Pop Punk Moment

I had a beautiful moment to this song last night…

I’m quite used to being the only non-white person at alt clubnights. Whether it’s indiepop, pop punk, hxc or whatever, these are mainly white, middle-class scenes. Well, you can tell that if you look at my clubbing pics.

Last night this State Champs song came on in the Basement at Rock City, around 4.15am and I saw a small black girl singing along to all the lyrics.

This made me insanely happy so I kind of pointed at her and started singing along too. I know, corny but I just wanted to connect.

So, we sang the song to each other, dancing all the time and then high-fived at the end before she left.

It was such a lovely little moment and sooo nice to be loving a pop punk tune with another non-white person, to feel a little less weird and out-of-place.

My dream would be to see a black or Asian woman at a straight-edge gig but that really would be asking for the moon on a stick.

Musical Moment 3: Bowling For Soup – ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’

Late October, 2009. It’s a week until a particularly Unhappy Anniversary rolls around and I’m feeling bad. Not sad bad, weird bad. Unpredictable bad. Incongruity-of-affect bad.

I think too much about some things, too little about others. Thoughts of the unchangeable past circle continuously in my head like vultures, shrieking and swooping and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to scare them away.

So… I work out.

I go to my bedroom and do some warm-ups before the actual weights. I’m thinking to myself, “This is good, this is positive. If nothing means anything, might as well do weights rather than sit on my arse.”

(Secretly, I’m hoping to push things until the pain of the weights gives me something I can understand. Something that’s real. Something I can rely on. Oh yes. I’m in that zone.)

When I workout, I usually listen to the radio. It’s company in an empty house. I can have the illusion of interacting with someone.

I start. Dumbbell pull-ups, five pounds heavier than I normally go and five reps more per set. I do double the usual number of sets. Oooh. Hurty. The radio burbles in the background.

Then onto the presses. I go ten pounds heavier. I’m trying to do ten reps more than normal, which is just stupid and, basically, a waterslide into rotator-cuff injury. I’m sweating and hurting and my arms have sharp pains in them. Then I hear a familiar intro followed by these words…

“8 o’clock, Monday night and I’m waitin’
To finally talk to a girl a little cooler than me.
Her name is Nona, she’s a rocker with a nose ring,
She wears a two way, but I’m not quite sure what that means.”

And, already, I’m smiling. “I’m not quite sure what that means” – heh…

Now, I’m not a huge BFS fan, I only know the hit singles. I loved ‘Punk Rock 101’ when it came out for its sly satire of everything conventional and requisite to be a contemporary punk band. I loved the big fat dude guitarist purely for his magnificent enormity. I’m a bloater, when I see fellow bloaters doing well, it makes me fatly happy.

But this song is hitting home. Here’s me, doing my best, angsty, miserabilist Henry Rollins and here are BFS, taking the piss out of tough guys and the whole schtick around them. Making fun of me.

I can’t help it. I nearly start laughing. I’m still working out and I don’t want to drop the weights on my face so I put them down and listen to the rest of the song…

“There she goes again
With fishnets on, and dreadlocks in her hair
She broke my heart, I wanna be sedated
All I wanted was to see her naked!

Now I am watchin’ wrestling
Tryin’ to be a tough guy
Listenin’ to rap metal
Turntables in my eyes
I can’t grow a mustache
And I ain’t got no season pass
All I got’s a moped…moped….moped….. “

And over the years, miles and airwaves, BFS shake me and say, “What the fuck, dude?” What the fuck am I doing, wallowing in misery, working out like an idiot? Thinking that my tiny, tiny problems mean anything in a world where schools in Gaza get bombed with white phosphorous, where dissenting soldiers get arrested for refusing to carry out war crimes, where, frankly, there are really bad things going on.

Yes, I’m going through some shit, yes, it’s difficult. But that process won’t be made any easier by me trying to be something I’m not, trying to grow a bad moustache and a matching attitude. It ain’t me.

Hearing ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’ at precisely that moment was exactly what I needed. The song became magical, more than the sum of its parts. Every lyric seemed either obliquely or directly targeted at my idiocy. And these are brilliant lyrics – you can keep all your whiney, precious schmindie, there’s more emotional honesty in the line “All I wanted was to see her naked” than most indie songwriters manage in a lifetime.

So, thank you, Bowling For Soup, for giving me a wake-up call. Thank you for making a truly great pop record with insightful and gently cathartic lyrics. Every time I dance to this tune from now on, I’ll do a little salute to you. And thanks for stopping me turning into a bad guy.

PS – couldn’t resist this before I go: “Her CD changer’s full of singers that are mad at their dad.” 😀

Musical Moment 2 : Erik Satie – Sarabande No.2

Erik Satie

1991. I found a CD of Erik Satie compositions on sale in town. Back then, all I knew was his famous Gymopédies, he was basically a classical one-hit wonder to me. But, what the hell, the CD was cheap, give it a go.

I started listening. The Ogives, Gymopedies, Sarabande No.1 and then…

At Sarabande No.2 something just clicked inside me. To this day, I still don’t properly understand why. The music unlocked something inside me, something that I hadn’t realised was locked-up in the first place.

The version that I was listening to was played by Reinbert De Leeuw. I’d already been gorgeously surprised at the tempo he chose to play the Gymnopédies. So slow, so delicate and halting, the space he brought to the pieces was wondrous. I find any other versions unbearable now.

But when Sarabande No.2 started, I felt like I wasn’t listening to a CD, I wasn’t even listening to music. Those chords, spinning from jazzy to baroque, that aching melody, the deceptively simple harmonies. The piece punched me in the chest. I started crying. Took me about half-an-hour before I could stop.

I have no idea why that happened.

Of course, after that I became a bit of an Alfred Éric Leslie Satie nut. I researched his life, which wasn’t that simple a job, pre-cyberwent. You damn kids with your Googles and your Moogles – you don’t even know you’re born! And get off my damn lawn! Here’s some guff I Schmoogled just now:

[Satie]channelled these interests into a peculiar secret hobby: in a filing cabinet he maintained a collection of imaginary buildings (most of them described as being made out of some kind of metal), which he drew on little cards. Occasionally, extending the game, he would publish anonymous small announcements in local journals, offering some of these buildings (e.g., a “castle in lead”) for sale or rent.
(Source: Wikipedia)

What’s not to like about a man who announces the sale of fictitious metal buildings in his equivalent of the Derby Evening Telegraph?

Satie was born in 1866. I was born in 1966. This gives me a spurious sense of connection. He was a radical socialist. Me too. He wrote bizarre manifestos. Me too. He disliked Wagner. Me too. Every Tuesday he woke with a start at 3.19. Me too. He died in 1925. Err… I hope I live longer than 59…

I’ve avoided listening to the Sarabandes too much since then. And when I do, it’s usually on my own. Writing this entry tonight, I listened to Sarabande No.2 again and I wasn’t temporarily insane: the magic is there. Sixteen years on and it still moves me.

If you aren’t already a Satie fan, please do try to track down the De Leeuw versions of his early piano works. Or any Satie. The word gets bandied about too readily but I think it’s justifiable to call Satie a genius.

Musical Moment 1 : The Symphony That Wasn’t

This is the first in a series of old-man rambles about key musical moments in my life. If I think how music has intertwined itself in the most important parts of my life, I can’t imagine those moments without it.

Now, on with the first moment…

Twenty years ago, I was waiting for my girlfriend to get ready and come downstairs. I’d never been loved or in love before, never been kissed before. And now, here I was, waiting for this gorgeous woman who was so beautiful it made me hurt just to look at her.

She was my first.

I was absolutely, madly happy. It was summer and the window next to me was slightly open. Through it, I could hear the sounds over the Derwent valley: boyracers zooming by, copcar sirens in pursuit, kids shouting and playing, the odd house alarm or car bleeping.

I had that bulletproof feeling that you get with your first love, I felt nothing could spoil this happiness.

As I listened to all the sounds, they seemed to be orchestrated into a fabulous piece of music, like some kind of beautiful microtonal Partch-esque ballet (bear in mind I hadn’t heard Harry Partch at that age). I knew consciously that there was no actual order or arrangement there, that the order was a part of my cognition rather than the intentions of a composer. But that only enhanced the beauty of the wonderful symphony I was hearing.

I sat back and listened to all the tiny nuances, the occasional dog yip or lobbed curse and everything, everything, fitted together. Like clockwork, the different miniscule “parts” in the piece meshed together, creating something I’d never heard before. It was music made out of love. Not alcohol or drugs, just pure love.

It really felt like a unique piece of music composed specifically for me.

And it was.

I’ll never hear it again.