Posts from 23rd May 2006

May 06

greg evigan watch

Do You See2 comments • 2,281 views

he played “sean walsh” in the csi miami ep MONEY PLANE

while trying to confirm who sean walsh was — the owner of the plane i think — i found THIS!

PROCOL HARUM – “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”

Popular66 comments • 12,554 views

#234, 10th June 1967

I used to hate this song. If you’re a reader who skips to the mark first you’ll have realised that I still don’t like it much, and you might want to check the bit in bold for the rationale. But I used to hate it. I identified it as an enemy. I was never a punk but I could listen to this and knew what punk (approved version) was getting at (approved version). Its classical allusions, its stately pace, its piss-elegant lyricism all disgusted me. Later on I could identify why – history, as presented to me at twenty years remove, had it fingered as a moment when rock grew up, began to carry itself with maturity and weight, peeled away from pop. “If you want to argue that rock lyrics are poetry,” enthuses John Kutner in his 1000 UK Number One Hits, “What better place to start?” Almost anywhere, I would have said, but of course you could see why people might have received it like poetry – by the time it reached me, it had long settled into a role as a comfortable enigma, the sort of song whose key question is “What’s it about?”

There’s nothing wrong with ‘about’. About opens doors, for a bright or nerdy kid it’s part of the basic coin of meeting people, whether you’re talking music or books or anything. I remember at 13 going swimming with a friend and spending an hour treading water and trying to get straight what Ziggy Stardust was ‘about’ – we figured there was a secret track order that unlocked Ziggy’s real story, like a rock Da Vinci Code. What we weren’t discussing was what Bowie meant to us, I couldn’t have articulated that and neither could he. About a year later we had a late-night conversation about music and I said that listening to the Smiths had changed my life. His mocking was tinted with anger: I was overstepping the agreed borders of music chat, the borders of About. I felt stupid, even though I turned out to be right.

There are always links between the content of a song’s lyrics, and their revealed meaning to the music talk initiate, and the inside, hard-to-express significance that the poor fucker who wrote the song has almost no say over. In Procul Harum’s case I never thought much about what the song meant – Wikipedia pegs it as a drunk guy trying to pull, which seems as reasonable as anything – but its inside significance for me was all about what it stood for. The hostility my friend felt for the Smiths was just a narrower, specific version of what I felt for Procul Harum – mockery and hatred for the idea that lives had been changed in ways I couldn’t grasp or relate to; a powerful, sarcastic resentment of rock.

One of the reasons I started Popular – with hindsight – was to confront that resentment, though not necessarily to fight it. I wanted to put pop back into some kind of context, but I also wanted to find out if I actually disliked rock – the kind of mission that would be pretty futile if you thought the answer was going to be “yes”. I could hardly argue for a fair shake for Lord Rockingham’s XI and then dismiss Procul Harum. They didn’t make their lyrics so irritatingly oblique just to piss off the squares or pull a fast one on pop, and even if they did hundreds of thousands of the squares must have bought it. So I listened to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” again – capsule review: great Hammond, good vocals, draggy pace, blows its wad on verse one and then goes nowhere – and tried to work out what all the enigma was for, what it might be doing in a pop context.

I don’t think pop songs are poetry – or rather, I think it’s a silly, loaded question in general. The critical language of poetry isn’t often much use at telling us why a lyric works. What they have in common is when something – a turn of phrase, mixed with an inflection mixed with a sound or melody maybe – drills suddenly into that interior where the ‘about’ of the song reacts with the ‘about’ of you, in ways which might sometimes remind you of poetry. A pop song is a way of launching these little particles of affect, and “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” chains a bunch of them together for a scattershot combo attack. The pained, bewildered vocals and slow emphatic rhythms are a tip-off that something’s going on, something’s at stake, you need to pay attention even as literal meaning recedes and here comes that riff again – and “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” turns out to be a celebration of the feeling of pop meaning something, an abstract of significance. The people looking for an About missed the point: so did I in sneering at them.

The Da Vinci Pose

Do You SeePost a comment • 444 views

There are loads of decent movies based on rubbish books. There are loads of rubbish movies based on decent books. But the movie version of The Da Vinci Code proves one thing, if nothing else – that The Da Vinci Code is a perfectly average book. Because the middling pot-boiler of a film is no better, and no worse, that the middling pot-boiler of the book. Indeed other mediocrities spring to mind. You could probably read the book of the Da Vinci Code in EXACTLY THE SAME TIME it takes to watch the film (I know it looks quite thick, but the chapters are very short and the print is quite large). The characters are no more engaging or attractive in the film, indeed all the actors seem to be plough a middling furrow – neither lousy nor notably good. Perhaps McKellen is a bit too good, but that is nicely balanced out by Paul Bettany’s ludicrously poor albino Silas: to create a no score draw.

So what of the Da Vinci Code haterz who have not been able to rustle up a good review between them? Fear of the movie industry I think, who are scared that in the current media domination of films, that books might be getting back in on the act. Cinema cannot afford to be snobbish, and certainly not afford to be snobbish about a film whose fundamental themes are those of art history and divinity. The fact that it is third form art history and week one divinity should not matter. One assumes the new version of the Omen which opens in a couple of weeks time is not going to be any smarter in its selective use of the Bible.

Oddly The Da Vinci Code, in staying closely to the book, creates a possibly refreshing film experience. As the book neglects the standard story beats of a film (no real romance, threats neutralized easily, overly ponderous ending) it does make you wonder about the way movies and adaptations are made. This kind of reverence to a fundamentally ropey source material gives the whole experience a similarity to shining a piece of shit. You are left with shiny shit, which is fine to look at as anything else if you like shiny stuff. I like pot-boiling thrillers, I like lousy films. I liked the Da Vinci Code too.


TMFDPost a comment • 444 views

As the slow drawn out death of Freakytrigger continues, it is nice to see some young chaps of this parish pinning their colours to their own mast: My Sofa World Cup. One assumes that this will involve in depth eviscerations of every game, every minute and avoiding David Pleat when possible. But the build up is already nicely strong. Ten years ago it seemed that everyone was trying to do the intelligent yet vaguely populist, slightly deconstructualist football writing. Then they realised how hard it was to do well. My Sofa World Cup has the balance of devotion, humour and genuine insight to spare. There are worse places to watch the World Cup.

On The Turn

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 431 views

It is one of the hardest decisions an ale drinker will have to make. One of the problems with bitter is it has a penchant of going off much more regularly that any other form of alcohol. Which is why it is often preferable to drink in a pub which has a lot of ale drinkers, the turnover of barrels should be fast enough to prevent this problem arising. But even then after a slow day with a bit of air getting in, the beer can go off.

All good pubs will replace a pint of off beer. You are doing them a service after all, who wants to serve lousy beer (actually most pubs seem to want to serve lousy beer but that is a different issue). The problem is sometime identifying if a beer is off. You see the problem with real ale is that sometime a old sock smell, and a bitter sour aftertaste may well be what it is supposed taste like. This is officially when beer is on the turn.

This happened to me last night, and you have to talk yourself in to it actually being off. It becomes doubly difficult when it is the first time you have tried that beer. It took five sips from me and three from others for me to take it to the bar, not 100% sure that I was not making a fool of myself. But the barman replaced it without fuss and changed the barrel without even tasting it.

Well, if someone tells you that something tastes bad, do you really want to taste it yourself? (Human nature seems to suggest oddly, yes).