Posts from 22nd September 2000

Sep 00


New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 250 views

watching high fidelity last night i was all ready to disagree with tom’s piece on said movie. i’d held off on reading the article because i wanted to see the film with a clear mind. (hmm, yes, that sounds like a good excuse.) imagine my surprise, then, when i came in this morning, read through his article, and for the large part found myself agreeing with him.

the movie does have very little to do with pop music, as tom rightly assumes. oh, it’s there — it’s everywhere, actually, from pavement posters in cusack’s apartment to lisa bonet’s character — but it’s mainly just utilized for joke purposes and as background music. while it’s never explained why they like music, one gets the impression from the characters that they do like it, at the very least. (and for the record, tom, cusack picked out the soundtrack and is in fact a very big music fan.) debates go back-and-forth within the record shop about what’s the best lead-off song on an album and what are the best songs about death. it should be noted that rob (cusack) and his cronies are exactly the kind of stereotypical “indie” fans that i detest — claiming love for pop music but turning a deaf ear to anything overtly commercial despite the fact that that is just what pop is.

tom opens his piece with the all-important question the movie poses within its opening moments: “did i listen to pop music because i was miserable, or was i miserable because i listened to pop music?” at first, i thought i agreed with him when he said that the movie ducks this question and when he later concedes that “somewhere deep down” the film wrestles with this question. the more i thought about it, though, the more i came to believe that high fidelity is all about that question.

the answer is “i was miserable because i listened to pop music,” as it should be for anyone who considers themselves a pop music fanatic. you don’t choose pop music; it chooses you, at a very early age. from the second the needle hits the groove — or for you kids out there today, the laser beams strikes the cd — you’re through: right then and there, false hopes and expectations are created within your little mind. in pop songs, you’re the greatest lover ever; the saddest man on the planet;, the world’s biggest star; the bearer of unknowable pain; forever 16, whether you’re 16 or not — all within the span of the top 40. and then the music ends and the effect dies. scary thought: pop fans all must sooner or later grow up. at least physically, if not emotionally.

rob is one of those types who’s only grown up physically. his girlfriend has left him and he’s the owner of a small record shop which we’re led to believe isn’t doing very well. instead of trying to deal with these problems (hell, we don’t even learn ’til movie’s end that he’s trained for seven years to be an architect), rob indulges in the fantasies created by pop music and, especially, their depiction of women. once he’s gotten his girl back, he tells her this much as he proposes to her, that he’s done with fantasies and that he’s ready for something real.

so is rob miserable because he listened to pop music? moreover, is he an utter asshole because he listened to pop music? yes and no. i’m sure it was a kind of contributing factor, but let’s not make pop the scapegoat here. people have to take control over their own lives, lest we live in a society where “pop music fan” becomes an acceptable excuse for a crime — and the way we’re going, we’re not very far off.

about the accuracy of record store life, i defer to tom’s experience in the matter. about other things: tom, the kids’ music wasn’t skate-metal, you fool, didn’t you see what records they were stealing? you’re just like rob, man, judging them by how they looked. and i could very easily see “hipster elitist bastards” digging jack black’s band because it was very kitschy and very is-he-being-ironic-or-what? high fidelity is definitely a highly entertaining film, but in the end, i’ll agree with old tommo in that it’s a missed opportunity. i’ve yet to come across a great book or film about pop music — though this one is better than almost famous in that regard — but there will be one, i’m sure. hey, if you start writing, i will, eh?

Dump The Pubs – Fairer Prices for UK Drinkers

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 376 views

Dump The Pubs – Fairer Prices for UK Drinkers. Whilst this site is most amusing, and has more than a fair point – I think they should have picked a better name for the campaign. Dump The Pubs suggests that we should be attacking pubs rather than the government or the breweries (and to be fair its the government really). Getting me to boycott the pub on Monday really misses out the point that its the first day of the working week and we might need a drink to move on to the next four.

That said – I think it would be an interesting move if the odd pub occasionally did ask for payment broken down. ie “That’ll 60p for the beer, and 1.80 tax please”.


I Hate MusicPost a comment • 1,187 views


Since it would appear I am incapable of thinking of more than one subject these days, I must refer to you a conversation I overheard in a pub the other day. A man, let’s call him Gerard, was surrounded by a number of young (18-19) year old girls hanging on his every word. I of course was bitterly hollering about the new Spice Girls single (a more lumpen, leaden sound you’ll not hear outside a place that makes lumpy piping). Nevertheless I overheard this sentence uttered triumphantly by Gerard.

“And then Dexy’s went on, but they had a big picture of Jocky Wilson behind them.”

Gerard rests back, and waits for the surround titters from the laydeez. But it was silent as the applause bits at a Magnetic Fields gig (respectful silence or audience fucked off – you choose).

“Because the song was called Jackie Wilson Says”

Still nothing. And this took me back to the old days when the tale of how the BBC researcher in error put up a picture of reputed darts star Jocky instead of not reputed soul singer Jackie. Ha Ha, what a fool, we would all say – not realising that said researcher really did not care, was on a pitiful salary and working on Top Of The Pops was like having your nails pulled out. In the early eighties, when Dexy’s Midnight Runners were worrying about what Jackie Wilson Said and Searching for the Young Soul Rebel (“I’ve looked everywhere”) nobody knew who Jackie Wilson was. Its only the late eighties when British pop music ground to a total halt that twenty five year old soul – ahem -classics like Reet Petite had a chance at hitting the charts.

I for one enjoyed seeing the corpulant Scottish darter behind Kevin Rowlands genius inflated head (To-ra-ay indeed). It was a welcome distraction to the sound that invented The Levellers. And even if the researcher had got it right, there just would have been a photo of a blacked up version of Morph on show.

But back to Gerard. A man who feels he can impress teenagers with stories of TV blunders about three protagonists the simpering fools have never heard of. Dexy’s Midnight Who? Jocky Who? Jackie Who? I fear Gerard was sleeping alone that night.

A desert of pubs

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 856 views

A desert of pubs – that’s what the Finchley Road north of the wee bit too quaint Ye Olde Swiss Cottage is. Its all Supasnaps and empty restaurants. Where a major thoroughfare like this needs its pubs, it has hoardings over old cafes which probably closed because no-one ate in them. This is obviously the reason why the Princess Diana hearse and flower cavalcade wended its weary way out of London via the A41. Post film beers were eventually taken in hideous Bar Circa, too loud music and they played Can I Kick It four times during our two pints. We were finally forced to leave when a gaggle of fresh faced (and hence underage) Eurokids started rearranging all the furniture and spilling their beer. Going teetotal was better than sharing the – admittedly horrible – space with them.

I’m off until Sunday afternoon

New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 370 views

I’m off until Sunday afternoon: if my fellow team members want to take up the slack, you may have something new to read anyway. Otherwise, have a good weekend!

Loving and Leaving the Phonograph

New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 283 views

Loving and Leaving the Phonograph; or; Napster for Record Romantics. Well-written overview of what Napster means for the way we consume and listen to music. Two points leap out.

First off is the way Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music has in 3 years switched from a little-known compilation made by a notable crank to the touchstone of all that is good, pure, and holy in 20th Century Music. Hanley Bemis’ Napster/Anthology parallel is neat but doesn’t really hold here, given that the secret of the AOAFM‘s aesthetic success is its singular level of organisation, in direct contrast to the genre-baffling sinkholes of the file-sharing community. Also, if you look closely at the Anthology, it’s not all “music by and for the people”: there are utilitarian Church numbers and corporate singing cowboys on there too. And the implication that this music was motivationally pure, an implication that runs through every piece I’ve read on the Anthology, also needs examination. A lot of the musicians were poor people with a talent, a talent they wanted, badly, to make some money off. Had there been the notion of a ‘pop star’ back then, it’s a fair bet that “Dock” Boggs et al. would have liked, eventually, to become one.

Which kinds of leads us to the other point I’d make about the article. A lot of the cultural commentary on Napster has an oddly nostalgic tone to it – here, at last, is a technology that will sweep ‘manufactured’ pop stars away and return primacy to real people playing real music, live. There seems to be some idea that in the golden new Napsterised age everyone will be listening to giggin’ rock and indie groups and all the nasty plastic prefab pop which they currently listen to will be swept away. What these people miss is that Napster and the recording industry are interdependent – Napster requires a fresh stream of corporate product (the new Wallflowers CD! the new Radiohead CD!) to keep its users excited. Shawn Fanning set up the system, as Bemis acknowledges, as a way to swap horrible major-endorsed frat rock, not to lovingly pass around the latest For Carnation bootleg.

It’s true that the way we listen to music is going to change, and radically, and that nobody quite knows how, yet. But the simple fact that the anti-record-industry people haven’t absorbed is this: people buy (or download) the prefab pop stuff mostly because they like it. File-sharing will shift the current absurd imbalance between the shiny top 40 and the gnarly underground, but it won’t reverse it. What is likelier to happen is that both of Bemis’ visions – of a postmodern music-sharing future and one based around multimedia major-label megastars – will come to pass, in parallel.