I Hate Music

30
Aug 00

BE THANKFUL I DON’T TAKE IT ALL

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BE THANKFUL I DON’T TAKE IT ALL

Notebooks out plagiarists, as Mark E.Smith has been known to deludedly say. I, as usual, have an ambivalent view on plagiarism. Yes it is lazy, artistically corrupt and just plain dishonest. That said it stops a new abominable tune being written.

Paul Weller is no stranger to a) being rubbish and b)plagiarism. Much of his career has been spent ripping off the Who, Eric Clapton or Modern Romance for chrissake. If anyone knows where he half-inched the tune for “Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea”, incidentally, then let me know so I can go round and scoop out their giblets. That said – the crime committed on “Start” by The Jam is notoriously horrendous. Not only is the bass-line a note for note rip-off, it rips off one of the most churlish songs ever written. The Beatles’ “Taxman”.

To call “Taxman” churlish, or merely like a churl, is to suggest that something out there could exhibit more churl than this simulcra. This is not possible – and I urge the makers of The Oxford English Dictionary to add this definition to their organ post-haste:

CHURL a. cf “Taxman” – George Harrison (The Beatles Revolver)

Yes popstars often have little economic understanding, and yes their huge and monumentally undeserved earnings are often taxed so greatly that they may only take home a million quid net. That said, Taxman is a folly of gargantuan proportuions. For George Harrison to complain that his swinishly vast wealth was the upshot of such hard graft kind of downplays the contributions of both Lennon and McCartney on the songwriting front. Now I’m not saying L’n’M’s songs were good, but they did at least write some (for their mate George to rip off in turn). From Revolver onwards George Harrison discovered the Sitar and made appalling plonking noises for the next ten years. When he needed a hit he went straight off and nicked the tune. “My Sweet Lord” ended up not troubling the British Taxman too much.

No, for George to complain about tax is like the Queen complaining about ancestors. It comes with the territory. At least do a Mick Jagger and fuck off out of the country for 349 days of the year. If Harrison had been a payroll administrator or an accountant charged with doing corporation tax returns his ire at Messrs. Heath and Wilson might be justified. Instead suggesting that the Inland Revenue are about to instigate some bizarre foot tax is not very insightful. Besides, the taxman is obviously completely right to be nicking 95% of George’s money, as has been amply demonstrated since the release of his monster whinge, with rivers of money flooding to such obvious chancers as the Maharishi and the Natural Law Party. Mmm yes, much better Yogic Flyers than a dialysis machine, eh George?

Anyhow, as bad as we admit “Taxman” to be, this does not mitigate the fact that Weller used the selfsame tune to make an even worse track. The Jam were no strangers to thievery. Indeed Pete Townshend had placed a restraining order on Weller to prevent him ever doing his windmill guitar technique (though it has already been proven that Weller has gone deaf in a copycat stylee). So after briefly aping Dylan on “That’s Entertainment” (which was about as entertaining as you can get before reaching the Open University) Weller nicked “Taxman”.

“Knowing that someone in this world, feels as desperate as me” Weller says, talking about looking for atune, but there are limits! Paul then suggests “What you give is what you get” (putting him at ideological loggerheads with The New Radicals). The Jam gave us a nicked Beatles song, what they got was a number one – seems hardly fair.

Hardly seems fair George not taking them to court either, since he was so upset about the taxman legally taking his money and spending it on education and the health service. You’d think he would be more pissed off that some jumped-up young turk with sticky-up hair stole his tunes and spent thge ill-gotten gains on Parka Jackets. If he had, think what we might have been spared. The Style Council, Weller solo, Dee Cee Lee, Ocean Colour Scene.

Weller says in “Start”: “Knowing that someone in this world loves with a passion called hate”. That makes no sense at all, par for the course Paul, but personally speaking I hate with a passion called hate – and I hate this bassline.

28
Aug 00

THE STONE ROSES – “Fool’s Gold”

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THE STONE ROSES – “Fool’s Gold”

Now here’s a classic, eh readers? “Fool’s Gold” is a seamless genre-smashing marriage of funk, rock and dance, a classic which will live forever as a reminder of when the scene was good and baggy beats ruled the pop charts. Even I couldn’t find anything to criticise about this nine-minute masterpiece, surely!

Well.

Let’s examine those claims a little more closely. First of all, funk. Is “Fool’s Gold” a funky record? No. It has the rhythmic drive of a man stirring porridge. John Squire is, you see, not a very funky man: you need only listen to the Seahorses to understand that. (Ian Brown has been called funky, but only by the Goodies. And his cellmates.) How were the funky massive worldwide fooled into believing “Fool’s Gold” to be a cast-iron funksterpiece, then? A hundred thousand ageing baggy boys pitiably trying to recapture their teenage years can’t be wrong!

My suspicion is that the wah-wah led them to this erroneous conclusion. Unimaginatively but usefully named by its accursed inventor, the wah-wah pedal is an implement fitted to a guitar which makes it go “wah wah”. It was used on every record between 1971 and 1975 and then banned by an international treaty, for sounding exactly like the way your ears sound if you put your fingers in and out of them when you’re in a fast car with the window open. I.e. rubbish. John Squire cannily judged, though, that the Pavlovian response to a wah-wah pedal appearing on a record in 1989 would be to declare the record funky despite all rhythmic evidence to the contrary, and so it proved.

Funk is shit anyhow – it’s a genre named after smelling bad, for goodness’ sakes – so what about “Fool’s Gold”‘s claim to be a slice of dance genius? Hmm. It seems to me that the record falls down in one crucial regard here. You can’t dance to it. Now then, hold off on the reply buttons lads, I know perfectly well that the last time you were down the indie disco you moved about for nine minutes to this song in what you felt was a rhythmic fashion. Problem is, that wasn’t dancing, any more than what Mr I. Brown does with his elongated arms is dancing. I’m sure that the shuffly flailing movements you produced as you farted about in your yellowing band t-shirts would be of interest to primate anthropologists and specialists in muscle spasms, but dancing they were not. The Roses were well aware of “Fool’s Gold”‘s danceability problems, but the scam had to continue, which is why they vetoed every remix, for fear that one of the Djs involved had stuck, I don’t know, a beat or something into the song.

Obviously “Fool’s Gold” doesn’t rock either, it just meanders grimly for 540 seconds and then mercifully fades. As band-defining statements go, it’s onto a definite loser (and it’s a song about gold prospecting, a subject whose pop potential was exhausted by 1850). People remember it mostly because of the baffling regard in which they hold the Stone Roses, a bog-standard psych revival band whose idea of musical innovation was doing a song backwards every now and then. It’s worth considering that none of the bands ‘inspired by’ the Roses have sounded remotely like them (Primal Scream sounded a bit like them, but in 1987, and to be less original than Primal Scream is quite the feat). They’ve mostly sounded like the shower of dog-mouthed pub-rock chancers they undoubtedly are…but you see, they had attitude.

Attitude apparently consisted of repeating what a good band you are three times in every interview, like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz saying “There’s no place like home”. Oh, and if you poured paint over your bandmates it would help too, though this aspect of the Roses’ attitude has been low on imitators. Pathetic, really, but a generation of lazy geezers lapped it up – you don’t have to be good at anything as long as you give it a bit of front. And they all formed bands, the fuckers. Cue the 1990s, the grisly low point of five ghastly decades of British rock music, and it was all the Roses’ fault.

27
Aug 00

James Brown – Moby-esque cross-media overexposure

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James Brown – Moby-esque cross-media overexposure

Ahhhhhh! (Or should that be “oooowww!”) The joys of summer, the smack of leather on willow, the strawberries, the cream, Wimbledon. But what’s that I hear? It seems the boys in the backroom at the BBC have been having a light-hearted fiddle with their editing equipment. Bless them – they’ve put together a series of amusing out-takes and pratfalls from various sportsmen (and women).

Look! There’s a pigeon on the playing field!
Look, look! Rain stops play!
Now this is good, there are some spectators in Union Jack wigs! Ha ha!
Tim Henman misses a shot, but does the splits!

But best of all, it’s all soundtracked by “I Feel Good” by James Fucking Brown. It puts me in mind of that other hilarious montage of sports stars falling over, accompanied by “Get Up” that I saw yesterday.

What’s on the other channel? Oh it’s a tea-bag advert with those crazy chimps – well bugger me, if they aren’t playing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”. Post-production must be a very incestuous but literal-minded world, mustn’t it? It is not hard to imagine how it happens…

[Fade to:]

Somewhere in Soho, various people in garish YSL shirts and big glasses sit round a glass table. One young hipster is up at the flip-chart mocking out a story-board for an Indian spices ad.
Ad exec 1: Anyway guys, those are the rushes of the first execution of the Schwartz campaign. For the background music, I thought we’d have “I feel good” with the line about “sugar and spice”…
Ad Exec 2: Excellent work Barni! Puts me in mind of that wicked campaign for Slumberland with “Get Up” as the background music. (Continue ad nauseum).

JB – The Funky Drummer

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JB – The Funky Drummer

Let’s not forget James Brown’s unique contribution to the proliferation of crummy dance music. How many bands, eighties and nineties, pilfered one of The “Please Please Please” Man’s frugging riffs to beef up their cojones-free tracks? And how does JB respond to his funk and soul spawning anonymous house and techno music? Well, it is reported that, at Polygram, there is a whole department whose job is to listen to records to check for unlicensed James Brown samples.

You sad tossers.

JB – You’ve overstayed your welcome

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JB – You’ve overstayed your welcome

Nowadays, it is impossible to think of “young” James Brown (a poised, suave young buck, supposedly) without being reminded of “old” James Brown (a wizened, fogeyish old criminal, allegedly). Not content with his years of success and touring, he insisted on contributing “Living In America” in 1985 to the soundtrack of “Rocky IV”. What better background music for Apollo Creed getting the shit punched out of him by Dolph Lundgren. “Got to have a celebration” = fuck off, you sad git.

JB – Nicknames

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JB – Nicknames

In addition to “The Godfather of Soul”, James Brown has a number of other, less well-known nicknames. These names, picked up during his childhood and remaining with him throughout his overlong career, include: Music Box, Mr. Dynamite, The “Please Please Please” Man, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Soul Brother Number One, The Sex Machine, His Bad Self, and The Minister of the New New Super Heavy Funk.

Now I’m sorry but in my limited experience of nicknames, these all appear a little unlikely. Nicknames are invariably given by other people and, as a result, they often reflect your most memorable feature (not necessarily your most flattering – hence the number of boys who, after receiving awful haircuts were nicknamed “Bogbrush”). Whereas, on James’ list, there is nothing that you wouldn’t feel self-satisfied about being called. This doesn’t jibe with my own experience. If I think about the nicknames I had as a girl (Tanga Headon, Gives Good Head etc). I was never called “The Groovy Girl” or “Wicked Kid” – not that I’m too bitter about it. Which makes it deeply implausible that Mr Brown managed to garner not one, but NINE different “cool” nicknames. He’s just showing off.

JB – Godfathers

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JB – Godfathers

And what’s this business about The Godfather of Soul? Let’s see, godfathers in the traditional sense of the word are male friends or relatives of the parents, who are generally pretty up for being a godfather at the start – considerable enthusiasm for the role, gift-giving etc. But they soon recede into insignificance, having little or no relevance and certainly not providing anything like the top-notch offerings from the days of the Christening.

In the criminal underworld sense of the word, a godfather is a nasty piece of work who oversees drugs and violence without getting involved himself, making it difficult for the authorities to bring him to account. So on both counts, this seems a pretty appropriate moniker for JB, except he forgot about giving high quality gifts at the beginning of his career, and slipped up by giving the cops enough to sling him in jail.

And, by the way, what about that fucking appalling indie band, The Godfathers. They were shit. Not James Brown’s fault – but I blame him anyway?

James Brown – Sexual Gymnast

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James Brown – Sexual Gymnast

“Ooooooowwww!”

This would seem to me to be a perfectly understandable reaction to James Brown’s music. Only instead of wetting my pants at what is meant to be orgasm-inducing “ooowwww!”s, “hey-yey-yey-yey”s and “yowwwwll!”, I can’t help but clap my ears in pain when the klaxon warning riff of “Get up (get on up)” fires up.

His singing (squawking?) and music, needless to say, are unspeakable, but the constant single-entendres regarding his sexual acrobatics are rough beyond belief. What these songs offer is a bouffant-haired geezer in a purple suit, “performing”. What they deliver is a greasy man in gold lame, humping a microphone stand, with a very bad line in farting brass accompaniment.

Get on the scene, like a sewing machine

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Get on the scene, like a sewing machine

I was ill.
I am ill no more.

From my sickbed, I have just heard three James Brown songs back-to-back on the radio.

Mr Brown – your day of reckoning has come.

16
Aug 00

SICK NOTES

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SICK NOTES

Where have I been? In bed. What have I been? Ill. “Am I still ill?” Morrissey asked once in a thinly-disguised bid to break his Rough Trade contract and sign to Def Jam. The answer was in that sense no, though anyone hearing his tortuous bawlings would have been forgiven for calling a doctor immediately, preferably Kervorkian or Crippen. I however am still ill and will return to full-time writing duties when I can get back on the gin, which will hopefully be soon. If it’s kept the Queen Mum alive all these years it’s good enough for me.

Pop stars falling ill is in general a good thing, as it means they cancel tours. Or die. However germs are not always the music-hater’s friend. Brian Eno has long kept his pate in polish by retelling the story of how when he was sick in bed and hallucinating a ‘friend’ came over and put on an album of harp music, which then blended with the street noise outside and lo, invented ambient, appropriately since so many of its listeners are themselves to be found lying almost immobile whilst experiencing bizarre visions, and since any sane person would need to be at death’s door before they’d tolerate a Pete Namlook record for more than ten seconds.

Anyhow I can now tell a similar story, as on Monday my wretched flatmate put a David Gray album on before leaving for the pub. For the next five minutes Mr.Gray’s godless throaty drivel was interspersed with the sound of alarm clocks, glasses, slippers and books being thrown at the stereo until finally a hit was scored. I hardly think it constitutes a new genre but it certainly provided fine sport.