Pop music vs the ‘classic’ Australian Top 10
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Every day down the gym I’m subjected to music I never thought I’d be subjected to again.
When I worked as a screen-printer in the 80s, we were force-fed a diet of UK Top 40, thanks to Radio 1. We listened to it more for the banter between the songs than the songs themselves, partly so we could rail futilely against the inanity of the DJs. I wouldn’t say it scarred me. It didn’t scar me. I can’t really recall what they played back then – beyond Sally Oldfield’s ‘Mirrors’, and that was 1979 anyway. She was Mike’s sister or cousin. Or something. And I still quite like the song.
Listening to the radio at work was more a springboard, a way of measuring good against bad – something that was later replaced by the necessity of reviewing the singles for the NME and Melody Maker, and going to festivals. I mean, why would I deliberately listen to something I knew I wasn’t going to like? Without festivals and the random element induced by that week’s pile of seven-inch vinyl, I’d never have encountered Smashing Pumpkins or The Stereophonics or Radiohead, and then where would I have been? I’d never have been able to draw and define that line between Mudhoney and Pearl Jam with such finality if I hadn’t actually seen Pearl Jam’s debut UK appearance, now would I? Likewise Oasis (and their debut US appearance), 15 years on. Oh wait. Those had nothing to do with festivals, the radio or reviewing the singles.
As you were then.
So anyway. The gym. Folk often misunderstand me. They think the more popular something becomes, the less I like it. Not true, not true! Witness Pulp. Witness Bryan Adams. Witness … oh, I don’t know, Sugababes. Gotta love Sugababes.
I grew up on pop music. (Actually, I never heard pop music until I was 17, but you get my meaning.) When I encountered pop, punk = pop = chart music. What wasn’t to like? The disco stuff? No fucking way! That was some of the greatest stuff out there. I didn’t like the rock balladeers or the hair metal or the limp-ass crooners or the shoulder pads but … pop? Yes please. I love pop music. it’s the classic rock that I never could stand. Not the pop. To me, punk music is pop music is weird-ass funk is pop music is 60s soul is Rough Trade is pop music is ABBA is The Residents is Girls Aloud. Not the fucking classic rock. I like some classic rock – Joan Jett, Cheap Trick’s first three albums, even a little early Bruce Springsteen but … c’mon. Pop music, folk. Female! Female!
Down the gym, nothing could please me more than seeing the latest video from Beyoncé or Jennifer Lopez making out with Pitbull, or maybe a little synth-pop from the 80s, or Lady Gaga of course, long as she doesn’t follow the lead given off in that new ‘Judas’ video, or … I don’t know. Katy Perry for Bang’s sake. Anything, rather than classic rock. That’s classic rock as in classic rock with a big ‘No Females Allowed’ sign hung outside the dressing room door unless said females are… you know what comes next. Of course, the visuals are as important as the audio now, but that’s fine. That’s why I have my own iPod Touch.
So this morning. Down the gym. Max – one of the two ‘classic’ video channels on constant rotation – plays a Top 10 ‘classic’ Australian rock chart. I stick with the cross trainer, switch over to the bike and watch the entire thing. Oh God. Oh God. It’s all the names you’d expect – no females of course, because a) females didn’t exist in Australia in the 80s and b) females don’t rock. These are names I’ve grown grimly familiar with since moving here three years ago. Dire bloke-y music, all meaningful glances and cheeky grins. Cold Chisel. John Farnham. AC/DC … which you’d think would be OK except it was ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If Ya Wanna Rock’N’Roll)’ with those fucking bagpipes.
And we all know that Suzi Quatro does that riff way better.
So anyway. The ‘classic’ Australian Top 10. Midnight Oil. Powderfinger. Paul Kelly … whose ‘Before Too Long’ from 1986 is fine actually, and a song I’d probably love if I’d grown up in Australia during the 80s, same way I love those first seven or eight Squeeze singles, what with the post-Beatles jangle and harmony action he’s got going there, but I didn’t grow up in Australia during the 80s so I don’t. INXS, who are laughably bad (is that the point?): worse than even Howard Jones. Pop, minus the fun and feline. Crowded House – OK, if you don’t think music should entertain. Men At fucking Work (The Police with pan pipes).
Fortunately, Beyoncé and Havana Brown were at hand on the V channel to distract me …
I still have no idea what the music that accompanies that clip sounds like.
And, in the middle of all this classic dross, was one song – one video – that made me choke on my morning’s Cynical Cornflakes, and started my heart palpitating in a way it doesn’t normally do until I pass the half-hour mark on the cross trainer. The Easybeats! ‘Friday On My Mind’! Of course I knew and loved the song already, but I didn’t know this performance, I hadn’t clocked the infectious energy, the impossibly great dancing, the Rolling Stones circa-Brian Jones shirts ripped off so stylishly. It was like watching The Monkees play The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society … only of course nothing like. It’s pop music, no pretence, no messing: pop music that shits all over the tired, tepid male rock posturing of the other nine videos (no offence meant towards Mr Kelly) from a wonderfully giddy height.
This video is fantastic. On so many levels. The enthusiasm. The way the guitar solo totally breaks down. The audience. That fucking riff. His dance move at 1.50!
Honest to Bangs, I never realised this is where The Saints got it from …
Pop music. Not classic rock. Not at all.