Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
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Coffee & Complexity
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Category archive: Pop music
Photoed by me last night, pn my way from West Hampstead overground to West Hampstead tube:
Time was when that would that. Hey, look at that. Billy Fury Way. And a painting of Billy Fury. Was Billy Fury a local, or an American, or what? Oh well, on with life.
Is Trivial Pursuit still a going concern, what with pursuing trivia now being so easy? I could look that up too, but choose not to.
It is now Monday afternoon, but the end of my Thursday Odyssey is hardly yet in site.
My next stop was at Gramex, where second hand classical CDs are on sale, in particular abundance during the last week or two, as it happens.
The BBC is making a big fuss of LPs just now. Fair enough. LPs had a huge influence on the music being created at the time. Pop music was transformed, for a while, by the album, as was Pop Art, the album cover being a new arena for graphic fun and games of all kinds. Remember all those concept albums?
I just about do, but for me, Pop etc. was a parallel universe. I never disliked it, in fact I admired and admire it very much, and I like occasional pop tracks hugely. Pop is hugely better than recent “classical”, classical being basically a museum now. But despite all that, then as now, I still preferred and prefer classical, and for all but a few vinyl-obsessed classicists, the LP was never more than a means of reproduction, a window to look out at the classical garden, and a very ropey one at that what with all the clicks and scratches, particularly during your favourite bits. Classical music was a going concern long before recordings of any kind existed, and classical LP graphics never amounted to much more than pictures of the musicians, fancy ye-olde typography and/or kitschy chocolate box type landscapes. So when classical LPs were replaced by classical CDs, little was lost and a universe of distraction-free clarity was gained. CDs, certainly classical CDs, after a brief interlude of euphoric demand-driven bonanza profits, quickly got cheaper than LPs if you knew anything about how to buy them, on account of them being so much cheaper to make and distribute.
At first, people thought CDs would eventually disintegrate, but actually what was disintegrating was the CD players. CDs last for ever, provided you are minimally careful. Certainly mine all have, the only problem CDs being the ones that were scratched when I bought them. Crucial to the cheapness of CDs is that you can buy them second hand with reasonable confidence. On Amazon, sellers are terrified of a bad rating, and in shops, you can search out scratches for yourself. Often a shop will let you buy and try, and return if it is too much of a mess. Often what looks like a mess plays just fine. (The trick is to realise that scratches often don’t matter, provided they point towards the middle, as it were. The ones that go with the groove, sideways, because they seriously interrupt the one stream of digital stuff, are the killers.)
So for me, classical CDs were love at first sound. I keep wondering if I may soon stop buying them, but the sort I continue to buy, second-hand at Gramex or (more recently) from Amazon, continue to drift downwards in price.
Here is what I bought at Gramex on Thursday:
I paid only eight quid for those. And the one on the left is a double, which I have been looking for cheap for quite a while. Look for them on Amazon, here and here, and you discover (today anyway) that you would have to pay more like thirty quid for those. Plus, there is no postage to pay if you buy them in Gramex, like there is with Amazon. The cheaper the stuff you like to buy, the more that matters.
Which, along with the exercise I get from going there, is why I keep returning to Gramex. Boss Roger Hewland knows exactly what he is doing. He knows all about Amazon, and regularly checks prices there so as to go below them. He buys big collections for about one quid per CD, often within a minute of looking at them. He then piles them high, sells them cheap, and turns over his stock fast. He knows that getting four quid for something he sells in two days is a better deal for him than getting a tenner, but a month later. And he charges more like one quid for less desirable CDs, just to get rid of them and to make it worthwhile for his regulars to keep on visiting.
More and more regular shops won’t or can’t think like this, and in the face of online selling are just folding their tents, to be replaced by gift shops, restaurants and coffee shops. The latter two being what I did next.
First I went to Marie’s Thai Restaurant, a minute away along Lower Marsh from Gramex, and had my regular chicken and cashoo nuts with rice and a glass of orange juice, and then killed some more time in a Cafe Nero, while continuing to read about Tamerlane, in a book I recently bought for four quid in a remainder shop. He was born. He deceived. He tortured. He slaughtered. He conquered. He died. His vast empire immediately fell apart amidst further slaughter. What a pointless monster. Read about all that and tell me there’s no such thing as progress.
Coffee shops do puzzle me a bit, though. How to do they pay their rent? The morning and lunchtime rushes I suppose, which I avoid.
I don’t always do cats here on Fridays, but I often do. For me they signify the fundamental point of this blog, which is to entertain, and in particular to entertain me, rather than just to be serious and political about everything. There is more to life than the fact, if fact it be, that the politicians are making a mess of everything. So it was that, when on my recent trip to France, I kept half an eye open for cats.
Another thing I found myself snapping was motorbikes. The French really seem to love their motorbikes, perhaps because their roads are longer and emptier than they are in Britain.
So imagine my delight when, wandering around the centre of Quimper of an evening, I came across this:
And I wasn’t the only one who felt that this was suitable material for digitalised immortality:
My favourite snap of a fellow digital photographer in Cat-on-Harley action being this one:
Was the cat in any way disconcerted by all this attention? On the contrary:
The cat loved it.
Here, I hope you will agree, is the appropriate song, sung by one of the all time great French sex kittens. (I actually have this on CD.)
Some months ago I began reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which is a blow by blow account of twentieth century classical music. Reading and greatly enjoying.
Trouble is, it’s a very big book, even in paperback, which makes it not-ideal for carrying around London, travelling being one of the main ways I read books. (No internet to distract.) So, despite liking this book a lot, I now realise that I stopped reading it and that I switched to a succession of other equally enticing volumes that were not so big. I am only now back with it, having resumed at a time when I was at home, but de-internetted by new computer turmoil.
On page 317, Ross says something I have long thought, but never myself put into written down words, or even said out loud very much:
Hollywood may have been hazardous territory for composers, but they at least felt wanted there, as they never did in American concert halls. The shift to talkies had created a mania for continuous sound. Just as actors in screwball comedies had to talk a mile a minute, composers were called upon to underline every gesture and emphasize every emotion. An actress could hardly serve a cup of coffee without having fifty Max Steiner strings swoop in to assist her. ("What that awful music does,” Bette Davis once said to Gore Vidal, “is erase the actor’s performance, note by note.")
Well said, Bette.
But things improved. Ross continues:
Early movie scores had a purely illustrative function, which composers called “Mickey-Mousing”: if a British frigate sails into the frame, “Rule, Britannia” plays. Later, composers introduced techniques of musical distancing and irony, along the lines of Sergei Eisenstein’s counterpointing of image and sound. Music could be used to reveal a hidden psychological subtext, ...
Indeed. There then follows an admiring description of the music written for The Grapes of Wrath by Aaron Copland. Very influential, says Ross.
This soundtrack-composer-usurping-the-actors style of movie music only completely died out in the sixties and seventies, when they started using pop music for soundtracks, music with an insistent beat of its own which is quite unable to supply this kind of detailed and non-rhythmic “help” for actors. What a relief that was. Suddenly the actors were revealed as able to act perfectly well without such help. Every so often, I watch an old movie on the telly, starring someone like Doris Day, and suddenly we are back with that awful oh-look-she’s-adjusting-her-hat, she’s-a-bit-sad, ooh-now-Rock-Hudson-has-just-cheered-her-up style of movie musical accompaniment. I realise now that Doris Day was perhaps not a completely god-awful film actress with all the subtlety of a container ship trying to win a round-the-harbour speedboat race. It was just that the people writing, directing, editing and musically accompanying Doris Day’s performances were all tasteless idiots.
Another reason I am now reading The Rest is Noise is that I recently attended a lecture given by Ross at the British Library. The lecture rather outstayed its welcome, for me. Ross had about twenty interesting minutes worth of stuff to say about descending base lines as a way of signalling sorrowfulness in sorrowful songs, but took an hour to say it. Nevertheless, the point was a good one and there were many delightful musical illustrations, my favourite being when he played “Hit the Road Jack”.
Afterwards, having already read and liked some of the earlier Alex Ross book, I bought a signed copy of the latest one. But, not having finished reading the previous book, I wanted to do that first.
No welcomes outstayed in either of these books, or not so far. Almost every page of them contains stuff just as worthy of blogvertisement as the above bit that I happened to choose. And if, when you are reading a book, you fancy a break, you can have one. Lectures happen in lecture time. Books can be read in your own time.
Except that in this cat-themed promotion of the latest “fragrance for women” - Purr - being pushed this Christmas by pop songstress Katy Perry, nobody makes use of this obvious pun, because now a perfume is always a “fragrance”. About fifty years ago, or whenever it was, they had a meeting, and decided that from now on it wasn’t “scent” or “perfume”, but “frangrance”. At first people sniggered. Pull the other one. But now, “fragrance” is a normal word, used by normal people:
That’s my dimly lit photo of a poster for this in the Tube. Better version of the same picture here.
Time was when this kind of thing was a “stage” in a pop career. First you sang songs. Then after about a decade, you decided you weren’t getting any younger, had babies to pay for, had financial frauds to recover from, husbands to buy off, and decided to launch a range of nickers or “fragrance” or some such thing, to enable you to go on living in the manner that you were now accustomed to. Now, the fragrance angle seems to be part of it from the start.
County cricket blogging warning. Blogging about county cricket force four to six, imminent:
Paul Sheldon, the Surrey chief executive, has criticised the ‘frenetic’ schedule in this season’s Friend Provident t20 and has called for a reduced Twenty20 competition to be fit into a four-week window next year.
According to Cricinfo, Surrey are now playing against Middlesex even as I blog, in the early evening, and are then scheduled to start their next game in Cardiff tomorrow at 1am. Well, that’s what 01:00 local time and 00:00 GMT means, isn’t it? It has to mean 1pm, and 12:00 GMT, but perhaps Sheldon has been working to this schedule, in which case no wonder he thinks things are a bit frenetic. To say nothing of spectator unfriendly.
[FRIDAY MORNING: This has now been corrected. The match begins not at 1pm, which would also have been pretty frenetic, travelwise, but at 6.30pm. Was there a riot at 1am this morning when play failed to begin? Somehow I doubt it.]
But that’s a mere typo. Something far stranger than that happened in another recent t20 game, one between Northants and Yorkshire on July 2nd, as this slightly-shrunk-to-fit screensave shows:
If there is just one ball left in a limited overs game, and the batting side has to score twelve runs to avoid losing and one more than that to win, what’s the one thing you absolutely must not do? Correct. You mustn’t bowl a no ball. Bowl any other sort of crap ball so long as it’s legal, and the batsman can hit it out of the ground and for that matter out of the county, but the batsman can only get six runs no matter how far and how magnificently he hits it, the game is over and the bowling side wins.
But look what Richard Pyrah did. And Boje hit it for six, and could then have won the match for Northants had he hit the next and genuinely final ball for six also. As it was he hit the last ball for a mere four and it was a tie, snatched by Pyrah from the jaws of victory and handed to Yorkshire on a plate.
Quoth Cricinfo about Pyrah:
Richard Pyrah is batting allrounder who has carved a niche for himself with some steady performances in one-day cricket. His Championship efforts have been less sparkling, ...
Lucky for him he’s a batting allrounder, or that moment of madness could have cost him his entire career. It still might:
It will be interesting to see if the Yorkshire cricket history books will be kind enough to judge Richard Pyrah as simply unfortunate. But the 27-year-old all-rounder earned himself a place in Yorkshire folklore by conceding 12 off the final ball of a Twenty20 match to hand Northamptonshire a tie.
This Cricinfo report of the game, in particular its headline, gives Nicky Boje the credit for this circumstance, mentioning Pyrah’s astonishing blunder only in passing. Yet, excellent though Boje’s slogging was, it was Pyrah who did the truly remarkable thing here, not Boje. If an England footballer had done anything as inept as this during the World Cup, it would have been been front page news, and he would be notorious for ever.
This guy explains how well Pyrah has bowled in other games, and points out that it was a no ball on height rather than because he overstepped the line.
So how the hell is that a no ball? He hit it for six. A no ball for height is if it is too high to hit, isn’t it?
And Yorkshire fans who boo Richard Pyrah are not Yorkshire fans at all.
Pyrah vs Northants home 4-0-19-1 (won)
Pyrah vs Lancs 3.1-0-11-2 (won)
Pyrah vs Leics 4-0-19-2 (won)
Pyrah vs Notts 4-0-17-1 (won)
As a defence of Pyrah’s future career, that’s fine, but I’m afraid it doesn’t excuse the no ball. Pyrah either does know the rules or should have. Obeying them was all he had to do. Anyone could have done this. I could have done this. Boje’s treatment of my ball would have slightly worsened the earth orbit debris problem, but it would not have been a no ball and Yorkshire would have won. As we bloggers say: epic fail.
These guys at Betfair are right on the money, their money:
unbelievable knocked the commentary off with 13 needed of one ball or whatever it was waiting for my profit can’t believe what happened
How much did that bloke lose, I wonder?
It goes to show you never can tell.
Lynn, whose blog is a cornucopia of links to fun stuff and a true shrine to the proposition that your blog is whatever you want it to be, always seems to include copious links to felinity, and I particular recommend link number 2 in this posting, to here, my favourite of the pictures there being this:
The cat is singing a song to itself, called “Three lions on a wall”. Don’t worry if you don’t get this.
But I also clicked on bridge on the right, and found my way to a whole new treasure trove of bridgery, of which my favourite, one of these (although pictures keep being added so you may need to go back another page now), was this, which is in Moscow:
Never seen that before.
Too many of these bridge photos have been very obviously photoshopped, in a (deeply misguided) style of photo post-production all its own. This involves ludicrously unconvincing and garish colours and clouds that are absurdly sculpted and detailed, and I hate it, hate it, hate it. In the days when most of us didn’t know how this was done, okay. Tasteless and ghastly, but okay. But now, what does this prove, other than that you have no taste? Such fakery makes what to start with may have been quite decent snaps look like those tacky backlit pictures you see in cheap Chinese and Indian restaurants, only far worse. But, in among such photo-ghastliness are to found many fine snaps, which look like they look pretty much exactly like what they are of, like the one above. Plus there is the fact that a great bridge horribly photoed can then be chased up and seen in nice photos.
“Pixhaus”, which is where these snaps are, is now moving to a new platform, exclamation mark, for which you have to register, blah blah. So if you feel as I do about such stuff, look now, or for ever not go there again.
I probably wouldn’t be mentioning them, but for the fact that their name is so very appropriate to describe the photos I took of them.
It happened as I wandered south through Leicester Square on my way to my favourite eatery in London, the West End Kitchen in Panton Street, past the WhateverItIs Cinema, where there was a small celebrity-type scrimmage of onlookers. I joined them.
At first I was attracted by this spectacle:
So, who or what had these Real Photographers assembled to photo? The answer was not long in arriving. Four blokes:
Going by the signs all over the front door of the cinema, I assumed that these men were some or all of the pop group Blur. And so, when I got home and looked at what I had (my camera’s eyesight being a lot better than mine), it proved. At first I thought that Blur lead vocalist Damon Albarn had been replaced for the evening - surely not permanently? - by TV chef and Sainsbury food flogger Jamie Oliver. That’s certainly who the one in the hat looks like in the picture on the right there. But further analysis of my other even blurrier Blur pictures convinced me that it really was Albarn, just with more ginger hair and more hatness than usual.
I really should have followed the example of the Real Photographers, and used a bit of flash, at least some of the time. For a better celebrity snap by me, see this, from way back. I do love daylight.
The only proper mention on the www that I have so far found concerning the above eventlet is this pre-announcement:
Tomorrow, january 14th, will take place the red carpet premiere at London’s Leicester Square. All four members of the band are expected to attend this event.
The red carpet premier, that is to say, of a movie about Blur. That’s from a fan-blog in honour of the one in the duffel coat, Graham Coxon, who is a guitarist, and who left Blur in 2002.
In Gorbachev we trust?
Alex Ross on Sibelius
Linkin Park - one leg short of libertarian
Rock and roll will die very soon!
Never mind the telly
I’d be cheering
Freedom of information
Here they stand
Eurovision sense from Squander Two
Ting Tings on Ross
Me talking about the great twentieth century musical divide
At Bethnal Green railway station
Paris Hilton and the Something Else First rule
Here it is Merry Christmas
The qualitative difference made by quantity
From 100 to 1 in movie quotes and Gordon is a moron
The Joyce Hatto affair - no big deal
Not cool and cool
He likes it - but does he understand it?
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
No more photos for a bit after these ones
Top tips from Viz
All hail to the Rolling Stones assembly line
Foreigners on film
Alex is too busy - Sting records Dowland songs
More ancient rock and rollers photographed from off of the telly
What it was only better
The Superbowl is live on the telly!
Talking about my generation
Thoughts after watching Abbado’s Lucerne Resurrection Symphony
Pink and green Richards
Why I liked John Peel
To love pop you mustn’t know too much