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Sunday 29 April 2012

Stuff caught in the colander

Saying I know nothing about pop is not strictly true. Pop gets through - like the cockroach. Here are some titles that did (and why).

All Of Me. Took on new dimension in ballroom dancing sequence by Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin during credits of eponymous movie

The House of The Rising Sun. Friend, hearing this on a pub jukebox said, “Pwoah, it’s almost like classical music.” That stuck.

Both Sides Now. Heard it sung by Bob Dylan; searching for its identity I referred to it as "Dylan’s cloud song"; months elapsed before I discovered its true name and its creator (Joni Mitchell).

Ode To Billie Joe. This stuck because of its plethora of multi-syllabic words (McCallister, Tallahachee).

Heartbreak Hotel. Loathed Elvis but couldn’t escape a parody by Stan Freberg
Kermit’s Song. Revelation to hear it sung by Frank Sinatra.

American Pie. String of non-sequiturs sung as if it meant something.

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Requested on BBC3’s intellectual version of Desert Island Discs called Private Passions. Presenter, Michael Berkeley, composes posh music. Excellent anti-war song.

Rio (Duran Duran). Price one pays for having teenage daughters

Let It Snow (Dean Martin). Didn’t make any impression until I heard it used comically at the end of Die Hard movie.

The Shoals Of Herring (Ewan MacColl). Folk singing striving uncomfortably to be folksy.

 Born In The USA. Unavoidable; like the passage of a lorry. Privately re-titled The Hernia Song.

 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Drawn to it by it… well, its title.

 Summer Holiday. Eternally memorable as a yardstick of British pop’s wetness.

 Ferry ‘cross The Mersey. Eternally memorable for celebrating lack of geographical ambition.

 That’s enough


  1. try considering some 'pop' in a social context. Anti war. Anti social.Anti establishment.Anti F A

  2. That's not a bad idea. If you glance back at some of my posts labelled Pop you'll see I took a rather simplistic, deconstructive approach. Since I wasn't particularly tempted into this field (but felt it was a duty to become ecumenical) I invited commenters to recommend various songs and/or singers which I listened to and then described in an analytical, frequently arid, way. After a little while I began to recognise certain trends, patterns and structures but I was only rarely touched. As if I'd been asked to comment on a photographic collection of manhole covers. One cannot manufacture enthusiasm and there were one or two recurrent matters I found hard hard to digest, especially: the non-decodability of lyrics which were clearly meant to be heard and sympathised with (eg, campaigning themes of the type you list), the poverty-stricken imagination of drummers, and the prevalence of sprechstimme.

    I think I rather irritated those who had made suggestions and who had expected me to adopt a more subjective approach. Easy to say, much harder to do. However there were one or two nuggets: Leonard Cohen, certain aspects of Madonna and the slick professionalism of Coldplay.

    There is also the matter of time. I have other projects closer to my heart and it was never my intention to achieve a synoptic view. Inevitably I tend to listen to music I enjoy and I find pop quite hard work.

  3. Puppet on a String. Another wetness marker that leaves a sticky,sickly memory. The social context was I think The Eurovision Song Contest. For once I look forward with interest to the next contest, but only because we are promised a song performed by a group of grandmothers, Buronova Babuskie from the Central Republic of Udmertia.

  4. Plutarch: I've seen a clip of the Russian grandmothers. They sounded rather monotonous and (perhaps in the interests of echt authenticity) very badly recorded.