never released in the first place. The #1 in the US at the time was “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” by Carol Burnett Show staple Vicki Lawrence (I imagine if there was a US guilty pleasures CD this might appear on it, but Americans as a rule don’t feel much guilt over what makes them happy).

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    Mark M on 10 Jul 2007 #

    What annoyed me about the Rowley shtick is what Tom talked about as the “shared narrative” – he always bangs on about how tiresome is to go round to people’s houses and “see the same Clash albums”. Really? That strikes me as Sean having an awesomely narrow group of friends rather than a national problem of people being unable to admit to liking the music they really like. And indeed, to have a hidden love for that music, you’d have to be a close contemporary of SR’s (he’s 45) – I never heard of the Alessi Brothers, for instance, before the Guilty Pleasures radio show. (To be sort of fair, a look at the track listing for the recent programmes shows Keep On Running [sic] by Five, and the Sugababes’ Push The Button – what kind of idiot would hide liking that?)

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    intothefireuk on 10 Jul 2007 #

    Well theres a track list for Vol.1 here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guilty-Pleasures-Vol-1-Various-Artists/dp/B0002SV4OQ to give you an idea of what they are about.

    Having just looked this up I’ve now realised that a third volume has been released which does indeed include 80s stuff thus rendering my abv. point somewhat moot although I would argue this third vol IMO seems like it’s stretching the point.

    Get Down was, I believe, a number 7 hit in the US.

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    Tom on 10 Jul 2007 #

    The US equivalent I guess is the Rhino “Have A Nice Day” sets – which Ned Raggett gave me (in naughty digitised form) as a wedding present and which has seen much happy service since! A very mixed bag those but certainly no guilt narrative attached.

    The GPs sets are pretty much identical to a host of other 70s comps that have been available for ages – “Super 70s Summer” was where I first heard several of them – with the occasional relative obscurity like Brian Protheroe’s terrific “Pinball” thrown on.

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    Rosie on 10 Jul 2007 #

    I suppose the thing about guilty pleasures is that either you don’t want to admit it to others or even to yourself. I felt that once – it was years before I realised that I rather like this song – but now I’m quite brazen even about my fondness for Peter Skellern (who had a couple of hits round about this time)

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    Tom on 10 Jul 2007 #

    I certainly believe “guilty pleasures” – in the wider sense of records that you’re really conflicted about liking (for social or ethical or whatever reason) – exist, but I think giving them their own little category and filling it with fun pop is a way of avoiding that conflictedness.

    (Obviously “Well I grew up and I don’t care about it any more” is a perfectly credible way of resolving the conflict, I’m not saying people should worry at these things obsessively.)

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    Brian on 10 Jul 2007 #

    GD got to # 7 in Canada , too. But not until August.

    A friend of mine calls his fondness for Jack Johnson , a guilty pleasure. He started the conversation with saying ” I shouldn’t really like this but…..”

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    Lena on 10 Jul 2007 #

    Thanks! Still, I’ve never heard it on the oldies show I listen to on CHFI – the only one of this they play is “Clair” for some reason. (I was too young to pay attention to the charts in ’73..)

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    wwolfe on 10 Jul 2007 #

    It seems to me that “guilty pleasure” would better describe something that you once liked, but now look back on and feel some shame, embarrassment, what have you, about having felt that way. For instance, in my case, I loved Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young when I was 12-to-14-ish; now I can’t hear them without wincing a little. Still, even with a case like this, I can’t really feel “guilty” – I heard more music, and more kinds of music, as I got older, figured out I liked a lot of stuff a lot more than CSNY, and changed what I listened to accordingly. My problem with “guilty pleasure” is that it seems like code for “If I listen to this, the cool kids won’t let me hang out with them.”

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    Billy Smart on 11 Jul 2007 #

    I think that Get Down has a rather limited shelf life. I can remember the day that I bought a Gilbert O’Sullivan greatest hits album in the M&VE 50p basement in the late 90s, and playing Get Down again and again. Whenever I hear it now, though, it yields no fresh surprises – unlike, say, Ring Ring by ABBA which is based around a similar bouncy piano motif. So 5 is about right.

    I can think of number one singles that I’d classify as ‘guilty pleasures’, though probably not for the same reasons as Sean Rowley. I’m looking forward to the time that we discuss the most problematic of these when we get to 1978…

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    Marcello Carlin on 11 Jul 2007 #

    As I’ve said elsewhere, my central problem with Guilty Pleasures, beyond the destructive oxymoron of the term itself, is that it is used as a benign excuse for a Stalinist/Cameronite rewrite of musical history. The subtext which appears to come through most strongly from Rowley’s audience, if not from Rowley himself, is “let’s admit this is the seventies music we really liked and not all that horrible difficult noisy tuneless stuff we were told to like” (and unfortunately Tom with his regrettable and ill-informed kneejerk rejection of DSOTM falls right into that trap).

    Seventies music wasn’t just about the few harmless 1976-8 AoR hits which form the GP axis. It wasn’t just ELO and Supertramp in the same way that it wasn’t just Strummer and Weller. Seventies music was also about Anthony Braxton, Throbbing Gristle, Judee Sill, Terry Callier, Swell Maps, Carla Bley, War, James “Blood” Ulmer, Pere Ubu and Peter Hammill, just to name the first ten names which spring randomly to mind.

    And it was about the Wombles, Gary Glitter, the Dooleys, Wigan’s Ovation, Springwater, Jonathan King, Berni Flint, Geordie, Maureen McGovern and Adriano Celentano, just to name the first ten names which spring randomly to mind whom Rowley has not yet “reclaimed.”

    The challenge of the diligent writer is to establish where and how and why all of these, and all of everything else, connect, even or especially if only in the writer’s mind.

    Meanwhile, “Get Down” is fabulous and a good-humoured 8 (hello Ben Folds Five) and catchy as fuck which is why it’s here. Probably the last great Gilbert single too.

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    Tom on 11 Jul 2007 #

    I don’t think Rowley or his audience even include the ‘difficult’ stuff on their radar Marcello! Of course I applaud the “see how it all fits together” approach (& you do it excellently), but I really don’t think the GP ‘ethos’ (such as it is) takes aim at the noisy and difficult stuff “we” were told to like – nobody, I think, has ever told the people buying GP records to like Anthony Braxton or Carla Bley! Of course both GP and “the Canon”, in their orbits around one another, marginalise those more difficult artists, but this is my point too – shared narratives ignore the margins, and GP especially ignores the tricksy individual reasons for embracing and rejecting things.

    (& I do admit in the review that my anti-DSOTM fantasy is petty! But I really don’t think it’s a good record.)

  14. 14

    my objection to DSOTM is that it’s easy listening that’s been massively oversold as difficult listening i think — or anyway superior listening — a hugely popular record with the cachet of being marginalia

    (of course i was “told” to hate DSOTM by my punky overlords! after a lifetime’s attempts to pushback on this i’ve given up: PF are an interesting phenom but i really can’t like the music they make)

    if ppl currently buying GP comps are of an age and read the melody maker, then they WERE being told about the excellence of Braxton and Bley!

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    Marcello Carlin on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Well, Rowley does do his Joy Of Music late night show on BBC London where he does delve fairly intensely into the “margins” of music, both past and present, so he is clearly aware that GP isn’t the whole story (naturally my standard critical approach is to ignore the chimerical/demographic concept of “margins” altogether). So the question arises as to whether he’s purposely talking down to his GP audience, or whether the GP “day job” pays for all the other stuff.

    I caught a bit of his GP radio show on Sunday (there being no FT Resonance show at present boo) and he was talking about an album he’d just bought out of a charity shop which had an inscription written on it; obviously it had been a present from someone to his partner/wife and Rowley was laughing at what he’d written, I think more out of embarrassment than malevolence (the album was that charity shop staple Don’t Be Cruel by Bobby Brown).

    But then I thought, and this is particularly relevant when talking about the reasons why individuals embrace and/or reject things; well, the relationship might have fallen through and she might have taken the record into the shop in disgust – or, given that it might have been a Cancer Research or Trinity Hospice or British Heart Foundation shop, whether one of them wasn’t actually alive any more. So really he ought to have thought out more thoroughly what this record was doing in a charity shop, and why he picked it up (I tend to avoid items with inscriptions and/or IDs on them unless they’re so devilishly difficult to obtain by other reasonable means), since really you’re dealing by necessity with fragments of other people’s lives – do you reassimilate them into your own story as thoroughly (and unsentimentally?) as possible or is it simply easier just to giggle at the presumed numptiness of others?

    The “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)” Popular article response will be interesting (150 comments by lunchtime, not all of them from oms)?

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    no spoiloms

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    Marcello Carlin on 11 Jul 2007 #

    I wish I’d kept up that FT post I did about Floyd at Live 8 but Floyd generally, DSOTM inclusive, do still speak to me, and not just because of the knowledge that they/it helped pay for subsequent Bley and Wyatt records. I scoffed for thirty years at the received knowledge that DSOTM was The Greatest Record Ever but sometimes I play it and think they might sometimes be right (’67-’79 midpoint: “Love Makes Sweet Music” to “At Last I Am Free”).

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    Billy Smart on 11 Jul 2007 #

    I worked in an Oxfam shop for a few years and was always irritated by my elderly colleague’s insistence that one should always tear out a flyleaf from a book if it had an inscription – a far greater act of vandalism than writing in something in the first place, I always thought, and taking away much of the object trouve aspect that makes owning second hand goods stimulate ones sense of mystery and imagination.

    Many of the songs from this period of Popular I listen to on Explosive! K-Tel compilations or 10p M&VE seven inches. I rather like the inscriptions – it shows that teenagers of the day must have taken my copies to parties to dance or smooch to. It probably does alter the way that I respond to the music.

    My copy of The Style Council’s A Paris EP has been defaced by the angry words “MOD JUDAS” across Weller’s face by a betrayed Jam fan and considerably increases the entertainment that I derive from the record!

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    Rosie on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Interesting year, 1978. A quick glance at the number ones for that year shows two bullseye 10s in my book, and to avoid spoilers I’m not saying which ones they are. I wonder if you can guess, knowing my tastes. I expect sharply divided opinions when the time comes though.

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    Mark M on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Drifting away from Gilbert, but very much on the intricate mental games suggested by Guilty Pleasures, but I’d like to address the Floyd back-backlash, which certainly picked up momentum since Live 8 (when people who hadn’t thought about the Floyd for years were clearly moved – I’m not contesting that). This can go something like this: “Actually, the Floyd are magnificent and anyone who says not is still lying to themselves because of ridiculous punky posturing long abandoned by sensible people.” To which I’d say: I never liked the Floyd before I knew about the punk hardline (my brother listened to them back then, and we lived in Poland and Mexico where the dictates of the NME didn’t apply), didn’t like after and still don’t like them now. And why should I? They sound absolutely nothing like any of the music I like, along with having a worldview that annoys me, too. No triple-think involved, just a straightforward “eugh!”

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    Tom on 11 Jul 2007 #

    My 7″ copy of “Freedom” by Wham has an excellent CARTOON BEARD AND SPECS drawn on each of the protagonists’ faces :) It’s actually an eerily accurate prediction of George Michael’s latter-day look.

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    Pete on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Oh yes, the inscription in a gift (I always inscribe a book as a gift) massively increases its second hand value to me, as do footnotes and marginalia (especially if dimwitted). Surely that is the narrative the object itself takes on, and little glimpses of others lives can be amusing, interesting or poignant. Things only have the value we ascribe to them, my copy of Catch 22 stolen from my School library (and re-stolen when I realised that my pristine 1988 edition WASN’T THE SAME) has that kind of value, despite being set in 4 point type and yellowing like a bugger. Sentimentalism at its worst perhaps, but that is what owning stuff is about. Especially other peoples stuff.

    GP started as a single song section on The Joy Of Music, and then turned into a one off club which then spawned the radio show. My real objection to it is that it is stealing our shtick, but then since we never thought of calling it shtick, its barely stealing now.

    I guess the interesting aspect for a youth younger than Rowley and ourselves is that the history of pop is written. I think Rowley is allowed to attempt to sabotage what is the established rock history. Not just in critical canons (the more that get written, the more it is chipped away at), but also the informal ones in the home. Pink Floyd is my Dad’s favourite band, he would have been my age when this stuff was coming out and without the benefit of Mojo to tell him it was great. So my narrative of PF is one of sharing with my Dad (and excluding my Mum – who hated them): and therefore the relationships are intricately tied up. What we may need to consider is the relationship of a generation WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD THESE RECORDS. Perhaps that is the service, under which the word Guilty does the disservice.

    Its not that different to the the sniggering easy listening revival of the nineties after all, which a lot of us fought through and realised housed some tremendous records.

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    aged 15-16 i hung with a gang of avid music listeners aged 14-15 (not my direct contemporaries, who were much less engaged musicwise, for some reason): they were mainly proggies, and their taste was very patly circumscribed (see full list below) — and there was a split between the ones who said YES WERE BEST and the ones who said PF WERE BEST. In terms of personal friendship tastes, I liked the yes faction more as people (in fact i had a kind of Official Crush on one of em) (hi dave!): the PFers were snobbier, in all kinds of ways (following their faction leader, who wasn’t a very nice person). So something of this remains an underfelt to my responses: I still like Yes, and pretty much always ignored punky precept there.

    the central list:
    PF & Yes; Genesis (actually the most popular); ELP; King Crimson; Deep Purple (and offshoots); Wishbone Ash; Barclay James Harvest; Queen

    i. my crush liked patti smith! also aphrodite’s child’s 666! he was a funny mixture of very suggestible and stubbornly go-it-alone (i imagine he picked patti as a taste up from his brother, who hung with a more glam mob)
    ii. there was a late arrival in the gang who was a big rush fan
    iii. there was an isolated and picked-on late arrival on the edge of the gang who liked ABBA and despised the rest! he was very clever and rather bitter and easier to dislike than admire

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    Marcello Carlin on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Cue Lex to come on and say Pink Floyd I’ve never heard of them they are RUBBISH RIHANNA is the future whereas my elderly schtick is that no Interstellar Overdrive = no Umbrella &c. though that’s not the same thing as young ‘uns never having heard these records before. I wonder what the average age would be for the average GP club attendance? Judging by the people who write or call into the radio show it’s probably us lot.

    The thing that Rowley needs to avoid is falling into the Steve Walsh trap (ask your dad) of ending up playing the same six records over and over again. I note that he is developing a new club night called Diggin’ Your Scene to delve into the forgotten eighties. This way for Sydney Youngblood and Karel Fialka, then.

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    important datum (possibly rather obvious): it was an all-boys school — the abba fan was the only one with a regular GF, except she was (rumoured to be) 35!

    (the other mob i sometimes hung with were a lot older than me, and favoured stockhausen!)

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    Marcello Carlin on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Due to unfair age gap I will have to wait until ’78-9* to respond to mark s in kind since in ’73 Marvel Comics and Gollancz’ Science Fiction Argosy still took precedence in my nine-year-old world but hey hey Aphrodite’s 666; best thing Demis ever did and arguably >>>> Blade Runner OST, also has crazy avant-garde tune called “Do It” just like 2nd Brotherhood of Breath album RELEASED THE SAME YEAR!

    *and Rush were the thing at UGS then.

  27. 27

    if “do it” is the one i’m remembering it’s amazing! we all just sat with our little mouths open, giggly bcz scared!

    (i DLed 666 a couple of years back but i think i lost it in a computer meltdown, so i’ve never really relistened)

    ps solo offshoots of everything on the central list were important also, esp. rick wakeman (who is the only element of yes i really can’t abide)

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    Marcello Carlin on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Good job “Life On Mars” only got to number three then (since RW plays piano on it); I always preferred his cousin Alan anyway (long term MC self-project: find tenable aesthetic and cultural links between Tales From Topographic Oceans featuring Rick and Ode by Barry Guy/LJCO – both ’73 – featuring Alan W freaking out with Evan P on tenor big Berio time).

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    Erithian on 11 Jul 2007 #

    This could be setting a new benchmark for the smallest proportion of any Popular thread devoted to the artist it’s supposed to be about! Hard luck Gilbert – nice song anyway.

    Now, Guilty Pleasures – I’d heard of the concept/radio show/club night/franchise, but hadn’t seen the track listing until just now. If that list is a guide, then like others on here I can’t admit to feeling guilty about liking any of them, and with one or two exceptions I don’t remember them being considered as naff at the time either. It’s more like “Forgotten Gems” – the kind of thing you heard on the breakfast show, thought “oh, that’s good”, and a few weeks later they were in a respectable chart placing. Many of the acts were never heard from again, but they enhanced your pop experience when you were growing up, and now it’s a case of “blimey I thought I was the only one who remembered that” rather than “I never thought I could admit to liking it”. And I’m with you on “Pinball”, Tom – anything that brings that gorgeous song into more people’s lives has to be recommended.

    Enjoyed P*nk Lord’s tales of hanging with the proggies at school. I used to get pretty good end-of-term marks, but then along came a lad in the year below whose marks were in the high 90s. He was a Yes fan and his name was Emerson – how much more prog can you get?

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    intothefireuk on 11 Jul 2007 #

    DSOTM was the drug of choice which went hand in hand with, well, the drug of choice – isn’t it that fact that made it so popular ?(especially with older brothers & teachers) – it was the ultimate chill-out record and remained so for many years (and possibly still is).

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