15
May 08

PUSSYCAT – “Mississippi”

FT + Popular119 comments • 5,488 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.

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Comments

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.”

  3. 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.

  4. 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)

  5. 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.

  6. 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)

  7. 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).

  8. 98
    rosie on 19 May 2008 #

    Yeah, Marcello, Wha’evah!

    ;)

  9. 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”.

  10. 100
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    “Foghat consensuality”

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

  11. 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

  12. 102
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

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

  13. 103
    Matt DC on 19 May 2008 #

    Feeling what?

  14. 104
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    That’s showbusiness!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 107
    Doctor Mod on 20 May 2008 #

    pleas·ure
    n.
    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
    v.tr.
    To give pleasure or enjoyment to; gratify: Our host pleasured us with his company.

    v.intr.
    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.

  18. 108
    Tom on 20 May 2008 #

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

  19. 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”

  20. 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…)

  21. 111
    thefatgit on 11 May 2012 #

    Can we assume AP is a lurker then?

  22. 112

    Everyone on the internet reads Freaky Trigger all the time

  23. 113
    punctum on 11 May 2012 #

    Everyone on the internet??? Even Rupert Murdoch?

  24. 114
    Mark G on 11 May 2012 #

    esPEShially Rupert Murdoch!

  25. 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!

  26. 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,

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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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