9
Jan 08

Paul Morley, what is he good for?

Do You See + FT/43 comments • 1,699 views

art.jpgPop, What Is It Good For (BBC4, last night) was kind of the centrepiece of BBC4’s Giant Month O’ Pop and it was a rather interesting beast. Obviously an hour of Morley expounding on music is unlikely to be a bad thing, he’s one of the few journos who can really do public speaking in the same way he writes and only seem slightly ludicrous, but, certainly for anyone who read Words and Music, there was little new. I got the feeling that we weren’t the core audience though, that it was aimed at people who hadn’t read W&M, people who would be surprised at the programme starting with 15 minutes on Can’t Get You Out Of My Head and, although it covered similar ground, there were some new twists and turns, mainly added by the range of interviewees.

The six tracks he concentrated on (and then spun off from to talk about All Pop Ever) were:

CGYOOMH – Kylie
Ride a White Swan – T-Rex
Lola – The Kinks
This Charming Man – The Smiths
What Do You Want – Adam Faith
Freak Like Me – Sugababes

Although chappie from Mud wasn’t particularly articulate about CGYOOMH (also, where was C Dennis???), Suggs discussing the Kinks and, particularly, Simon Armitage wallowing in the lyrics to This Charming Man, egged on by Morley, as Mike Joyce looked on clearly thinking “what ARE these two on about???”, were both lovely bits of telly. I think it was a good idea to ask others what POP meant to them, and certainly broadened the remit somewhat. It also led to the most hilarious moment of the show when Richard X asked Morley and Anne Dudley exactly WHAT Art of Noise was meant to be about to much blustering and embarrassment by both of them. The only interview that really didn’t work though was the last one, with the Sugababes, who really didn’t get what he was asking, in fact, didn’t really get that the interview had started! The fact that he didn’t address “where has mutya gone?” either, given that she’s rly prominent on Freak Like Me, made me wonder if they’d really really tried to get a kylie interview (she was in the same studio doing Children in Need), but it had fallen through at the last minute and they’d thought, “oh well, the sugababes are here, they’ll do.”

Also, without wanting to come over all SF/J it was a VERY white programme, although this only really struck me this morning, rather than whilst i was watching it, so i’m not sure how much of an issue it was (alternatively, i am also a r4c!5t). It was at heart about PM’s personal journey through music and, I guess, reflects the whiteness of British pop.

Anyway, for those of you who missed it and are in the UK (or whose vpns can con the iplayer into believing they are in the uk, hi cis :)), it’s on iplayer til the end of the week, and repeated on Saturday at 2.25am.

Comments

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  1. 31
    xyzzzz__ on 12 Jan 2008 #

    – Odd how the ‘How pop works’ thing worked out: setting out as musicological explanation to everything then by gradually factored in stuff that’s around the music not the notes it inevitably lost shape – I kind of wanted this to stick to applying musical theory with some kind of acknowledgment of the limitations to that approach (‘it may describe developments in classical music well BUT, etc.’)

    – I really liked the fifties ep, how many times did Pete Wylie say ‘wow’ at Joe Brown again? :-) Wish they got round to talking about how genuinely wacky some of that stuff ws, and maybe mentioned Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.

    What did everyone think about Morley’s theory on songs being great cuz you can imagine them being sung by Elvis? The only Elvis impersonator seemed to be the Las Vegas years, so…

  2. 32
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 14 Jan 2008 #

    “the fluid disconnected future pop always saw coming…”

    is that why the bbc i-player gave me 60 mins of sound and 40 mins of image limping 2/3s the speed along behind it!!? (and the image stopped the moment the sound did so i never saw adam faith or the sugababes AT ALL)

    but even so oh oh i *LOVED* this! so i am 1 x ho for p.morley again, i guess i shd read his book after all!

    “Shake your hair girl with your ponytail
    Takes me right back (when you were young)
    Throw your precious gifts into the air
    Watch them fall down (when you were young)
    Lift up your feet and put them on the ground
    You used to walk upon (when you were young)
    Lift up your feet and put them on the ground
    The hills were higher (when we were young)
    Lift up your feet and put them on the ground
    The trees were taller (when you were young)
    Lift up your feet and put them on the ground
    The grass was greener (when you were young)
    Lift up your feet and put them on the ground
    You used to walk upon (when you were young)”

  3. 33
    Steve on 16 Jan 2008 #

    “What did everyone think about Morley’s theory on songs being great cuz you can imagine them being sung by Elvis? The only Elvis impersonator seemed to be the Las Vegas years, so…”

    I thought this was quite poor unless the Elvis-impersonator renditions were intentionally bad so as to test the song’s durability to the limits. Perhaps I misunderstood but none of the songs he picked sound better re-imagined as Elvis singles and the idea that ‘yes you can imagine Elvis singing this song’ isn’t enough on it’s own as it’s easy enough to imagine Elvis singing countless hits – plus where does it leave all those classic instrumentals or indeed ‘Close To The Edit’?

  4. 34
    Marcello Carlin on 16 Jan 2008 #

    He could do the “hey”s.

  5. 35
    Tom on 16 Jan 2008 #

    “oh, to be in Graceland, in the summer time…”

  6. 36
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 16 Jan 2008 #

    he could do close to the edit darts stylee!

    (wasn’t this a sub-radar way of saying “oi! carmody! wanna take it outside!?”)

  7. 37
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Jan 2008 #

    Really, if Presley had lived the Colonel would probably have made him do “Agadoo” in the style of “Viva Las Vegas.”

  8. 38
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 17 Jan 2008 #

    at a rockwrite base-belief level, i would propose that morley’s argument here is that presley was a touchstone because he was (for a short but key time) a kind of living in-one-brain-and-body jukebox, through whom every extant stream of pop was processed and vivified and mongreled and hipslung and frankensteined, not just country and R&B and blues but old-time stephen fosterish americana (“love me tender” = aura lee) and even the ghost of jazz (he was known as the “king of bop”)

    prob bein that elvis imitators can’t/won’t ever do WHERE ELVIS MIGHT HAVE GONE if living yet (and yes, undogged by the colonel) — so the imagined idea is undermined by its execution

    that darts moment — teds in surplices — was totally a wtf “free lunch” moment tho, in the programme and (it reminded you) at the time

  9. 39
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 17 Jan 2008 #

    does he expand on this in “words and music” btw — i really DO have to read it at some point don’t i?

  10. 40
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 17 Jan 2008 #

    this = presley-as-jukebox not the darts in surplices

  11. 41
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Jan 2008 #

    We do get a page in Words And Music where PM lists all the songs a living (or 1995-resuscitated) Elvis should have sung. In the book he also gets smartly compared with Eminem. The Jacko/Lisa Marie wedding he describes as “the strangest thing that has ever happened in the history of the world.”

  12. 42
    Klaus on 21 Jan 2008 #

    The Smiths and Kinks clips are on YouYube but the rest?

    Viewers outside of the UK would love to see more of this…

  13. 43
    Петр Сычев on 1 Jul 2009 #

    Я практически никогда не сомневался в Вашем интеллектуальном уровне, но поймите, не все такие как Вы. :)

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