Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Friday, June 24, 2011

Idiot Music

So this guy named Virgil Griffith at CalTech has this website he developed called Musicthatmakesyoudumb, where he has collated rather unscientifically a tongue-in-cheek statistical list of what is the favourite music of students at various American colleges versus what their grade averages are, and using those results, he is able to figure out what all the dummies are listening to, and so from this we can draw conclusions as to what kind of music will make you stupid (or, what kind of music is attractive to people who already ARE stupid). He did a similar study of 'Books that make you stupid' also.

Results aside, he raises an interesting point: Does the music you listen to affect the way you think? Most of us have already heard bandied about the notion (that some regard as absolute fact) that "classical music is good for your brain", whether as a brain-boosting office soundtrack or as something that mums should be doing for their developing fetuses or toddling terrors (Baby Mozart) or even "sound as audio therapy" (those kind of CDs you find in places like The Discovery Store or Shared Earth or even shoe stores such as Shoon - you know, where there is a huge amount of CDs on a rack with a little sampler machine that plays snatches of the tracks when you press the pretty button - CDs like 'Latin Jazz Moods' or 'Frog Chorus' or 'Mountain Brook'). For many, it may feel intuitive that listening to complex classical music pieces must somehow be better for one's brain than listening to, say, a simplistic three-chord rock anthem or a Rap track featuring a single looping drum beat with repetitive vocal (or many other genres of current pop/rock/rap music).

Does that truly depend on the song in question, or one's world view, or one's attention to complex subtle nuances that may lie just below the surface of a seemingly trite piece of Pop?

Well, readers, I know you know me. You know pretty much my feeling on the whole thing. And that is that some music will definitely make you stupid. Some of it requires you to be stupid already. And some of it requires a level of dumbness that makes other people wonder how you even make it out the front door in the morning without hurting yourself. And this music is not death metal, not rap, grime, dubstep, not even hair metal or Jessie J. Not Lady Gaga or Beyonce. Not even New Country or The Gilmer Sisters (not familiar? Trust me. They're ex-cousins-in-law, and they think they can sing).

It is the Great British Novelty Record.

From Cockerel Chorus' "Blue Is The Colour" and Brian and Michael's "Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs" to Renee and Renato's diabolical "Save Your Love", the record-buying public of this great nation are suckers when it comes to one-off daft tunes, whether the attraction be scarf-waving football chants, stupid dances ("Agadoo", anyone?), heartstring-tugging cutesy children ("There's No-One Quite Like Grandma") or just plain silly ("The Oldest Swinger In Town"), the British charts have long contained at least one bloody idiotic tune, sung by some twat you'll at least take comfort in the knowledge that you'll never hear of again. The prime example of this is when, back in 1981, Ultravox's "Vienna", a track that I think most people can agree is a pretty damn fine piece of work, was kept off the top spot for weeks by the moronic "Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce.

So, I think we can draw a conclusion from this, only I'm not sure what it is. It's either that (a) there are loads of dumb people in this country, or (b) something else. Which is weird, because this country has produced some of the finest musicians in history. The Beatles, The Stones, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Free, The Stranglers, Madness, The Specials, the list is endless. So why should a country full of fine musicians have such weird tastes in music? Search me. I'm gonna dig out my copy of 'Captain Beaky' by Keith Michell and give it a whirl for old times' sake...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cheese And Mods

So there were two questions last time:

1) Which one of Alex James' cheeses is named after a New Order song?

Well, that was easy. C'mon, you know you know it. BLUE MONDAY! It's a cheese! A BLUE cheese! You could guess that!

2) Which British actor provided the narration on Blur's Parklife?

That wasn't hard either was it? Phil Daniels! He was in the video. 

Phil Daniels had a key role in a movie about Mods and Rockers which I think that any music fan ought to know about - Quadrophenia.  The question is - who played the role of Ace in said film?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Must Be Stopped

If there is one thing I enjoy, it's when my friends on Facebook tag me in a picture and it turns out to be one from years ago that I had forgotten all about. It's lovely, that sudden rush of nostalgic bliss. "I remember that! That was a fun day/night/holiday/party/whatever!" It's such a good feeling that when your notifications list contains the message "So-and-so has tagged you in a photo", you start to feel good in anticipation.

Recently, however, this feeling has been replaced by fear. Fear that it won't be a great photo you've been tagged in, but one of these suckers...

Now, I don't mind these things, they're harmless enough. That is, until you are tagged in one. Because then every time someone makes a comment regarding this picture, you are notified. Even though you don't know half of the people in the stupid thing, you have to be informed that Joe Whatsisname has commented on a photo you were tagged in. And you don't know which photo that Joe has made a comment about until you go check for yourself. That's when you find that (a) it was this stupid picture, and (b) Joe (whom you don't know) has made some inane comment like "Wtf lol" about someone else you don't know. The only people you know in the pic are yourself and the twit that tagged you. And all you can think is, "That's 30 seconds of my life I will never get back."

All those 30-second picture-checking wastes of time add up, until over your entire lifespan, you find you've lost an entire day getting excited for no reason from checking to see which photo you were tagged in or commented about. This is why this kind of thing must be abolished forthwith. Trust me, there will be lots of teenagers who will be pissed off, but they'll thank us in 30 years time when they are a day better off for not having to have endured this time-wasting misery. That's right. They will have a parade and a big party to thank us for giving them the gift of time. "Thank you, old people," they will say. "You saved us from thousands of potentially stress-related ailments, all because you abolished those dopey TagMyPals pictures on Facebook." To which their kids will retort, "WTF is Facebook yo?" or some such 'yoof of today' type remark.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Bank Job

Just going through my emails this morning and I find one from a job search site that I have subscribed to (a free one, of course - I am not going to pay to find a damn job!). Usually they come up with "local" jobs that turn out to be anything but - last time they sent me one from Milton Keynes, which is about as local as commuting to Gatwick. The French coast would be closer. Anyway, the one this morning was actually in Ashford! Yay, I thought. A job that's only a short drive away (about 14 miles). So I click on it and of course it's a job for a cashier in a bank. Which would be okay, I suppose. They'd obviously train me. I'd be indoors. Sitting down.

But it was the wealth of politically correct doublespeak that one has to wade through to get to the actual information about the position (not 'job', it has to be a 'position') that floors me, not to mention the ocean of positive spin they have to use to get what could be a really dull job sounding like an amazing and exciting 'opportunity'. For example:

  • "Our client, a large and very successful financial services provider, is looking for a strong targeted sales and service candidate who can help provide that customer experience and spot opportunities - to help make and save them money. " (Meaning: "Big bank needs a cashier. Preferably able to read and write. Ability to talk semi-coherently a plus.")
  • "This in-branch role is at the sharp-end of relationship building." (meaning: "You will be dealing with Joe Public.")
  • "It’s all about taking time to understand each customer’s individual needs and helping them to make the right choices from our excellent range of products. " ("make sure you don't screw up.")
  • "’ll not only help them build a great financial future. You’ll also build a great future for yourself. " ("We will try to remember to pay you occasionally.")
  • "Every day is different for us. Every customer is different too, which is why it’s such an exciting and rewarding place to work." ("We get all sorts of customers, from morons to idiots to outright jackasses. Your reward will be to make fun of them and laugh about it in the break room with your colleagues.")
  • "Our customers won’t be the only ones who benefit from your knowledge and expertise. More junior team members will look to you for advice and guidance too." ("As soon as you are trained, you will be expected to train others.")
  • "And because our package includes a generous bonus scheme that rewards individual, as well as team, performance, you’ll get the recognition you deserve as well." ("'Jelly Of The Month Club', anyone?")
  • "Above all, you need to be driven by a desire to do what’s right for your customers and leave no stone unturned to help them get the best from us." ("Brown-nosers preferred.")
  • "Our mutual status means we’re here to benefit customers, not shareholders. Our commitment to customers, not shareholders, has always been what sets us apart from our competitors. And now, more than ever, our reputation for being open, honest and trustworthy is helping us go from strength to strength. In fact, it’s made us the world’s biggest building society as well as a major local employer. Underpinning it all is a commercial operation that never stands still. We’re always thinking ahead, aiming higher and sharpening our competitive edge. That’s why we invest in people who are not only proud of what we stand for, but who also have the talent and drive to boost our performance still further." ("That's right, customers, not shareholders! Say it loud! Say it proud! Make it your mantra! Customers not shareholders! Customers not shareholders! We are wonderful! We are good people! We're barely even a bank at all! In fact, we're just giving money away! Customers not shareholders! Customers n....")
Well, I might apply for it. Sounds fun.

Monday, June 6, 2011

100 Records That Shook The World, #42

Get It On

T. Rex

Originally Tyrannosaurus Rex, with long album titles such as My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair...But Now They're Content to Wear Stars On Their Brows, playing rock'n'roll-influenced folk, gradually getting into Middle Eastern mythology and baroque, lush and somewhat surreal songs, by 1969 Marc Bolan's band had become favourites on the Peel show and around the student union halls of the UK. However, after a disagreement between Bolan and percussionist Steve Peregrin Took, they reinvented themselves as T.Rex and embraced the glam-rock phenomenon head-on.

Coming from their 6th album Electric Warrior,  the single "Get It On" (which had to be retitled "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" in the USA to avoid confusion with a song by another band) was the second Number One single for T.Rex (the first being "Hot Love").  It's also the song that all but ended the friendship between Bolan and DJ John Peel, because Peely had said he didn't really care for the song on air when he played the advance copy. There was also some confusion about the piano glissando on the song because Elton John was miming the piano part on a TOTP appearance; however it was Rick Wakeman who performed the small piano part, being at the time desperate to pay his rent!

It stayed at number 1 for 4 weeks in the summer of '71. It remains one of the greatest guitar tracks of all time.

Here's the song, with Elton John miming the hell of the ol' joanna.

Suddenly, Seymour

Last time on the Puzzler I asked you guys what the original name of the band Blur was. Those who know state that it was in fact Seymour. 

Good ol' Blur (Damon Albarn, Dave Rowntree, Graham Coxon and Alex James) formed in 1989 and called it a day after seven albums in 2003. They reunited in 2009 for a series of successful concerts. Albarn was the co-creator and only permanent member of Gorillaz, and he's also recorded solo and guested on various other bands' songs; Coxon has released solo material and is also a visual artist; Dave Rowntree is a member of The Ailerons and is also a computer animator; and Alex James is now an award-winning cheesemaker, and is playing host to the Harvest festival which features live music and the best of British cuisine side-by-side in a festival setting on his Oxfordshire farm.

Question (this should be fairly easy...): Alex named one of his wonderful cheeses after a New Order song. Which song? (c'mon, you can probably guess this one!)

Alright, you want a harder question? Okay, which British actor provided the narration on the song Parklife?

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