May 08

PUSSYCAT – “Mississippi”

FT + Popular119 comments • 5,391 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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  1. 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 :(

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 79
    Doctor Mod on 17 May 2008 #

    So how many years have you spent teaching, Marcello?

  5. 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 ;)

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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!

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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.”

  18. 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.

  19. 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)

  20. 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.

  21. 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)

  22. 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).

  23. 98
    rosie on 19 May 2008 #

    Yeah, Marcello, Wha’evah!


  24. 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”.

  25. 100
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    “Foghat consensuality”

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

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