Wednesday, May 20, 2009

listening to the words

You know how much I like pop music, it's one of my great joys. I first became properly aware of pop music (after being tangentially aware) when my father had a brief re-flirtation with it in the late 1970s. He was in the process of separating from my mother and claimed - not just to me but to others, for I also overheard him saying so - that the emotional experience meant he came to listen to the lyrics of pop songs much more than he had ever done, at least (I imagine) since the early 1960s when he was into folk music, which is not the same thing.

I place this at 1978, but I remember he and I discussing the words to R. and J. Stone's 'We do it', a number three song in 1976 and the 12th best selling record in Australia that year. At the age of 11 I felt I had little insight into the broad and unabashed (and completely unerotic, but that didn't hit me either) celebration of sexual experience. My father thought the song was intensely idiotic and, I imagine, coy and banal. In retrospect, now being older than he was then not that that is crucial, I agree with him.

He also opined that he felt songs about touring (possibly this observation was brought out by Sherbet's August 1978 hit 'Another night on the road') were an example of a lazy songwriter who expected us, the average punter, to care about the angst of being a fairly successful working musician. Once again, this hadn't really occurred to me, though I never had much interest in such subject matter. One song we did agree on the quality of (is that grammar?) was Doug Ashdown's 'Winter in America', and I remember my father repeating a story about this song, that people had criticised Ashdown for writing a song about America when he should have written it about Australia. Regardless, we agreed it was a great record. I think we might have discussed it in the context of the LRB song which starts 'Can you guess where I'm calling from/The Las Vegas Hilton' which I can't remember right now because Spicks and Specks is distracting me.

Anyway for all that, and considering how much I like words- some of my great joys - I don't listen to the words in songs as much as some, and I get them wrong a lot, and I find it boring to read lyric sheets too. I think it might partly be music overload - when I was a boy I had to save weeks to buy an album (and I usually made a dud choice but for some reason didn't give up) and so I had to be pretty intimate with what I had, but now they are too easy to get hold of, and underappreciated except in rare instances. In fact, I find the things I can't make out more compelling than the things I can, which usually seem pretty humdrum. This might explain the recent attraction pop records in foreign languages have held for me. I don't have to listen to the words. But I'm not depressed.


Anonymous said...

oh david you don't like pop music at all - you dick.
I think you are a SWEET PERSON, You know fuck all about pop. Mia knows much more than you ever will. My mother had her funeral in east burwood today -mmm very draining.. evertybody loved steely dan latest. Get hip with the DAN - MAN . Lucky i like you!
been a tough w2week - off to sydney & p5rofessional, ac adem,ics - habving dinnewr with the white guy book person.
lerbve to ya both llie is onn way out 15 yeRS & FAT

it's only words said...

I myself personally preferred Peaches and Herb.