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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Me and Paul (No, not Macca)

EXPLORING POP. A detour. Walking to Damascus Saul was struck blind. A bad thing. But not as bad as hearing a voice unmistakably that of Jahweh suggesting he make a big career move, re-brand himself as Paul, stop being over-zealous and start doing good. The Damascene Moment, in fact.

Yesterday, I had one – albeit smaller. I was in The Land Of Telephonic Limbo, listening to music over the line, waiting to be connected to the electricity company. Blah-di-blah went the music.

Patrons of Tone Deaf will know I am trying to learn pop and thereby widen the blog’s scope. It’s early days. U2 and BeyoncĂ© are still a mystery; in the meantime I listen to others’ suggestions and try to analyse.

I wasn’t enjoying Limbo because of the blah-di-blah. It was barbarously simple-minded and the lyrics were – alas – quite clear. And repetitive. Musically it was bricks without straw. Over and over I was told:

You can count on me,
One, two, three, four.

This is a bad song, I said. Then I quivered. Not only had I judged a pop song but I had subconsciously tested its wretchedness against those I’d been analysing over the past weeks. Recognised that they were better. I’d started to accumulate a comparative pop database and was now using it. Small yippee. I hope those who recommended the superior stuff are pleased.


  1. Well done. I hope that I would have detected the poverty of the tune. I would have had no difficulty with the lyrics. But is the best music ever acceptable when piped?

  2. Excellent, LdP. In my experience, hanging-on-the-line-music is some of the most banal and irritating imaginable.

  3. Plutarch: First, rely on your instincts. Musical sequences can be just as banal as certain combinations of words. Halfway through a line you can often predict how that line will end. This tune has a very limited number of notes - not in itself a bad thing but it retricts the potential for expression. Also, the stresses fall predictably. It doesn't help that this is a cover version (though the original isn't a great improvement) and is sung by a female voice that sounds about twelve.

    Defining what constitutes a good tune is one of the great impossibilities but I am guided, yet again, by Janet Baker interviewed by Andre Previn. In choosing a repertoire of songs do you go for words or music? Music. Can good words redeem a bad tune? No.

    EB: It's a chicken and egg situation. Waiting to be connected you're inevitably irritated and impatient. Not in the mood for music of any sort. Something nassive would be needed before tranquillity ensued. It's my impression that there is only a limited choice for these phone systems; also that the chooser (working on behalf of the company) will always opt for bland. And then there's the phone earpiece - like squeezing cannelloni out of a toothpaste tube. Would anyone dare to go for poetry?

  4. I was once momentarily tickled by the irony of our bank putting me on hold to the muzakised strains of of John Lennon's 'Imagine'. The amusement didn't last long enough to offset the annoyance though.

    Although instrumental muzak is bad, the irritation of such a vocalist as you describe must surely be worse.

  5. Lucy: Driven out of my mind by some of these tinny, modern entertainments I've occasionally expressed my feelings when I finally get put through. Mind you I'm not sure I'd welcome A German Requiem played through a speaker only 2 cm across, even though it's often seemed there would have been enough time for that, and an encore.

  6. They charge you an enhanced rate for the privilege of calling them, then force you to sit there listening to banal "mew-sick". This is because they refuse to employ enough real people to attend to your call.
    Contempt for the poor customer.
    Pleased that your "pop education" is coming along! I have just bought Leonard Cohen's first all new album for about 10 years (old Ideas) - throaty Sprechstimme as you would call it.

  7. Avus: Since listening to Hallelujah I seem to have encountered a number of articles and interviews concerning LC. He's a clever man with an epigram, I note.