Tuesday, July 14, 2015

music music # 16

The final countdown?

Evan Kindley says "If I'm not too late" as he proffers:


Nick Neyland saw Jaws the other night and noted the scene "where the three main characters break out into song. It's the classic 'Irving King' song from 1925, "Show Me the Way to Go Home," which references itself in the lyrics: "Everywhere I roam/ Over land or sea or foam/You can always hear me singing this song: Show me the way to go home"

Hmm, I reckon there's probably a lot of songs that reference the act of singing or the song being sung... not sure if that's really what I'm chasing here, but then again I'm not sure anymore exactly what it is I am chasing here... originally, it was songs that had some kind of simple-but-true wisdom about the role of music in a life.... then it got into self-reflexivity (genre-specific national anthems, celebrating the style for doing what it did to a body or crowd of bodies)....  then into music that critiques or comments on other music...  or the music industry.... and, later in this final (?) post, even more specific subsets of the culture around music.... 

Graham Sanford from Our God Is Speed confesses to being as puzzled by the criteria of the call-for-submissions as I have evidently become, despite being the submissions-caller in the first place... but nonetheless proffers a few nominees, prefaced by some musing: 

"... I'm used to a lot of music that is some way or another about music -- if only by way of its being conscious and paying tribute, building and expanding of of precursors. "Hard bop"-era jazz and hip-hop of the late 80s/90s vintage was always very mindful of its game-changing instigators. Lots of "quoting," lots of effort put into contributing to a cultural/artistic jump-cut evolution, of pushing that evolution forward. "

On the subject of P-Funk's Funk-As-Cosmology tunes, Graham says that the one that came to his mind was this one, which "suggests volumes of socio-historic, intra-land diasporadic connections

Also on that album: 

Kool and the Gang had a bunch too, he points out:

As did Earth Wind and Fire, and The Temptations: 

Crowleyhead, again, via Twitter, 

Michael Smalle, again, with this oddity:

"I'm in a Rock n Roll session and I'm waiting for Michael"
"Rock 'n roll station is a session where we can do what we want to do"
"Jack's bicycle is music."

Which is also covered by Nurse With Wound: 

"Speaking of which, Stapleton on Perez Prado. Such a beautiful piece of music"

(If you think about the NwW List on the first album, case for saying NwW's whole career is music about music)

Keeping with the England's Hidden Reverse crew, Michael also points to: 

Now I mentioned above "even more specific subsets of the culture around music"

And it doesn't get much more specific - or reflexive - than songs about music journalists 

Ben Squires reminded me of the existence of Nick Cave's "Scum" - a flexi-only song inspired by an NME journalist who shared a house with Cave and other members of the Birthday Party, or perhaps it was The Bad Seeds by that point... and who in an astonishing act of perfidy (as far as Cave was concerned anyway) let slip in print some information he was privy to that he should not have let slip 

Songs about music journalists - always negative songs, mind! - is a whole subcategory:

Sonic Youth's jibe against Xgau in "Kill Your Idols"  - "I killed Christgau with my big fuckin' dick" etc (for which impertinence he rewarded them with an A or A minus grade for just about all nineteen of the albums that followed)

The Soft Boys legendarily wrote a song called "The Lonesome Death of Ian Penman", which is odd because I'm fairly certain IP wrote a pretty favorable early piece about them but perhaps he turned coat later on - ("bloody music press, they build you up just to knock you down grumble grouch moan whine mewl whimper kvetch") ... still whatever the case may be,  Robyn Hitchcock was irate enough to write a ditty in anti-tribute, although it was never recorded I believe.... ah, actually it appears to have been captured as a rehearsal and possibly even released as a bonus track on some reissue or other.

The Adam Ant B-side (and killer tune) "Press Darlings" has negative name-checks for Nick Kent and Garry Bushell

"And if evil be the food of genius
There aren't many demons around
If passion ends in fashion
Nick Kent is the best-dressed man in town

Are we different? No
We are exactly the same
There are no boxes for us
The ones you love to hate, so read on

Press darlings, press darlings, press darlings
Press darlings, press darlings
We depress the press, darlings

And if evil be the food of genius
There aren't many demons around
If passion ends in fashion
Bushell is the best-dressed man in town"

Kevin Quinn chips in to this sub-discussion to remind that Paul Morley was also immortalised by The Cure in a John Peel session of 1979 with the song "Desperate Journalist" a/k/a "Desperate Journalist In Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation" - a response to his brutal takedown of Three Imaginary Boys

Apparently a reworking of "Grinding Halt" with Morley-targeted words.  And Penman gets an anti-nod too in there!

All this reminded me of Dexys Midnight Runners's "There There My Dear" - Kevin Rowland's response to a music journalist (I assume -  or could it be a DJ, perhaps? Or even a rival musician?) called "Robin":

"Dear Robin,
Hope you don't mind me writing, its just that there's more than one question I need to ask you.

If you're so anti-fashion why not wear flares, instead of dressing down all the same?
Its just that looking like that I can express my dissatisfaction.
Dear Robin, let me explain, though you'd never see in a million years.

Keep quoting Cabaret, Berlin, Burroughs, J.G.Ballard, Duchamp, de Beauvoir, Kerouac, Kirkegaard, Michael Rennie.
I don' t believe you really like Frank Sinatra.

Dear Robin, you're always so happy, how the hell do you get your inspiration?
You're like a dumb dumb patriot.
If you're supposed to be so angry, why don't you fight and let me benefit from your right?
Don't you know the only way to change things is to shoot men who arrange things.
Dear Robin, I would explain, but you'd never see in a million years.

Well you've made your rules but we don't know that game, perhaps I'd listen to your records but your logic's far too lame and I'd only waste three valuable minutes of my life with your insincerity.

You see Robin I'm just searching for the young soul rebels, and I can't find them anywhere.
Where have you hidden them?
Maybe you should welcome the new soul vision.  Maybe you should welcome to the new soul vision. Maybe you should welcome the new soul vision"

Great swathes of the career and output of Dexys is music-reflexive really - "Geno"!  "Burn It Down" etc

Even the cover versions - "Jackie Wilson Said!"

But going back to songs about music journalists, I can't think of any from the last 30 years.... unless this one counts 

Ed Torpey swings by again to inquire if songs where the singer refers to themselves by name count.... 

"This is Phil talking"

"Martin, maybe one day you'll find true love" 

And this one

I think this is to stretch the concept a little too far, Ed.

Pete Diaper points out that The Fall and Mark E. Smith take some beating in this area of music-about-music, 

For instance, here's "C'n'C's Mithering" which in addition to references to the record biz and the music press in general also contains a slight dig at Garry Bushell, which means that he's equal first with I. Penman as regards song-diatribes! (There was probably some Gaz-poz songs from Oi! bands, though, to balance it out)

"There was America
We went there
Big A&M Herb was there
His offices had fresh air
But his roster was mediocre
US dirge, rock 'n' pop filth
Their materials filched

All the English groups
Act like peasants with free milk
On a route
On a route to the loot
To candy mountain
Five wacky English proletariat idiots

You think you've got it bad with thin ties, miserable songs synthesized, or circles with A in the middle.
Make joke records, hang out with Gary Bushell, join Round Table. "I like your single" "er, yeah great!"
A circle of low IQ's.
There are three rules of audience.

My journalist acquaintances, go soft, go places, on record company expenses.
Lose humor, manners become forth-righteous, don't know it.
The smart hedonists, same as last verse, allusions with H in electronics, on stage false histrionics, corpse mauling dicks, pose through a good film, him, him Stop mithering

I'm not joining conventional rock band.
The conventional is experimental, the conventional is now experimental, And is no way noble, and I'm no chock stock thing.

They say I rip off Johnny Rotten
They always strike for more pay.
They say "See yer mate..Yeh...see yer mate"
To their mothers they sing
Stop mithering!"

Pete also points to 


But strangely he didn't think of: 

"repetition in the music and we're never going to lose it"

(also a lovely little nod to "Blank Generation" in the fade)

And then this one

About which M.E.S. said (to Barney Hoskyns, in 1981)

"And also, a lot of those kids who went to the Wigan Casino ... this is what 'Lie Dream Of The Casino Soul' is about ...y'know those kids are not interested in rock at all, it's fuckin' tragic. Young, healthy kids ... I mean, that's why record sales are going down, coz it's lot of shit, man, and of course these kids think of The Fall as the same as all these other pretentious groups." 

From which I get the sense he meant "what a waste of good sulphate" up all those Northern nostrils, when they could and should have been soundtracking their speeding with Can, VU...  and The Fall

I'm sure there's many other Fall candidates that are slipping my mind

"Lie Dream" reminded me of The Mekons circa "The Dream and Lie of..." and Rock and Roll

"So blow
Blow your tuneless trumpet the choice is yours
We don't want the glamour the pomp and the drums
The Dublin messiah scattering crumbs"

 - have a guess who that's about!

Kevin Quinn, comes again, with this one, a bonanza of name-checks to peers and rivals

"Aside from the ‘Rolling Stones from Liverpool’ line this is a perfect nod to their peers and rivals (I can’t help but hear snark in there, maybe it’s just me)"

Ben Squires, who we saw earlier, back with a few more

as covered by Madonna and Killdozer, let the record state.... 

And then this group Shift whose Altamont Rising has some kind of Stones-referential thing going on in it 

Which - I'm afraid to say - seems like something that would have been played out by 1987

But then again, maybe not, given that I sometimes think Exile in Guyville was the best song-oriented rock record of the Nineties (perhaps because it doesn't really -  not in any significant way -  have much of a relation to the Rolling Stones or that particular record -  neither musically nor thematically - the songs are actually about stuff - real, raw stuff - rather than record-store-clerk reference-mapping) 

1993 was a big year for dementia referentia  in alt-rock - indeed that was the year I wrote the big piece on Record Collection Rock for New York Times.   The year (or thereabouts - 92-93-94)  of Pavement, Urge Overkill, Teenage Fanclub, Royal Trux, Stereolab, Pooh Sticks Lord-help-us and many many more).

Also the year of the debut album by The Auteurs.  

Kevin Quinn (him again!) points out that Luke Haines has "got his own monopoly on this" i.e. music-about-music:

"from 1999’s How I Learned to love the Bootboys – ‘Johnny and the Hurricanes’ and ‘The Rubettes’"

"Post Auteurs/Baader Meinhoff/Black Box Recorder he’s seemingly become obsessed with concept albums about misremembered/forgotten/ignored phenomena:

"2006's Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – ‘The Walton Hop’, Jonathon King et al’s old (ahem) stomping ground and ‘The Glitter Band’.  Haines said in an interview with Time Out:

‘Gary Glitter records were much more inventive than anything punk did. The last track on this album is about how all those happy memories of him on “TOTP” are now obliterated. Still, it’s The Glitter Band I feel sorry for. They’re not going to get another gig in a hurry, are they?’

"2013’s Rock and Roll Animals wherein Nick Lowe is a badger, Jimmy Pursey is a fox and Gene Vincent is a cat"

"2015’s Adventures in Dementia - A Mark E. Smith impersonator’s caravan holiday is ruined by Skrewdriver’s Ian Stewart"

Here's a few Kev didn't mention: 

And then there's the other recent Haines solo record, New York in the 70s, which I reviewed, and therein went into the whole rock-reflexive thing in a bit more depth. 

Rock and Roll Animals is pretty darn amusing in a Mighty Boosh phantasmagoric-vortex-of-rock-memory kind of way, but New York in the '70s struck me as pointless pasticherie. In the review, I made an invidious comparison between what Haines was doing in 2014 and what Denim were doing, well, in 1992, a year before The Auteurs's debut

There were demo versions of these tunes, and the next one, on a cassette circulating  a good while before the album Back In Denim came out, and they were much better than the gussied-up proper studio versions that were released. 

Irony was that by the time this song came out on Back In Denim Lawrence was already enthusing about the Eighties - or at least about Kim Wilde's debut album. 

I'm sure there are many other examples from the Lawrence songbook both pre- and post-  Denim.... 

There was actually meta-glitter even during the glitter era, though: 

Finally -  finally! -  Jenny Gray reminds me of this