May 08

PUSSYCAT – “Mississippi”

FT + Popular119 comments • 5,486 views

#395, 11th October 1976

A few years ago, Channel 4 did a rundown of the Top 100 Best Selling Singles. My friends and I settled down to watch, cheer, shout at Kate Thornton, &c. And there, first up at No.100, was “Mississippi”, bringing a mighty collective WTF?? from everyone in the room – none of whom, I should add, were older than me. None of us had heard, or heard of, this song, which turned out to be the biggest-selling (in Britain) single to have made no mark whatsoever on pop history – at least as understood by us callow youngsters. To be honest we thought it might be a put-on.

This recent run of number ones bears our impressions out. We’ve had songs immortalised by dint of playground fame, dramatic symbolism, and wedding disco ubiquity, while Pussycat’s easy-rolling sermon on pop history has slipped behind time’s sofa. Top medieval rock critic Occam informs us that this is because “Mississippi” is shite: is he correct? Well, not completely – it’s mostly amiable nonsense sweetened by that sighing guitar; beyond the soaring chorus it doesn’t stick in the brain. I’ve tried to parse its description of musical development but I can’t really make it make sense, and anyway I keep getting distracted by that absurd little guitar run which I guess is intended to be the guitar player turning to rock and roll. The Roussos-esque strings just afterwards are probably him sunning himself in the Med on the proceeds. Overall, spark-free and a little too gooey, but there’s nothing actually unpleasant about it.



  1. 1
    and everybody elses Mark G on 15 May 2008 #

    Yeah, it’s basically EuroCountry. That’s a genre that didn’t last.

    Europop tends to have a short shelf-life anyway. Excluding yr Abbas, and particularly with one-hit wonders, they get in, played a lot, then never again. At this point, this was as good as it got for a (short) while.

    It’s more a surprise when very euro songs make it: Vado Via by Drupi a case in point.

  2. 2
    wichita lineman on 15 May 2008 #

    When you dig into Dutch pop history, it’s shocking the records that didn’t make it here (Shocking Blue’s Send Me A Postcard, anything by The Outsiders or Bonnie St Claire, and the raft of fabulously moronic/grungy Glam 45s that Robin Wills is putting up on his Purepop blog) when this turgid tune spent a month at number one.

    I hated it. I remember a friend’s Grandad wandering around his house singing it, as my Gran did with Perry Como. So I’m guessing it wasn’t ‘the kids’ that bought it to the top, hence it was never handed down to younger generations. You lucky people!

  3. 3
    vinylscot on 15 May 2008 #

    Jonathan King identified this as a potential hit and actually released his own cover version, which was/is particularly horrid!

    The three girls were sisters, I believe, and the lead singer, the blonde in the middle above, sported a gap in her front teeth which would make Madonna and Elton John jealous.

    This is another of these songs which actually had a better follow-up. “Smile” was a little less formulaic, and a bit more jolly, but didn’t do particularly well, probably because Pussycat were no Abba – they weren’t glamorous like Abba, and it was pretty clear they didn’t have either the charisma or the talent to last.

    My dad liked this song – I’d probably give it a four, on account of its inoffensivess, if nothing else (and the fact that they kept JK’s version away from us)

  4. 4
    Alan on 15 May 2008 #

    i have never forgotten how this was playing at the Billingham Bottom (snurk) ice rink when i made a breakthrough in how to skate.

    i’d give it an 8 – love it. but then i’m loving everything around this time. 1976 is kid-alan pop nirvana. warts and all. (i had no warts)

  5. 5
    vinylscot on 15 May 2008 #

    Wichita Lineman – another Dutch popsong which should had been massive was Mouth and MacNeals “How Do You Do?” from the early 70s – simple and rather childish but infuriatingly catchy.

    Oddly enough it has recently been covered by Scooter, and can regularly be heard emanating from thirteen-year-old girls’ mobile phones on the back seats of buses everywhere in commuterland.

  6. 6
    Tom on 15 May 2008 #

    I wish I’d known some of these dudes were Dutch during my ill-fated spell in charge of Holland at the Pop World Cup.

  7. 7
    DJ Punctum on 15 May 2008 #

    Another cruel reminder of how, next to “Dancing Queen,” nearly all the other number ones of this period could have come from the seventeenth century, or at any rate from the pre-rock era. And this one actually offends me more than JJ Barrie or the Wurzels or the other polite monstrosities to come because it’s so determined in its attempt to pull the clock back and off the wall/its hinges if necessary. It just squats there drearily like an abandoned pack of prawn cocktail Tudor crisps in a tepid puddle in Todmorden, plodding away at fake remembrances – I suspect the furthest west Pussycat ever went was the South Pier in Blackpool, out of season – of how Our Music Used To Be and Look What These Kids (such rancorous revolutionaries as, um, Leo Sayer and Lord David “Jeans On” Dundas) Have Done To It.

    Squalid toss!

  8. 8
    rosie on 15 May 2008 #

    This, I think, is the perfect foil for the one before. Lots of people wanted to jump on the Abba bandwagon; few could carry it off.

    There’s nothing I can really say against this piece of bland europop, just that there’s nothing to be said for it. It’s about as exciting as Cliff Richard’s laundry basket.

    The second US state to hit the top. Not counting Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, of course.

  9. 9
    Erithian on 15 May 2008 #

    Re that Top 100 best-selling singles, which I was going to mention if you didn’t: it was to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK singles chart, and was as accurate a list as they could get of the actual sales figures. There’s no “White Christmas” which sold most pre-1952, and there were two records – Gareth Gates’ “Unchained Melody” and the re-released “Amarillo” – which sold enough afterwards to get on the list; beyond that, now that downloads play such a part (did Gnarls Barkley, Leona etc sell a million physical copies?) it’s as close as you can get to a definitive all-time list of UK singles sales. (The big downside was it was presented by that Bo Selecta bloke who’s as funny as a dose of the clap, and the divine Sarah Alexander only got to do a voiceover.)

    And Pussycat, being no 100, provided the benchmark sales figure: 947,000. More than any single by Abba, the Bee Gees, Bowie or the Stones, none of whom featured in the top 100. I thought one or two of the girls were fanciable in a homely sort of way – not in yer Abba league but nice enough. And the blokes used to be in a heavy metal band called Scum, apparently.

    There are a number of features I love about this song – the guitar player turning to rock’n’roll is cheesemungous; the lifted note in “you’ll be on my miiIIINND”; the soaring harmonies taking the last “until the end of time” without the instrumental backing. As musical history it’s nonsense, but then I guess it’s no more a musical history lesson than “Fernando” was a treatise on the Mexican revolutionary war.

    And what the record conjures up to me more than anything was the start of the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. It was number one when the show started and seemed to be played on heavy rotation.

  10. 10
    DJ Punctum on 15 May 2008 #

    Not wishing to tempt SB, but this won’t be the last time Noel Edmonds helps inflict torture on a Popular level.

  11. 11
    DJ Punctum on 15 May 2008 #

    (n.b.: I’m assuming that “Do It” is not a cover version of the similarly titled tune by Aphrodite’s Child nor indeed of the similarly titled tune by Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath)

  12. 12
    Alan on 15 May 2008 #

    @5: “Oddly enough it has recently been covered by Scooter, and can regularly be heard emanating from thirteen-year-old girls’ mobile phones on the back seats of buses everywhere in commuterland”

    I WAS PLAYING IT ON THE BUS THIS MORNING. quietly on my headphones. i am growed up. i prefer the enola gay ‘cover’ on the same album.

  13. 13
    Tom on 15 May 2008 #

    Marcello – the line about selling yr soul and turning to rock and roll might annoy me too but honestly it just sounds like they were making up any old shit: I don’t really buy Pussycat as staunch defenders of the pre-rock era or even really appealing to such, in fact I think my initial instinct – “it’s a put-on” is probably closer to the truth!

  14. 14
    DJ Punctum on 15 May 2008 #

    I’m thinking more of the reasons why a certain demographic of punters bought and liked it.

    Scooter are truly top of the 2008 pops!

  15. 15
    vinylscot on 15 May 2008 #

    Re – Aphrodite’s Child (again) and “Do It”. I bought their single “Break” when it came out and remember just about crapping myself the first time I played it at home, when a voice shouts out “Do It” rather loudly, a good few seconds after the end of the track. B**t**ds!!!!

  16. 16
    Dan R on 15 May 2008 #

    This is pretty bland, though Pussycat later had a #24 hit with the slightly better ‘Smile’ whose melody is a little quirkier. This one just feels utterly confected, though let’s for a moment tup our collective hats to the singer who has a tolerably expressive and clear voice. Faint praise, obviously.

    Can anyone shed any light on why we can have had four country music songs in eighteen months (even if one’s a parody, and this is – well, whatever this is)? Were the mid-seventies more countryfied than at any other time? After the early sixties, country music struggles to hit the upper reaches of the charts, except for this. And of course, forgiving the Bunny’s pardon, we’ll have at least two more before the decade’s end. I have a vague memory of a late-night BBC2 show that was country music (Live from the Grand Old Opry or something like that?) and always seemed to feature Boxcar Willie, the country star with the rather singular achievement of being much more successful in Britain than in the US.

  17. 17
    Tom on 15 May 2008 #

    Country had a strong fanbase in Britain for a long time, which only really died out (in terms of charting singles) in the 80s and 90s I think.

    Something is telling me that this fanbase was mostly in Northern England, but this might be down to:

    – my Dad moving to Merseyside to work in the 80s and pretty much immediately getting very into country.
    – the Coronation Street plot in the early 90s where Bet Lynch starts dating a country-loving stetson-wearing trucker.

  18. 18
    Dan R on 15 May 2008 #

    That makes sense of the chart patterns but it makes me wonder why.

    Country music always had, and continues to have, a loyal following in Scotland. Glasgow even has its own Grand Old Opry… Country was big in Liverpool and Newcastle too. The obvious thought would be that those port towns received imports of country records in the post war years when that generation was resettling into civilian life, and that they may have stopped being record buyers thirty years later as they entered retirement. And the North had the ports taking in US goods. Bristol and London traded more with Europe, hence more country in the North. Plausible?

    Scotland’s the exception because it’s less that they liked country music and more that they part-invented it, with celtic folk and the ballad tradition being exported and then reimported as country. Okay, that history’s a mite abbreviated, but you get my point.

  19. 19
    rosie on 15 May 2008 #

    It’s more than plausible, Dan, it’s the same as the reason why imported R&B caught on in Liverpool. The R & B records, along with Superman comics and other cultural detritus, crossed the Atlantic as ballast on ships. The same applied to Belfast too (think Them) but I believe Country took a tighter hold over there partly because – as with the Scots – they invented it in the first place.

  20. 20
    wichita lineman on 15 May 2008 #

    Spot on, Rosie. I saw a great doc on the ‘Cunard Yanks’, Liverpudlians who worked on the cruise ships to New York and brought all manner of tasty items from cine cameras to jukeboxes back with them in the 50s (unheard of here), as well as amazing clothes that no one in austerity Britain had seen before. Some settled down and, with their savings, opened the many small clubs which became the engine rooms of Merseybeat (oops, getting carried away with the ship analogy there!).

    One thing bothers me about this. Cunard also ran cruises from Southampton to the States. Anyone know if it’s a stronghold for country, or ever had a beat scene? I can only think of Heinz, who was clearly made shipshape and hit-fashioned by Joe Meek rather than his hometown.

  21. 21
    LondonLee on 15 May 2008 #

    I like this more than I did when it came out. Just listened to it again and it’s…well, nice. Nowt wrong with that.

    I always assumed they were American though.

  22. 22
    Billy Smart on 15 May 2008 #

    I suppose that one reason why this sold more than Abba, The Bee Gees or David Bowie is that people who followed those artists also bought their songs on million-selling albums.

    Maybe the older age range of its purchasers is another part of the reason why it has left no trace, like Donald Peers or the like. These people would be likely to be in their seventies by now, if not older.

    This really is the forgotten hit. Indeed, every time that I’ve heard it I’ve not only forgotten it as soon as its stopped (like Slik) but even while its still playing!

  23. 23
    Doctor Mod on 15 May 2008 #

    As far as I know, this is the only Dutch UK #1, which is a pity. Other posters have already noted Dutch acts that were far more worthy. Shocking Blue actually hit #1 in the US (on some charts) with “Venus” (RIP Mariska Veres). The Tee Set’s “Ma Belle Amie” and George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag,” two light-weight but catchy pieces with a certain quirky charm, also scored hits in the US. (Even if the latter later gave us the unforgivable “Paloma Blanca,” which was really, really BAD.) Golden Earring has had several US hits, most notably “Radar Love” and “Twilight Zone,” and we can’t forget Focus’s “Hocus Pocus,” “Sylvia,” etc. And, yes, “How Do You Do.” There was quite a bit of high quality pop and rock coming out of the Netherlands, particularly in the early 1970s, mostly sung in English, that never got much of a reception outside the motherland–Alquin, Kayak, Brainbox, Cuby and the Blizzards among them.

    (There are others, more recent, I won’t mention because of another event in progress . . .)

    So it’s rather sad that this pleasant, inoffensive but rather insipid trifle is one of the bigger successes uit Nederland. Even sadder that perhaps the biggest is (god help us) those “Stars on 45” things.

    (I thoroughly enjoy the song “Dead Stars on 45” by the Australian group Eva Trout, but then again I can’t help love a group named after my favourite Elizabeth Bowen novel.)

    Some day the great Dutch single will sweep the world–wake me up when it happens.

  24. 24
    Doctor Mod on 15 May 2008 #

    How could I forget to mention Earth and Fire (not to be confused with EWF) as one of the great Dutch groups of the early 70s?

  25. 25
    vinylscot on 15 May 2008 #

    I saw Focus twice recently at the Ferry in Glasgow and they still play a blinding set – only two members from the 70s (Thijs Van Leer and Pierre Van Der Linden) and no Jan Akkerman, but two and a half hours of nostalgic splendour and silliness nonetheless. “Sylvia” still sends a shiver up my spine.

    One for Marcello – Scooter as pick of the 2008 pops – I noticed they have a track entitled “How Much Is The Fish?” the line is uttered in a similar way to the original – unfortunately there is no “How much is the chips; does the fish have chips?” response. Who would have thought – Stump as Scooter influence??

  26. 26
    Billy Smart on 15 May 2008 #

    There’s a *brilliant* Dutch UK #1 hit, but that happened 17 years after Pussycat…

  27. 27
    wwolfe on 15 May 2008 #

    The Dutch Invasion of the States included one of the truly cracked hit records of its era: Blue Swede’s “Hooked On a Feeling.” The awkward sorta-reggae and faux-David Clayton Thomas lead vocal aren’t the attraction – no, it’s the demented “Ooga chacka’s” that open the song, and then return near the end. There was a fellow DJ at my college radio station who had that bit on a cart, which he’d play while screaming, “They’re coming!! They’re here!! Help!!!” (I was easily amused.)

    I, too, was a Mouth and McNeil fan. There were a lot of endearingly odd singles in the first half of the ’70s.

  28. 28
    wwolfe on 15 May 2008 #

    OK, I’m now both laughing and blushing.

    Turns out, Blue SWEDE is SWEDISH!!! How could anyone ever crack that mysterious code?

    (“Hooked On a feeling” did manage to hit #1 in Holland – not that this changes anything about my amazingly chowderheaded last post.)

  29. 29
    Alan Connor on 15 May 2008 #

    Ah. I read the title and decided I needed to listen to a recording before reading the post. “Okay, I’ve finally heard it – so *that*’s what Mississippi by Pussycat (or is it the other way round?) sounds like”, I thought, having seen it on lists of Number Ones and having failed to identify it at least once in a pop quiz environment. (Aside: I tried to listen specifically to the lyric in case it was pertinent to the discussion; it was, but even though I’d read a transcription online as it played, there was not a line of content that I processed. I didn’t really take it in as having lyrics – just some words for the nice lady to sing.) Then I read the post and remembered seeing the song on some TV list show and remembered thinking at the time “Okay, I’ve finally heard it – so *that*’s what Mississippi by Pussycat (or is it the other way round?) sounds like…”.

    Who knows *how* many times I’ve actually heard this pissy thing?

    (I maintain that recent Popular *was* the first time I’d heard Slik’s Forever And Ever, however. That you wouldn’t forget you’d remembered not to forget.)

    I just hope it never comes up in a pop quiz.

    Remind me: how does it go again?

  30. 30
    Dan R on 15 May 2008 #

    #23: “As far as I know, this is the only Dutch UK #1”

    In fact, there are TWO more glorious Dutch #1s still to come in the early 90s… and two rather less glorious Dutch #1s a little after that.

    Ow! Spoiler Bunny! Get off! I’m sorry, okay?

  31. 31
    Snif on 16 May 2008 #

    Dr Mod didn’t mention whether any of those Dutchpop acts charted in the UK, but they were all solid hits in the Australian charts (perhaps they offload all the unsuccessful stuff on us?).

    Dancing Queen was No 1 hereunder at the time, followed by a fortnight at the top for Bryan Ferry’s “Let’s Stick Together”.

  32. 32
    Doctor Mod on 16 May 2008 #

    Billy #26/Dan #30–

    OK, so Doctor Mod is, as far as I know, the eldest among you, and I have wondered lately (with my brain worn out with grading end-of-term papers and exams that challenge my sense of reality) if I’ve gone senile. Honestly, those other NL #1s (Spoiler Bunny be damned!) happened either during my marriage (as it were) to the Nut Queen, who banned pop music from the household, or during my exile on the Isle of the Damned. (Well, at least I can say I’ve had an “interesting” life. . . ) Never occurred to me that any of those folks were Nederlandic. (But I laughed when I realized that the name of one means nothing in English except if you pronounce it in Dutch.)

    Snif #31–
    I’m not one of those who lives or dies by the history of the charts in various nations–I don’t even own one of those Guiness or Billboard books that some consider scripture. (Someone’s bound to throw a brick at me for that, but I’m not a sociologist and I don’t do statistics.) Still, if I remember correctly what happened 35-40 years ago, I know some of them were in the UK charts. “Venus,” I think, got into the top five.

    As to “Dancing Queen,” see my comment (somewhere in that lengthy thread) about what one’s Aussie GF said about it.

    I’m headed Down Under in July, and I have a bet going as to how many hours I’ll be in Oz before I hear ABBA.

    BTW, Harry Vanda and Dick Diamonde of the Easybeats, one of the great early Australian bands to have some international success, were Dutch by birth.

    (But then so were–cough–Eddie and Alex van Halen. For those who want to claim that rock is “intellectual” and pop is vapid, I say look to Van Halen, who are definitely rock. They more than disprove the notion.)

  33. 33
    Doctor Mod on 16 May 2008 #

    wwolfe #27/28–

    Doctor Mod forgives you, even if others won’t. Being big and blonde, I’m often asked–even by complete strangers–if I’m Swedish. And I couldn’t be mad at any fan of M&McN. I only wish I could find their albums on CD.

  34. 34
    Tom on 16 May 2008 #

    Vinylscot #25: They also have a song called “Does The Fish Have Chips?” :) No sign of a Stump sample yet tho.

  35. 35
    rosie on 16 May 2008 #

    Going off on a wild tangent, I’m just listening to Annie Lennox (one of my absolute musical heroes) on Desert Island Discs, and as you (for certain values of ‘you’) might expect she is being a star.

    It occurs to me that some performers are inseparable from, and define, their context. Others, like Annie, would have been successful in any context they might have landed in.

  36. 36
    and everybody elses Mark G on 16 May 2008 #

    Caint stand her.

    That’s it.

  37. 37
    vinylscot on 16 May 2008 #

    A potentially great talent spoiled by her forced “weirdness”, delusions of grandeur, and insistence on being taken seriously.

    I saw her at the Apollo with the Tourists, and even then she was beginning to be a pain n the a**.

    In my experience, almost all of her fans are female, and always have been – does she fit the “strong female icon” profile we discussed a couple of threads ago?

  38. 38
    rosie on 16 May 2008 #

    At this rate I could become a countercultural icon!

  39. 39
    Erithian on 16 May 2008 #

    Rosie – she might not be in my absolute pantheon but yes, I’m a fan of Annie Lennox (one of the highlights of Live 8 as well) but maybe we can hold off discussion on her for nine Popular-years or so?

    Among the Europop Dutch/Swedish hits mentioned above there was no mention of how a couple of them have been used – the “Ooga-chaga” bit from “Hooked On A Feeling” accompanied the freaky “dancing baby” sequences in Ally McBeal, and surely Dutch pop’s greatest contribution to popular culture (albeit inadvertently) was the use of George Baker’s “Little Green Bag” as the theme tune to Reservoir Dogs.

    As for Pussycat, I seem to be in a minority of one in having very fond memories of it (and I’m not even that big a country fan). I’ll get me coat.

  40. 40
    DJ Punctum on 16 May 2008 #

    OK, some round-ups and responses:

    Country music was arguably the dominant strand of popular music in Scotland, and particularly West Central Scotland, in the mid-seventies – bigger than actual pop; you heard it in every house. I can’t think of a neighbour of ours who didn’t have a stack of C&W records. Even the venerable Slim Whitman, absent from Popular since 1955, managed a couple of number one albums around this time. All personified in the extraordinary persona of Sydney Devine, runner-up to Alex Harvey in that fifties Scottish Elvis contest, who reinvented himself as Cleland’s own Vegas-era Elvis with lugubrious numbers about silver-haired old grannies who passed away and he also did “Old Shep” and “Nobody’s Child” and, yes, all the favourites (his only UK singles chart entry was the Scotland Forever EP, released to tie in with the ’78 World Cup, which registered a single week at #49). You’d go on the coach to Blackpool and they’d play his collected works over the Tannoy. If only they’d invented the Walkman in the seventies…

    Dutch number ones – there are at least three more on their way (two of which are by the same act). “Brilliant” is not an adjective I would apply to any of them, I must admit.

    Aargh, Focus! Radcliffe and Maconie are currently trying to kickstart a Focus revival on their show but I can’t stand them – those “goofy”/”wacky” voices I just can’t take and I think “yep, this is why punk HAD to happen.” “Sylvia” I can just about let pass (I don’t think they had Plath in mind when they wrote it) but please leave the yodelling to Frank Ifield (or Morrissey), chaps.

    The arrangement for Blue Swede’s “Hooked On A Feeling” was originally conceived and recorded by Jonathan King in ’71, and that version sold well across Europe, including in Sweden. When JK heard the Blue Swede one he consulted his lawyers but was told that arrangements couldn’t be copyrighted, much to his chagrin.

    Other things I detest about “Mississippi”:

    a) Partial ripoff of “Dock Of The Bay” bassline;
    b) Sarcastic “Peter Gunn” riff after the “guitar player turned to rock and roll” line.

  41. 41
    DJ Punctum on 16 May 2008 #

    Annie Lennox in general makes me wish for nuclear holocaust in five seconds.

    At the time of “Una Paloma Blanca” and in view of the absence of the George Baker Selection themselves from TV screens (JK’s version got all the publicity) I genuinely thought that it was George Baker the actor.

  42. 42
    Tom on 16 May 2008 #

    Plenty of time to discuss Annie Lennox later on! I think she’s fine, as it happens: not a favourite, not a foe.

  43. 43
    Tim on 16 May 2008 #

    This site http://www.davidstjohn.co.uk/sitemap.html (especially the “Here Come The Groups” pages) gives a little view onto TWO lost worlds: the Southampton pop scene of the sixties and the internets of the late nineties.

    The pages don’t make much of a case for Southampton as pop hotbed, but the meddyEVILS look amazing.

  44. 44
    Drucius on 16 May 2008 #

    I’m afraid this did nothing for me at the time. The only thing I can remember about Pussycat is that the bassists’ right breast sat nicely in the curve of her Fender Precision. These things are important to twelve year old boys.

  45. 45

    cråzy føcüs invented punk

  46. 46
    DJ Punctum on 16 May 2008 #

    focus were about as crazy as up and down in and out roundabout man ben benison

  47. 47

    yodelay a nim nim bah

  48. 48
    DJ Punctum on 16 May 2008 #

    will mark s pick the correct answer from the following:

    roogalator w/beresford
    doctors of madness
    lone star
    jaln band
    neil ardley kaleidoscope lineup
    ovary lodge
    wild cherry
    simon may orchestra
    rock follies
    elton dean’s ninesense

  49. 49

    døctørs of mådness! f.URBAN BLITZ on electric violin

    haha “chamberpot”

  50. 50
    Rob M on 16 May 2008 #

    My main memories of this song are that it was a piece of toss which I tried to ignore at the time, and that around 1979 our junior school teachers were using it to teach us how to spell the eponymous river, by which point the more musical amongst the 10 years olds were going “We don’t remember that song, can’t we listen to some Two Tone instead please?”

  51. 51
    and everybody elses Mark G on 16 May 2008 #

    did it help with spelling “contraception” though?

  52. 52
    Doctor Mod on 16 May 2008 #

    At this rate I could become a countercultural icon!

    Rosie, please do! I, for one, appreciate the existence of another against-the-grain female perspective hereabouts. And I adore Annie.

    As yet another pedagogue (but hopefully not a pedant), I too have a “responsibility” (see an earlier thread) as well: To teach people to like what they like and form their own taste regardless of what others think.

  53. 53
    DJ Punctum on 16 May 2008 #

    Teaching people to like what they like – that’s a new one.

  54. 54
    crag on 16 May 2008 #

    Heard “Mississippi” for about the 3rd time in my life last night and actually rather enjoyed it- catchy chorus, endearingly clumsy feel to it all around. Theres nothing inherently wrong w/ it at all, although having said that theres nothing hugely RIGHT w/ it either. It makes for a pleasent listen but leaves no lasting impression whatsoever.

    Another example of the rarely seen “Eurocountry” genre is “No No Never” by Texas Lightning, a lovely tune slightly reminiscent of Laura Cantrell which was Germanys’s flop Eurovision entry in 2006

  55. 55
    Doctor Mod on 16 May 2008 #


    Not so new–some of my best professors taught that way a generation. When students ask me “What do you want me to say in this paper?” I respond, “Say whatever you think regarding this topic. You might actually teach me something I don’t already know.”

    No one is required to share my tastes–they are just that.

    There are too many sycophants in the world as it is. It’s not the sort of thing I aspire to cultivate in others.

  56. 56
    DJ Punctum on 16 May 2008 #

    Then why teach if it’s all relativist?

  57. 57
    Lena on 16 May 2008 #

    Meanwhile, over at Rate Your Music, “Mississippi” is sitting at #201 in the Top Singles of 1976 list. I don’t know this song, but then I missed out on punk entirely, as well, so it does all even out…

  58. 58
    StellaVista on 16 May 2008 #

    Hey, it took only three posts until her spectacular tooth-gap was mentioned! Which is about the first thing that comes into my mind when I hear the song. To be honest I even associate the whole state of Mississippi with that gap.

    It was a massive hit in Germany and its still played on certain radio stations and in all those retro-TV-shows.

  59. 59
    rosie on 16 May 2008 #

    Doctor Mod @ 52: It tickles me to death that there are those – naming no names, of course – who once made a virtue of kicking out against the establishment, and then became an establishment of their own, quick to pounce on anybody caught deviating from their self-defined norm!

  60. 60
    vinylscot on 16 May 2008 #

    If I read it as it was intended, I think Dr Mod’s original comment may have suffered from a little bit of semantic imprecision.

    I presume she actually meant “teach people it’s OK to like what they like”, rather than “teach people to like what they like”.

    People already know how to like what they like, but all too often, as we have often discussed here, people may not have the conviction to express or retain that liking, whether that is because of peer pressure, or some other reason. Thus we end up with the contentious existence of “G**lty Pl****res”, and suchlike jiggery-pokery.

    If I’ve inferred wrongly, I apologise.

  61. 61
    LondonLee on 16 May 2008 #

    Teaching people to like what they like

    Unless it’s rubbish of course.

  62. 62
    Doctor Mod on 16 May 2008 #

    Rosie #59–

    Indeed! It’s as the Who said at the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”:

    Meet the new boss–same as the old boss.

    That’s one of the reasons why I think education and indoctrination are two different things.

    vinylscot #60–

    You’ve inferred correctly. No one should be made to feel like a reprobate just because they like or don’t like what some self-appointed arbiter of taste says they should or should not. I should know–as I indicated some posts back, I was once the [in]significant other of a woman who could not bear anything but jazz or classical music because pop music “lacked intellectual and cultural value.” (In a fit of aesthetic displeasure, she crated up a record collection that I’d built over twenty-five years–including all my Dutch vinyl–and sold it.)

    Not everything is relative, but matters of taste are almost completely subjective and usually based on something other than rational premises. Honestly, there’s no need to demean people as morons for having differing tastes from one’s own. (Here again I think of the wretched protagonist of High Fidelity who can’t abide the thought of dining with anyone who likes Tina Turner . . . . ) This is not to say one shouldn’t feel passionately about something, but rather that they can’t expect everyone else to share that feeling.

    On a pedagogical note, I have colleagues who will give low grades to any student who dares posit a dissenting argument. This smacks of totalitarianism as far as I’m concerned, and doesn’t teach much except how to be a “yes-person.” Somehow, I’ve always had this crackpot idea that education was supposed to make you more open-minded and tolerant.

    I can’t say that I’m crazy about “Mississippi” and I won’t defend it just because of some nationalistic thing about being Dutch. But I hardly think that those who have some sort of fondness for it are a bunch of degenerates.

    In other words, we shouldn’t feel g**lty about our “G**lty Pl****res.”

  63. 63
    Doctor Mod on 16 May 2008 #

    London Lee–#61

    Rubbish–but in whose opinion? One pedant calling it that doesn’t necessarily make it so. Many a young person learned to love something only because a disagreeable teacher trashed it.

  64. 64
    Doctor Mod on 16 May 2008 #

    To get back to the point, there has always been some sort of country presence or influence in Dutch pop, even if it’s been somewhere on the sidelines. (I’m thinking here of Shocking Blue’s cover of “Sally Was a Good Old Girl,” for example.) More recently, as it’s become a larger trend, I’ve seen a number of Dutch performers defining their country-style as “Americana” music. Ilse DeLange is quite a popular “Americana” performer.

  65. 65
    Dan R on 16 May 2008 #

    #62 *Not everything is relative, but matters of taste are almost completely subjective and usually based on something other than rational premises.*

    Subjective in the sense that they judgments of taste have to be experienced by oneself, yes. I can’t know that Hey Jude is a good song based on a description of it, for example, no matter how detailed that description is. I have to hear it myself.

    But subjective in the sense of taste being purely individual, no. If I have a headache that experience IS purely objective. No one could meaningfully persuade me that I don’t have a headache when I do. But someone could persuade me that a song is good when I hadn’t thought so previously. Otherwise, conversations like these about the merits of particular songs would not be possible, or at least be absurd.

    So, surely it’s a good thing to get students to reflect on their own cultural preferences and try to be more articulate about them, but also be prepared, in the process, to find that their tastes are challenged and might change. Otherwise you’re teaching people to stick with whatever bundle of prejudices they came in with.

    Or maybe I’ve misunderstood you?

    Oh I have a feeling that when tomorrow comes we’ll both regret things we said today….

  66. 66
    Doctor Casino on 17 May 2008 #

    This is a pretty song, but way too long.

  67. 67
    Doctor Casino on 17 May 2008 #

    re: Focus, I feel certain they’ve come up here at least briefly before, probably whenever it was that “Sylvia” was on the charts. I want to link them up with Thunderclap Newman but I could be way way off.

  68. 68
    Doctor Mod on 17 May 2008 #

    Misunderstood? Perhaps. And perhaps my desire to dash off a one-liner is to blame. I was in a rush earlier and wanted to say things simply rather than go on and on. Then I realized that I would have to go on and on.

    So here’s the deal.

    A good teacher does not tell one what to think but rather how to think; in other words, one provides epistemologies and methodologies instead of preaching in an “I’m an intellectual/you’re an ignorant fool/f*** you and your opinions” manner. It’s no good to tell someone they must “like” something just because an authority figure (or one who presumes one’s own authority) says so.

    A good teacher should expose one’s students to culturally significant works (that is, if one’s field is arts and letters) and explain why they are significant. This does not necessarily mean that they will like what they encounter–nor is it necessary that they do so–but they will at least know what it is and why it is significant.

    But “liking” and not liking is generally based on a whole range of issues outside the realm of objective knowledge (i.e., knowing what it is and why it is what it is). We might well like a particular song because we were such-and-such and age and did such-and-such a thing with such-and-such a person whom we loved/hated. A very high number of posts here are replete with such references, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it really isn’t about the merits of the song itself. I can’t be expected to like a certain song because someone’s now deceased mum adored it and it makes that someone feel good every time they hear it and think of her singing along while she baked scones/cheesecake/fish fingers.

    To go on, whenever one says “I love *****” or “I hate *****,” it really says more about the person saying it than it does about the object of that emotion.

    All I was really trying to say in the beginning is that I’m quite bothered by people who think they are such infallible arbiters of taste that anyone who dares to like what they hate is somehow an imbecile (i.e, “No one in their right mind could possibly like ****” “That singer makes me wish death on all and sundry.”) Many of my students like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. I don’t, and I imagine that’s the result of a difference in age, education, experience, and taste–but I’ll surely allow and even defend their right to their own opinion. I am not about to call anyone mentally defective because of their appreciation of something I find completely unappealing.

    Lest I be deemed an irresponsible teacher any further–and God knows some of the self-styled geniuses who know all that matters among my colleagues have attempted to do so, even though I’m actually ranked as one of the most effective teachers in my department–it is not my place to demand that anyone like anything; rather, it is my job to expose my students to a variety of cultural experiences and give them the ability to contemplate and articulate WHY they like or dislike whatever it is–in other words, to analyze their own preferences, aesthetic sensibilities, or, in your words, prejudices. But Jesus doesn’t weep and the problems of the world don’t change a whit because a given individual loves/hates a particular song/all works by Britney/Madonna/the Beatles/Annie Lennox/Elvis Costello/Elvis Presley. Ergo, feel free to like what you like, but understand your reasons for doing so are likely to be emotional and subjective rather than rational and objective. Ergo, those who don’t share your pleasures are not perforce evil or stupid. (And, being gay, I know full well that there are a lot of people who think those like me evil/sick/damned for pleasure in ways other than there own.)

    As someone whose teaching assignment includes one or two classes in the Queer Studies program, I can assure you that I’m not “teaching people to stick with whatever bundle of prejudices they came in with.” But I know damned well that no one is going to lose those prejudices if I assume I have God-like knowledge (as distinct from wisdom) that allows me to bully or insult those I am supposed to teach or demand that they agree with me simply because I said so. To teach in that manner will, more often than not, merely reinforce a pre-existing prejudice because it denies others the ability to come to terms with a new idea through their own cognizance.

    Now I must go grade some more papers and exams. My students are required to formulate their own topics, so long as they address some element of the course curriculum. I will grade them not so much on the “rightmindedness” or “wrongheadedness” of their perspectives but rather on their ability to present that point of view cogently and analytically. They don’t have to like Pygmalionor Entertaining Mr Sloane–though all the better if they do–but they do need to understand how and why these works matter.

    Class dismissed.

  69. 69
    Doctor Mod on 17 May 2008 #

    Doctor to Doctor re: #67–

    Can’t say that any connection between Focus and Thunderclap Newman comes to mind, but I’d like to hear your thinking on this. It’s an interesting pairing.

    (And maybe you could teach me something I don’t know . . .)

    Could it be the unlikely juxtaposition of disparate styles within one given work??

  70. 70
    intothefireuk on 17 May 2008 #

    Well, like Pete & Phil almost said I know what I like and I don’t like this. I’m not exactly a staunch supporter of the genre that is Country anyway but this is a pedal steel too far. Why does country music remind me of hairy men in string vests & smoke filled working mens clubs ? No I don’t know either, perhaps it’s some traumatic event in my past. Anyway this isn’t proper country it’s someone having a laugh,
    surely ?

    As regards Dutch rock – certainly Focus (Live At The Rainbow – excellent LP) & of course Golden Earring beyond that I’m struggling.

  71. 71
    Waldo on 17 May 2008 #

    By this stage of the game, Johnnie Walker, whom regular Popular pilgrims will recognise as a Waldo idol, along with Jack Regan (fictional) and Gerald Ford (also fictional), had been replaced by the much more servile Paul Burnett, who even so wasn’t a bad lad. Twas Paul who introduced a simple but extremely popular competition aligned to the chart rundown every Tuesday. This “Top Three Forecast” offered what was then a fabulous prize. It was record tokens, which would enable the winner to either purchase the Top 20 Singles (or 20 singles) or else a number of albums to the same value. I sent in a card every week, as did Martin, a boy in my own form at school, who was to become a career copper in the Met. I was destined much later to follow him into Law Enforcement but a different Agency. On one particular week during October 1976, my top three prediction was that “Mississippi” by Pussycat would remain at the top with numbers two and three swapping places, hardly an earth shattering guess. Indeed it was not, because I was spot on, as was most of Britain, I would suspect. I was at home having lunch before returning to school when the result was announced and I kid you not, sweet little Waldo won it! I received the tokens along with a message from Derek Chinnery, Controller of Radio One and I decided to pick and mix both singles and albums, one of which was Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life”, Stevie’s finest hour for me and something which being a double album would certainly have been out of my reach without this good fortune. Back at school, I predictably attracted congratulations and envy in equal measure. I remember Martin saying to me; “I always enter that. Why can’t I ever win that?” I looked at him and said: “You’ll probably win it next week!” It was a throwaway line, of course, but bugger me, he bloody well did! The very next week! To put this into perspective is almost unbelievable. Two boys in the exact same form at school winning back to back prizes on what was then Britain’s premier national radio station. It doesn’t seem possible but that’s exactly what happened.

    As for “Mississippi”, I felt that this was simply a Dutch Eurovision reject which struck lucky. How did it spend a month at the top? I quite liked the girl who sang it but the monumental success of this record provided a mystery to which, I fancy, I shall never have an answer. But that astonishing business with the Top Three Forecast will always make it for me distinctly memorable.

    Happy Days!

  72. 72
    rosie on 17 May 2008 #

    Oh well done that Waldo! And even more well-done for investing your prize in one of the great albums of the 70s – further proof if proof were needed that there was some fine stuff about in these times of mythical supposed dreariness! An album which failed to furnish a number one directly, although several tracks would have graced Popular and one or two will come to the attention of the Bunny in horribly mangled forms.

    [FX: Sits back with mug of coffee to await cries of “Betrayal!”, “How could you!”, “Nobody in their right mind likes Stevie Wonder!”]

  73. 73
    Waldo on 17 May 2008 #

    We’ll fight ’em off together, Rosie!

  74. 74
    Billy Smart on 17 May 2008 #

    I can’t see any fight starting here. I’ve always found that a good uninspired birthday present for almost anybody is a decent Wonder Greatest Hits, which everyone always seems to be pleased to get, and will actually play, too!

    Should we have cause to discuss Stevie in depth in the fullness of time though, we may not be talking about his best work…

  75. 75
    rosie on 17 May 2008 #

    Indeed not, Billy, but ’twere ever thus as I’ve often observed.

  76. 76
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 17 May 2008 #

    ooh dear no :D

    mr wonder’s best LP releases in reverse order of bestness:

    4th: Songs in the Key of Life
    1st equal: Fulfillingness’ First Finale <– best title!
    1st equal: Innervisions
    1st equal: Talking Book

    i am actually fondest of talking book — my copy has my first girlfriend’s name written on it in biro, i shd get it back to her :(

  77. 77
    Chris Brown on 17 May 2008 #

    Waldo 70 – I don’t think I’d call Key Of Life his finest hour (although it probably would have been better had he actually kept it down to an hour!) but certainly an excellent purchase.

    Nowadays (well, until about last year anyway) if they had to consecutive winners in the same place they’d probably rig it to look inclusive.

  78. 78
    DJ Punctum on 17 May 2008 #

    A good teacher should expose one’s students to culturally significant works (that is, if one’s field is arts and letters) and explain why they are significant. This does not necessarily mean that they will like what they encounter–nor is it necessary that they do so–but they will at least know what it is and why it is significant.

    See, this is the central flaw. You’re talking about a cheerful universalised multiqualitative approach (which IRL is rarely harmonious and indeed disqualifies confrontation and aggression, both of which are vital qualities for pop or indeed any art to involve) which invites people to like what they like and not feel oppressed because of it and yet here we have that old reflex standby “exposing one’s students to culturally significant works” with all the attendant Qs of whose culture, who deemed it significant and why should we AUTOMATICALLY trust e.g. Harold Bloom as genial genie of guidance? And if it’s not necessarily that they come into contact with “culturally significant works” then why bother imposing them in the first place?

    As for Eivets Rednow, SITKOL is a good album hidden in a double album plus bonus EP but manifestly stretched in places (“I Am Singing” anyone?) and a little too prematurely assured of its presumed aesthetic inmmortality. Whereas Talking Book or Innervisions didn’t appear with “GREAT” dangled around its neck like Patrick Duffy in top 1976 TV series The Man From Atlantis.

  79. 79
    Doctor Mod on 17 May 2008 #

    So how many years have you spent teaching, Marcello?

  80. 80
    rosie on 17 May 2008 #

    Doctor Mod @ 79: He probably wouldn’t hold his students’ attention to his first morning break on that showing ;)

  81. 81
    Caledonianne on 17 May 2008 #

    I’ve always regarded this song (in so much as I have regarded it at all) as a bit of a dirge.

    I’m with you Rosie – re Annie Lennox on DID – as soon as it finished my Facebook status became – “thinks Annie Lennox was great on DID”. I wouldn’t say I was exactly a fan (though I have always been a woman, vinylscot!) but I thought she, Pink Floyd (and – whisper it – Robbie Williams) were the only bearable things on Live Eight. And I am awe struck my how amazing she looks. Wish I could have looked like that at 40 – never mind 53!

    On Mr Wonder – though not my favourite album I think Innervisions may be the best album(or at any rate the best containing hit singles, very few original albums bought in my adult life do) I have ever heard.

    Juxatposing Focus and Thunderclap Newman? I do too – and it’s all because of the music on the Waltzers at the Spanish City in Whitley Bay (In the Year 2525 segues in my head, too – for the same reason).

    There were no C&W records in my WoS household – but that’s because my parents still listened to Bing, Frank, Dino and Perry. Oh, and (hooray!) Dionne Warwick.

  82. 82
    Doctor Mod on 17 May 2008 #

    Quite right, Rosie! Both you and I know just how far “confrontation and aggression” will get you in the classroom. Theorizing is easy, especially when you don’t have to put it into practice.

  83. 83
    LondonLee on 17 May 2008 #

    A lot of ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ does go on a bit, but it’s still genius. I prefer ‘Innervisions’ overall and not liking 70s-era Stevie Wonder seems to me the same as not liking oxygen, I can’t see how a living human being can have such an opinion.

  84. 84
    Billy Smart on 17 May 2008 #

    Since we’re on this topic, does anyone like ‘The Secret Life of Plants’? My response is always the same:

    After 5 minutes – What have I been missing out on all these years? This is really interesting!

    And then after ten minutes I start to read the paper.

  85. 85
    Chris Brown on 17 May 2008 #

    I’d vote for Innervisions as Wonder’s best too, and possibly my favourite album of the entire decade. I’d agree that Key Of Life is overburdened by the desire to be a great work – both in length and some of the content: but it still contains some of the finest pop music ever, and is well worth the money (I actually got given a vinyl copy for free although I had to buy the EP in a charity shop). But I don’t know anyone who dislikes this era of Stevie anyway. The only song I’ve ever heard from the Plants album is ‘Send One Your Love’.

    As for Live 8, I’m sure we’ll come back to this, but a concert where Pink Floyd, Robbie Williams and Annie Lennox are the highlights is one I’m glad to have missed, though I give the latter some credit for a good voice. I’m not a woman.

    Has anyone read The Walrus Was Ringo? It tries to debunk the Cunard Yanks story, but of course not having been there I can’t vouch for their accuracy.

    Pussycat? Never ‘eard of em!

  86. 86
    Waldo on 18 May 2008 #

    Chris # 77 – Yes, how times change. It would never have occured to me back in 1976 that “Top Three Forcast” was anything other than free and fair (which it clearly was otherwise it certainly would never have been gifted to some kid seventeen floors up a tower block in Stockwell in the first place). In recent times, of course, things have become so corrupt that Martin’s win exactly one week after mine back in ’76 (totally honest and just a bizarre coincidence) would have been investigated today and when it had been revealed that we were class mates, all hell would have broken loose. The irony, of course, is that the organisers would for once have been totally innocent.

  87. 87
    DJ Punctum on 18 May 2008 #


    Whenever I asked any of my teachers or lecturers or tutors an intelligent question they always provided a coherent, well-argued answer rather than pull rank. And as this is not the first time you have attempted to pull rank here – thus again revealing the bully which lurks behind your gliberal right-to-fail facade – I will assume that you are unable as well as unwilling to provide a coherent answer to the question that I asked.

  88. 88
    Tom on 18 May 2008 #

    It wasn’t a particularly coherent question Marcello – it turned on an equation of “liking” and “significance” which Doctor Mod had never made and which you ran together for rhetorical purposes. Personally I think Doctor Mod’s professed teaching style sounds pretty good – encouraging students to think critically and work out their own positions and ideas: what’s wrong with that?

  89. 89
    Doctor Casino on 18 May 2008 #

    re Doc Mod 69 – sadly I have no interesting comparisons to make between Focus and Thunderclap Newman…they’d just somehow nestled together in my head from reading this feature. Maybe I DLed them both on the same day? Would be happy to hear anybody else’s stabs at tying them together though!

  90. 90
    Waldo on 18 May 2008 #

    I wonder, Marcello, whether firstly, you remember the tv kiddies quiz “Brainchild” and secondly, if you were ever on it?

  91. 91
    Doctor Mod on 18 May 2008 #

    Projection, projection, projection.

    I have given extensive answers already and really don’t feel like rehashing it. If you want an intelligent answer, then ask an intelligent (rather than unintelligible) question, and not one that is merely designed to make someone look a fool.

    But if we want to talk about argumentation, logic, and rhetoric, I’d suggest your most recent response is certainly based on fallacies. To wit–having failed to trip me up, you turn to personal attack. Pull rank? Anyone who repeatedly positions himself as an “intellectual” and trashes the intelligence of anyone who doesn’t agree shouldn’t talk about pulling rank. “Gliberal”? Again?? What a silly insult! It’s the sort of term, as I’ve said before, that far-right American radio pundits who can’t think of anything else to say fling at people who fill them with fear and loathing. It’s called an ad hominem attack, and it’s a fallacy deployed when one has no real argument to present. It is not a valid form of debate but rather a form of rhetorical bullying.

    And what is a “gliberal right-to-fail façade”? Is encouraging anyone to develop their own tastes, to think outside the box rather than to digest uncritically the dictates of some overbearing pedant (or, for that matter, their peers) encouraging them to “fail”?? If that is failure, then what is your measure of “success”?

    And you say I’m a bully?

    By the way, you never answered my question, but I’d really enjoy watching you attempt to present your proposed pedagogical practices to a real, live audience of reasonably intelligent if not terribly sophisticated young people who, a priori have firmly established musical tastes which are contrary to your own. Would you demean their intelligence if they disagreed with your aesthetic standards? If, for example, one of them said he or she “liked” Annie Lennox (and I can assure you that quite a few twenty-year-olds do), would you respond, “Annie Lennox in general makes me wish for nuclear holocaust in five seconds” and expect to be taken seriously?

    Once again, it’s far easier to theorize than to practice.

  92. 92
    Doctor Mod on 18 May 2008 #

    Tom #88–

    Thank you. You understand what I’m saying.

    As Gertrude Stein said, “It’s fine if you like that sort of thing and if not not.”

  93. 93
    rosie on 18 May 2008 #

    I was trying to think of something to write about Harold Bloom v Lester Bangs as genial genies of guidance, but it would take me all week to write it all out. Let’s just say that I, and I think Doctor Mod, would favour putting forward the prospectuses of Harold Bloom and Lester Bangs along with those of many others and invite the students to critique them and make up their own minds.

  94. 94
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 18 May 2008 #

    i think it’s somewhere in his (rather strange) book on angels and the millennium, and just now i couldn’t turn it up, but h.bloom has written about the band, who he is (or was) a fan of

    (on the net he seems to be more of a jazzman)

  95. 95
    Doctor Mod on 18 May 2008 #

    What an interesting thought, Rosie.

    Back when I lived in New Haven, I once saw Harold Bloom in the produce department of a grocery store, fondling the veggies. An unforgettable sight, but not a necessarily pretty one.

    Aside from that one incident, I’ve never actually met the man, but I’m sure that he and I would not completely agree on what constitutes a “significant” work. Nevertheless, I’ve used his work to support certain arguments I’ve posited.

    I never met Lester Bangs either, and while I think there would be considerable overlap between what he and I regard as “significant,” I doubt the agreement would be absolute. Nevertheless, I’ve used his work to support certain arguments I’ve posited.

    My point? Knowledge and even insight come from diverse and often seemingly opposing sources, so long as one’s open to it.

    Just between you and me, Rosie, I very rarely start a class by giving a protracted “I-am-the-authority-and-this-is-what’s-what,” lest I see half a dozen people fall asleep in the first five minutes. My usual approach is to walk in, get there attention and say, “Well, now that you’ve read this/seen this/heard this, what do you think? Your responses, please!” This gets them engaged from the beginning, and I can fill in the “what’s what” at various junctures. My experience is that they remember better when they’re part of the conversation that they do when they listen to someone droning on and on with too much information for them to absorb in one fell swoop. Those who do the latter–alas! All and all they’re just another brick in the wall.

    Mark, I dare say his books have grown progressively more, um, esoteric over time. I’ve always wondered what it feels like to be so authoritative that one can decree as if by fiat the abolition of those troubling things called footnotes. (I rather like them myself, but what do I know?)

    Strange thing about jazz, though, in US academia. For all it’s egalitarian origins it somehow became the province of the old guard academic elitists, most of whom are more than mildly disdainful of jazz’s “illegitimate” offspring (i.e., rock and pop). Not saying that’s necessarily true of HB, but there’s still a lot of that around.

  96. 96

    haha well i rather approved of what HB was sayin abt jazz: viz that his own term “agon” maps onto the ethos of “cutting” in jazz — that jazz and poetry are competitive in a way that not all artforms are — also whitman and armstrong, all america comes from these two (obv these claims are both hugely contestable but i kinda like their sweepng simplicity)

    however i couldn’t find the thing about rock that i remembered in that book, which really is an interpretation of newt gingrich as a distroted rage for angels, and now wonder if i wasn’t pointed to a passage elsewhere by a friend when i confessed i was reading this one — in which HB does make a sideswipe claim about rock as religion and the gnostic moment of 1969, and a joke about his students watching the jefferson airplane while high (in context more affectionate than condescending, which is nice)

  97. 97
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    Did Tom Peters write #91? It’s so full of lazy mediocre kneejerk cliches that he could use it as one of his um inspirational business tools.

    I believe it was Foucault who said something about universities being the means by which societies reproduce themselves as painlessly as possible and hence it is unsurprising that “Doctor” Mod should wish to utilise semi-naked psychic terrorism against those who recognise the de facto bogus ideology behind gliberal teaching (i.e. that in an environment dependent upon economic rationalism a tutor, to preserve or renew their tenure, can only hope to impose subtle subservience in the pretence of inspiring and encouraging subjectivity in their pupils), to deploy every subtle weapon in the book that established power uses to protect itself against the threat of reason.

    Thus also does my stance, as with that of any rational romanticist, count as anti-authoritarian because it argues that real revelation and transcendence cannot be taught, that it will arise from individual combinations of confluence, coincidence and guidance (NOT industry-sanctioned “guidance”) since doing otherwise is by definition submitting to authority with all its inbuilt neuronic prejudices.

    The notion that I am not qualified to comment on the plethora of lazy memes raised by supposed teachers because I am not myself a teacher is ridiculous, if predictable, since:

    a) it implies antiquated professional self-protection (see also the virulently tedious morons at the Guardian and elsewhere who have the temerity to attack me and other bloggers for not being “trained, professional journalists” but feel free to steal ideas and on occasion whole paragraphs from us whenever they want an easy life, which is most of the time);

    b) it is yet another attempted authoritarian hammer aimed at my knees, viz. YOU ARE A LESSER SPECIES, KNOW YOUR PLACE AND STAY THERE PEASANT.

    Which, funnily enough, is exactly how such OCAs describe what I do with my writing since it absolves them from the responsibility of dealing with it. Whereas the likes of “Doctor” Mod are only too quick to whip out their CVs to excuse their total ignorance of 1972 Britain, for example and whinge “daddy daddy he thouted at me” when challenged.

    There is nothing special about my beliefs and stances. I subject them to constant and thorough questioning but when challenged will stand by them as I see fit. Mark and Frank, for instance, being genuinely wise people who do not need to wave around their bibliographies on this board, do engender in me feelings of “Hmm – perhaps they have a point.”

    I am perfectly willing to explain and justify my position to those ears prepared to hear me.

    I am perfectly unwilling to be hit over the head with the paper mallet of gliberal consensuality as a substitute for debate.

    Of course, we must also acknowledge the paradox of those who want an “easy life,” a nice, fluffy consensus where Annie Lennox is a beltin’ right-on woman of character and substance rather than merely the Craig Douglas to Grace Jones’ Sam Cooke, actually being ground down more rapidly by the physical exhaustion of maintaining their illusion (cf. Spinoza).

  98. 98
    rosie on 19 May 2008 #

    Yeah, Marcello, Wha’evah!


  99. 99
    Tom on 19 May 2008 #

    I’m delighted to announce that we’re introducing a new WordPress plug-in. The word “gliberal”, when it appears in future, will be replaced by a more amusing alternative of precisely equal meaning-value. “Sausage”, maybe. Or “Foghat”.

  100. 100
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    “Foghat consensuality”

    That’ll be the Dermot O’Leary Show, then.

  101. 101
    Kat but logged out innit on 19 May 2008 #

    That nice man who used to do Channel 4 breakfast news? I’d consent to him any day etc etc

  102. 102
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    As long as you don’t mind wall to wall Royworld, Feeling and Julian Velard.

  103. 103
    Matt DC on 19 May 2008 #

    Feeling what?

  104. 104
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    That’s showbusiness!

  105. 105
    Doctor Mod on 19 May 2008 #

    Last night I remembered something a psychologist told me years ago–the best way to deal with attention wh*res and bullies is to ignore them completely. That’s the one thing they can’t bear because they love to pick fights. It makes them the center of everything and thus gives them pleasure.

    I’m very selective about those I’m willing to pleasure.

  106. 106
    DJ Punctum on 20 May 2008 #

    I’m not sure I’d want to hire a teacher who can’t tell the difference between a noun and a transitive verb.

  107. 107
    Doctor Mod on 20 May 2008 #

    1. The state or feeling of being pleased or gratified.
    2. A source of enjoyment or delight: The graceful skaters were a pleasure to watch.
    3. Amusement, diversion, or worldly enjoyment: “Pleasure . . . is a safer guide than either right or duty” Samuel Butler.
    4. Sensual gratification or indulgence.
    5. One’s preference or wish: What is your pleasure?

    v. pleas·ured, pleas·ur·ing, pleas·ures
    To give pleasure or enjoyment to; gratify: Our host pleasured us with his company.

    1. To take pleasure; delight: The hiker paused, pleasuring in the sounds of the forest.
    2. To go in search of pleasure or enjoyment.

    [Middle English, from Old French plaisir, from plaisir, to please; see please.]

    pleasure·less adj.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    (Used respectively as a noun [indirect object] and a transitive verb in an infinitive phrase in #105.)

    Sorry if this pleasures you; that was not my intent.

  108. 108
    Tom on 20 May 2008 #

    Should I toss a coin to see who gets the last word before I lock the thread?

  109. 109
    admin on 11 May 2012 #

    Discussion re-opened.

    Guardian review of Saint Etienne “Words and Music” – “that episode of The IT Crowd where Moss joins a society of exceptional Countdown contestants”

  110. 110
    punctum on 11 May 2012 #

    I’m kind of put out by AP’s latest excuse to have a jibe in this direction; I’ve not heard the St Et song yet but would suspect it amounts to something more than saying that Popular is only a sanctuary for hopeless chart geeks. I certainly don’t see myself as such (as opposed to the certifiable fuck-up I was back in 2008) and chart geekdom is not what TPL or my Popular comments are about (it’s amazing, the number of people who still think that Then Play Long is a blog about UK number one albums, as opposed to a blog about somebody writing a blog about UK number one albums, but there you go…)

  111. 111
    thefatgit on 11 May 2012 #

    Can we assume AP is a lurker then?

  112. 112

    Everyone on the internet reads Freaky Trigger all the time

  113. 113
    punctum on 11 May 2012 #

    Everyone on the internet??? Even Rupert Murdoch?

  114. 114
    Mark G on 11 May 2012 #

    esPEShially Rupert Murdoch!

  115. 115
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 May 2012 #

    Since I don’t read The Gruniad, I’ve not heard of this AP fellow but unlike Punctum, I’m not put out at all by the inference that we are all fucking tragic, smug, chart-obsessed, pen-mightier-than-the-sword fruit-loops with psychological issues, some going back to school days. Er…

    Great to see that someone thinks our Lineman is hot!

    I’m not sure that The Digger has ever lurked about on FT (and particularly Popular) but there’s not a doubt in my mind that Rebekah Brooks has and does. Ditto Louise Mensch!

  116. 116
    enitharmon on 12 May 2012 #

    Is AP really as ugly as his Guardian mugshot suggests he is? To me at least. I’ve often wondered,

  117. 117
    enitharmon on 12 May 2012 #

    Oh well, I put in my two penn’orth on his comment thread.

    I thought Saint Étienne was the down-at-heel sister city of Lyon but what would I know!

  118. 118
    DanH on 19 Jan 2013 #

    OH “How Do You Do?”! One of those ’70s songs that reminds me of the Muppets, probably because Mouth sounds like Jim Henson.

  119. 119
    Inanimate Carbon God on 23 Jan 2015 #

    You say this is why punk had to happen, but the sleeve looks like Marquee Moon’s in really bad wigs…

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