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Miscellaneous - August 2008

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 31 / 7 / 2008

Miscellaneous - August 2008


In the latest episode of his 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' column, Ben Howarth looks at some of the sacred cows of rock including the Rolling Stones, Pink Gloyd, Alanis Morrisette, Sonic Youth and Fleetwood Mac

In the pub where I play a quiz every Thursday night, they tend to play the same songs on rotation every week. I can’t complain about this, for they are a well selected bunch and there is something comforting about hearing ‘Slight Return’, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Common People’ as I am trying to work out which Shakespeare play could be described by the cryptic clue "most like an office junior." * One song that is played is Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’, resurrected from what had seemed like a permanent graveyard on air guitar compilations by being featured on Guitar Hero for the Wii, and soundtracking an advert for 'Scrubs'. I found myself saying that it was a great guilty pleasure song, but then I realised that was stupid. It is just a great song – albeit it not one that music critics have decided is cool. The concept of guilty pleasures has emerged recently, but I don’t like it. People who enjoy songs for ironic reasons are really just afraid of enjoying them in the normal way. This got me thinking – what are the things we all think, but never say for fear of looking uncool ? Indie fans are particularly susceptible to not being truly honest, and pretending to like music which, by any objective analysis, simply isn’t any good. How else would Warp records still be operating ? Here then are my suggestions of the ultimate sacred cows of pop music. The Beatles John Lennon may have topped every poll as the greatest songwriter/icon/superhero of the 20th century, and it’s probably a not unjust trade-off for having been shot. But we all really prefer Paul’s songs. The Rolling Stones Only as famous as they are because of their mock rivalry with the Beatles, who were considerably more talented. Mick Jagger is clearly a nasty piece of work. Pink Floyd If it hadn’t been for David Gilmour’s astonishing guitar playing, no one would need to pretend that they preferred Syd Barrett’s whimsical drivel. Alanis Morrisette We all actually bought 'Jagged Little Pill' (it sold in the millions, and we are those millions. There is no use pretending). If we played it again, we’d probably still like it. Sonic Youth A good band, I suppose, but one of many US groups doing the same sort of thing to the same sort of standard. They only have their ‘legendary’ status because of their well-chosen name. Fleetwood Mac Everyone says that the Peter Green stuff is great and the Stevie Nicks stuff is rubbish, but that’s not really true, is it? 'Rumours' is a great album by any standards. Neil Young Has written some of the loveliest country-rock music ever. This is no excuse, however, for all the turgid guitar-rock he albums he insists on boring us with in-between. 'The NME' Many people think that rejecting 'The NME' is an impressive act of defiance. Nobody above the age of 21 would ever read teenage magazines like this. So if you don’t either, it doesn’t make you an intellectual, just normal. Arctic Monkeys No better or worse than the bands we liked when we were teenagers, but just because we still buy CDs doesn’t mean we need to buy the ones clearly aimed at people much younger than us. Would you buy 'Just 17' or go and watch a teen-movie in the Cinema? No, of course not. Rap Music It actually isn’t racist to object to a lot of rap music on the grounds that it is about some quite unpleasant things. Do middle-class indie fans really need to pretend they like hearing about pimping and drug dealing? Drugs Though most music journalists seem convinced otherwise, hard-drug use is not a valuable life experience and does not make for better songwriting. Furthermore, gigs would be far more pleasant if drug users spent their time doing almost anything other than watching bands. Downloading The availability of free music on the internet is not a threat to the music industry, as much as it is a sign that it has been ripping is all off for years. We once paid £16.99 for a single CD, and I now recoil at the thought of how much cocaine I was inadvertently paying for. In fact, these barely scratch the surface. There are probably countless examples of received wisdom from professional music critics that has lead humble fans badly astray. Do you have any nominations of your own? Send them c/o Penny Black Music or email them to benjamin_howarth@hotmail.com * The Tempest.

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