I Hate Music
TONY ALLEN – Afroshite
Tony Allen is generally regarded as being one of the most innovative drummers in the world. Now of course I have no regard for any kind of musician, let alone a drummer. But let us examine that statement. He is an innovative drummer.
Where is the room for innovation in drumming?
As far as I am concerned drummers are the most boring members of bands for a reason. What they do is monotonous. Literally. So to innovate a whole new kind of monotony is to raise your monotony to such a fine art that it is quite obvious where the Tony part of monotony comes from. Drumming sets the tempo, it accompanies, it gives me a fucking headache. But innovation? Note that when he left Fela Kuti’s band in the seventies, old Fela had to draft in not one, not two but three drummers to replace him. On to drum and the other two to tell really dull stories about what they did in the war, and this really big fish they bought once.
Unfortunately leaving Fela Kuti’s band did not mark the end of the career of the only drummer who is proud that he can’t keep a beat. Instead he decided to try and spread his afrobeats around the world. The method with which he has recently tried to do this is via the power of a collaboration with Damon Albarn. Which just goes to show yet again how stupid drummers are.
SONGS ABOUT LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY
I like art. I’m not saying I am particularly cultured but you do tend to get a better type of person at a gallery opening. Namely those nice poeople who give you free glasses of wine. More importantly the self imortant babble of anyone at an opening always drowns out the tinny music someone decided to put on out of the tiniest of Bush Tape Players, so it is a happy respite from the usual aural attack. That said, there is always a down side – and that is songs about artists. Of which there are a surprising number. Vincent Van Gogh (a long time hero of mine for going the whole hog and ripping an ear off due to the terrible state of the Dutch Philharmonic) has one. Andy Warhol has that ridiculous number by Bowie. But it goes to show the general artistic favourite of the art wrold when the towering art genius who has had the most songs written about him, nay the most number ones, is a bloke who couldn’t draw people properly. And no I don’t mean Picasso.
Lowry painted “matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs, he painted kids on the corner of the streets in the sparkling clogs” according to Brian and Michael’s incomprehensible 1978 number one. A song designed for the playground, with those hellions from St Winifred’s Girls School Choir doing the backing vocals, it misunderstood that most kids don’t want to sing songs about boring only Northern painters. Instead they link arms and sing “Lets play war,” and play kiss chase and the like. Brian and Michael’s artistic survey made proud boast of Lowry’s artistic talents, suggesting that “even the Mona Lisa takes a bow” which when you look at relative art prices and standing in the worlds galleries is absolute tosh. It is probably due to lousy songs like this that the Mona Lisa never smiled. Brian and Michael tried to follow up this hit with a song about Mondrian called “Straight lines and coloured squares” – but the rot had already set in and now they can be seen outside them factory gates, with a tin saying “will sing about Lowry for food”.
Lowry is obscure enough an artist to make one number one look impressive, but back further in the mists of time we get Status Quo’s song. Pictures Of Matchstick Men – whilst not as tediously biographically detailed as the Brian and Michael effort – managed to keep the same air of ennui by being – well a Status Quo song. The song is more about Francis Rossi being haunted by Lowry, and wherever he hides he sees his face – in the sun, under a pillow, on the toilet. Indeed to try and sum up quiet how awful this song is it is best to look at this quote from ice-cream heir Rossi himself about how he wrote it:
“I wrote it on the bog. I’d gone there, not for the usual reasons – having a crap and what have you – but to get away from the wife and mother-in-law. I used to go into this narrow frizzing toilet and sit there for hours, until they finally went out. I got three quarters of the song finished in that khazi. The rest I finished in the lounge.
If that isn’t the most rock’n’roll story you have ever read then, well you have probably read another. Not only was the song written on the toilet it was returned there spiritually by being covered by The Divine Comedy. It is enough to make you truly sorry for Lowry, who even now according to ‘Matchstalk Men’ “takes his brush and he waits, outside them pearly gates“. Not however to paint matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs, but rather to wait for Brain, Michael and Status Quo to die so he can beat the shit out them.
IHM POP LYRIC WATCH: PINK – Just Like A Pill
“You’re just like a pill
Instead of making me better, you keep making me ill”
I Hate Music Lyric watch would also like to draw this item to the attention of the lawyers of Glaxo-Smithkline-Welcome-Beecham-Pfizer (truly the pharmacutical worlds equivalent of Crosby Stills Nash and Young). You see for some reason young Mz(understood) Pink appears to think that to be just like a pill not only do you not make someone better but indeed you make them ill. If I remember my last hospital visit, after they pumped my stomach they gave me a number of pills for the express reason of making me better. So if this fella keeps making you ill, in what way is he – and I quote “just like a pill”. I think you need to go back to your remedial comprehension classes and work out the difference between “just like” and “completely dissimilar”.
And while you are there ponder upon how clever it was to name yourself after your hair colour, now you don’t dye it pink anymore.
PAUL McCARTNEY : MURDERER?
Paul has got off relatively scott free round here (not relatively Scott Three which would be torturous as would any Scott Walker album). Mainly due to his only mucker John lennon being so awful and po-faced and handily dead so it’s impossible to libel him. Nevertheless this did get me thinking, Paul McCartney knows an awful lot of dead people. Yes he is getting on a bit, but he is not quite sixty four and really these life excpectancies would seem to be very tragic. Let’s look at the list of the obvious ones:
Now maybe the fella has just been unlucky. All these close associates popping their clogs. But then listen to the relish in which he sings his own confessionary song “LIVE AND LET DIE” and tell me that Ringo Starr has got nothing to worry about.
BANDS WITH OVER TWENTY MEMBERS
Only idiots go into the pop music industry to make money. I mean obviously only idiots go into the pop industry, but to mark you out as an uber-idiot, or an idiot squared, the financial motivation will certainly qualify you. Many a story has been told about bands illusion of being given half a million when signed. They slowly discover to their abject horror that all those things they though the record company was paying for like, say the records, are actually coming out of their advance. This story has been told throughout pop history – to much linguistic merriment on my behalf I should add. Whilst seeing a faded old member of Johnny Hates Jazz on the slag heap of life does not remove the harm he has already done (I bet he wished he could turn back the clock) it is at least a comensurate punishment.
Still there are bands out there who, due to being tight, clever or oddly sucessful do make money. Its a relatively small return though, which of course will have to get divvied up between all your members. Which therefore introduces the concept of the Idiot to the power of three – those bands with so many members that even if their debut went platinum the individual members would get 50p each.
Exhibit A: The Polyphonic Spree. They may dress like the Klu Klux Klan who have lost their hoods, but infact the white robes are obvious signs of just having escaped from either a mental institution, a health farm or a bizarre religious sect. On examining the Beginning Stages of said band the answer appears to be the latter – this bunch of sun worshiping hippies luckily have little concept of currency. Otherwise they will realise that the profits from “Soldier Girl” is hardly going to pay for a Middle, or FInal Stage of the Spree. Of course there was a reason why their Soldier Girl was hiding from them after all.
Exhibit B: My Life Story. Jake Shillingford’s pop orchestra made more than one fiscal error in their pitiful existence. They had the radical idea of having a band of twenty five classically trained musicians and one non-classically or even otherwise songwriter. On top of this the band seemed to think that it made financial sense not only to have so many members that the food bill exceeded the pressing costs for their debut album but to release the same single fifteen times. You Don’t Sparkle (In My Eyes) was first a B-side of Girl A, Girl B, Boy C. This you might think would undermine its potential success as a single in its own right – when released as You Don’t Sparkle. Twice. And then two years later as just Sparkle. It is now the only Nokia ringtone to be advertised regularly that absolutely no-one in the world has downloaded.
Exhibit C: St Winifred Girls School Choir. They’re all on the streets now. Of Kings Cross. That’s how little money singing about your Grandma gets ya.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL (Part 4)
Two years have now passed from the death of Ian Dury, and as promised in The Unbearable Shiteness of Ian it is time to calmly, critically and objectively rate his body of work. At least it might be time for other people to do that kind of dull, sober review. Me – I think his body of work was a manky as his physical body – the failing of one thankfully stopped the other. As mentioned elsewhere hanging around with a band called The Blockheads suggested the general intelligence of everyone working with him.
Sickness can be an excuse in the short term, but if I worked in industry (and frankly such an idea is anathema to me), using sickness as anexcuse for shoddy work for twenty years is pushing it a bit. Okay Ian, you had polio as a kid but that’s not an excuse for not even trying to sing. And certainly no excuse for Spasticus Autisticus when you neither had multiple sclerosis or autism. You can try to use the excuse that the song is in character, but its basically in the character that didn’t realise that the song would be used in the summer of Joey Deacon to abuse fifty percent of the countries children. The ones who had already been partially been crippled by being hit with what was so euphamistically called a “rythmn stick” a few years before (in my case the rythmn stick was a bamboo cane and made me destest music lessons and much of what came out of them ever since).
What annoys me most about Dury (apart from his son) is that he appeared to be totally aware of how annoyingly useless he was. Look at the list of jobs he could have done on “What A Waste” that he could of done instead of playing the fool in a six piece band. “What a waste, what a waste – but I don’t mind” Dury sings, but what about the rest of us. We blood mind your lousy Essex vowels removing any aspect of wit from the lyrics already sucked out by the monotonous delivery. I bloody mind. And I also beg to differ the “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll is very good indeed”. Actually not only is it not rock’n’roll (which would be a “thank heavens for small mercies” moment if it wasn’t jazz-funk instead), but it isn’t even vaguely good. Sex and drugs I can agree with, but have you ever tried to do the wild thing or take acid with the Big Bopper on?
In conclusion when discussing Ian Dury one has to hold your hand up and go for a partially disabled bloke he had a remarkable career. But I would go even further. For a bloke who was rubbish it was remarkable he had a career at all. “There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards” Ian says. Not you Dury, not you.
OUT OF THEIR BRILLIANT MINDS : FURNITURE vs LIVING IN A BOX
I have been contacted by a long time reader to bemoan my lack of commentary on the 1980’s band Furniture – a beat combo who barely set the charts alight in 1986. Now I know I say I set out to be encyclopaedic here, but give me some chance. I was happy to have put this morose bunch of chancers out of my head.
There is a theory knocking about at the moment that every word in the English language has been used in a bands name. Perhaps this has bearing on the success of Furniture. While the theory may be true, no band called the Wardrobes, The Prancing Sofas, or the Chiltern Three Piece-Suite has ever dented the charts. Furniture made a slight graze on the top twenty with Brilliant Mind, a song whose lyrics accurately describe their own shock at anyone buying it.
“You must be out of your brilliant mind”
they sang, not realising that while their consumers were indeed a couple of crusts short of a loaf even the stupidest people in the world (Elton John fans ferexample) would soon get the patronising and condescending tone. As their album said they were “The Wrong People” and even Stiff records, not a label shy of punting shit on to an unsuspecting public – deleted the damn thing in a matter of weeks.
Such a marketing stategy has only been surpassed once since. The band Living In A Box whose single “Living in A Box” was aimed at and marketed solely to people who were also living in boxes. Not realising that the disposable income of such box dwellers in Waterloo’s Cardboard City was not enough to stretch to a cup of tea, let alone synth-pop by a band without enough imagination to think of a band name and a song title.
HOW TO WRITE A BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SONG : A I HATE MUSIC CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE SPECIAL
1: Choose your era.
If you want to write a 70’s Springsteen song go to option 2.
If you want to write an 80’s Springsteen song go to option 3.
If you want to write a 90’s or later song go to option 4.
2:You have decided to write a 1970’s Bruce Springsteen song.
Read a local newspaper. Pick an issue (disaffected youths drag racing, or the closing down of local factories are good). Make sure your song has at least a couple of protagonists – at least one of each sex. Girls names must end in the letter Y, it is much easier to rhyme. Now you must decide if you want this to be an introspective number or you want to justify paying the E Street Band.
If you want to write a ballad go to option 5.
If you want to write a rabble rousing rock stonker go to option 6.
3:You have decided to write a 1980’s Bruce Springsteen song.
Read a national newspaper. Pick an issue (disaffected twenty somethings annoyed by the government or the closing down of entire national industries are good). Your songs do not need protagonists, you speak for all of America now. However you still have to decide over quiet and loud.
If you want to write a ballad which will make the whole world cry go to option 5.
If you want to write a rabble rousing rock stonker whose lyrics will be misunderstood (even though you planned on that in the first place to sell more records) go to option 6.
4: You have decided to write a 1990’s or later Bruce Springsteen song.
Read the world section of a newspaper. If you can’t find this in America you can always try Time Magazine, Newsweek or pick up a foreign paper when you are touring abroad. Pick an issue (pandemic diseases or the closing down of entire global industries are good). Pick a protagonist, preferably male and extra preferably borrowed from American literature.
If you want to write a ballad go to option 5.
If you want to write a rabble rousing rock stonker you should have picked another period – 90’s Springsteen doesn’t do that stadium rock bollocks. Go to 5 instead but pick up a drum machine on the way.
5: You have decided to write a ballad.
These are supposed to be sad so they should be slow, only employ half of the E Street Band and involve you singing the chorus very slowly somewhere along the line whilst doing an impression of the cookie monster. The whole affair should end on a pessimistic downbeat note, preferably with the death of a character.
6: You have decided to write a rabble rousing rock stomper (check its not the nineties, if it is go straight to 5 – you are not allowed in here).
Get all of the E Street Band together put your foot on the monitors and ROCK OUT. Remember the cliched sentiments in the lyrics don’t matter because the music is too driving to coherently listen to them. Make sure there is a big saxophone break. The whole affair should end with a drum roll, cymbal smash and you wiping your forehead – preferably with a sweatbanded wrist.
There, you have written a Bruce Springsteen song, and are now eligible to come number two in the best album of the year charts in Uncut and Mojo for the rest of eternity. You will have to start writing about space soon though.
SFIAB 4: DAVID BOWIE – Low
Is that a description of sales or quality Dave?