I’ve just caught up with Charlotte Higgins' piece in the paper. In her own words she was “raised by wolves at the Paris Conservatoire” and listens almost exclusively to classical music. The idea of the piece was for her to give a pop a chance.
One curious things is her definition of pop seems a bit radio 3 circa 1961 (yes I know it wasn't called that then) i.e. music that is "Popular". For instance perversely her first gig is moody log cabin guitar botherer Bon Iver hardly the first artist who springs to mind when you say “POP!” She then moves on to Metallica who seem to be the metal band it’s ok to like. Her ears ringing she moves onto the Streets and an Indie band and finally ends up in a pub listening to some folky singer song writers. She seems to have enjoyed most of it but you feel she may in reality head back to the world of squeaky strings, muffled coughs and weak gin and tonic that is the classical concert hall.
Several thing are puzzling about the piece firstly none of the bands to my mind are Pop bands with the possible exception of the Streets (who doubly perversely aren't that great live). I think most people would recognize pop as the music that runs form warbling X factor wannabies through Girls Aloud et al on to the girl groups of the 60’s , to surf groups, Noddy Holder, the Beatles and the Stones lapping round soul and r & b snuffling through the synths of human League and New Order, marching along with the Housemartins and the Jam sipping some Dylan, tipping a trilby to ska and reggae waving at all sorts of colourful types from anywhere from Sweden to Senegal and ending up on Waterloo Bridge watching the sun go down.
One thing I do think she missed was that a lot of what we think of as great pop only ever existed as peaks and troughs on magnetic tape or nowadays in the memory banks of studio computers. Pop is a product of the recording studio; some of the greatest music ever has been made by people who were only in the same building on one occasion for few hours, meaning that some of the greatest pop bands ever never really existed. So to write about pop your really need to listen to it in the places it was designed to be heard, in the knicker section of Top Shop, leaking out of van windows, barely audible above the scream of the Victoria line, in a thread bare teenage bedroom on the outskirts of Norwich, at a party round your best mates house where you end up dancing with some one you fancy for the first time, in the car coming back from the hospital that time. Pop music is everyday music and therefore far more important than the other sorts.
Of course you can turn down the lights and turn up your 3 grand studio monitors, give the cat a saucer of milk, move your chair to the sweet spot in the room, get you original pressing of “God only knows” out of it’s acid free Mylar bag and sit listening intently with your eyes closed and fingers forming a little church but some how the Beachboys sound just as good when you’ve just put down your shopping on a rainy Thursday night and turned on the radio and come into the song half way through and it makes you stop and smile while you are putting away the ready meals and tatsiki.
One of the main reason I find joy in pop music is that it’s never portrayed as being good for you like the worthier music like classical, jazz and folk music all these are often portrayed as super foods for the soul how some how just by listening to them makes you a better person nobody says this about Softcell or Abba. The reason being is that pop doesn’t care that much about tomorrow it’s to busy living today it’s about rapping your arms around my engine, it’s about meeting him at the candy store, it’s about the day before you came, it’s words of love, it’s about getting off of my cloud, it’s being back for good it’s seconding that emotion and ultimately being lifted higher and higher…..
Of course what the devil do you post from 60 years of POP? I was at a loss I thought they had to be popular rather than obscure but what to hoose so here goes :
Good Times By Chic
Mmbop by Hanson