Sunday, October 24, 2010

Layer 367 . . . Nick Clegg, Music, Character, and Desert Island Discs

Oh yes. Nick Clegg. Desert Island Discs.

What a treat. His first track was some sort of bog standard Chopin piano waltz. Please! Dullness in the extreme.

Next up - Johnny Cash . . . chugga chugga chugga Well I woke up Sunday morning drone drone drone. Country crap he remembered listening to in the family car on their outings. Aaaah! Pure nostalgia.

Nick's dad was a banker. Quelle surprise. Nick had "an extraordinarily happy childhood". He's from a long line of itinerant European bourgeoisie. Which is nice.

Nick's first day in London was his start day at Westminster School. Lucky lad.

Next record. Prince - "The Cross". Christian nonsense, and pure gobbledegook. Pretty weird stuff for an atheist like Nick. And about as musically interesting as plain boiled rice. But it's Prince himself that Nick really goes for - "I think Prince is fantastic". Chaque'un a son gout.

Personally I think Prince is, at best, a cute little guy who appeals to people who like cute little guys. According to Wiki, "Prince pioneered the "Minneapolis sound", a hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, R&B and New Wave that has influenced many other musicians." In other words, a load of derivative dross. As soon as you start talking about funk, pop and New Wave - whatever that is - you've lost me.

Nick evidently likes his (non-classical) music to be like his politics - funky, new wave, derivative, middle of the road and poptastic.

Next we have Petit Pays by Cesária Évora. I think we can safely say his wife's influence is showing here. Fair enough. Very pleasant. Not great.

Followed by Radiohead. "A great, great band." No they're fucking not. Music for angsty, earnest, vaguely alternative and so-called arty, public schoolboys and girls. The kind of kids who pronounce themselves Liberals in order to shock the more boring of their Conservative friends and family.

Wiki: "The musicians who form Radiohead met while attending Abingdon School, a boys-only public school in Abingdon, Oxfordshire." This is essentially dreary, dull, dross. The top rated Radiohead track on Spotify is "Creep" - and you can't get any creepier and duller than that. Appalling crap, though probably quite relevant for Nick -

But I'm a creep,
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doin' here?
I don't belong here

I don't care if it hurts,
I wanna have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice
when I'm not around
You're so fuckin' special
I wish I was special

The Radiohead track Nick chose for DID was Street Spirit, whose dopey lyrics you can check out yourself, as if anyone really cares. Let's just say "Cracked eggs, dead birds, Scream as they fight for life, I can feel death, can see its beady eyes" does not a great lyric make. As for any musical merit the thing might have - you must be joking. This is the kind of stuff that public schoolboys who've smoked a few too many spliffs might write and record, and end up wishing they hadn't. As for Nick - he probably went to a gig, bought the CD, smoked a few too many spliffs and thought it was like really, really great. And he still does.

Next! What to say about Life On Mars by David Bowie? - another cute guy who's vaguely "alternative", arty and "interesting"? The song only makes any sense within the context of the Ziggy Stardust album, which was at least some good frivolous fun, and musically original and interesting.

And now - Waka Waka, by Shakira. Perfect lyrics for a politician in Nick's current position. Pretty wacky.

Nick's final choice is wasted on . . . Franz Schubert - Impromptu No.3 in G Flat Major. Completely and utterly banal. Bore-RING! Available on Spotify if you fancy some music to slit your wrists to. A nice, safe choice for a working politician. Schubert sucks. But Nick used to listen to many Schubert piano things that his father used to listen to regularly, so . . .

On that basis I'd be a big fan of The Laughing Policeman, Vera Lynn, Alma Cogan, Russ Conway, Val Doonican, Matt Munro and Andy Stewart.


At this point I was going to go off on a rap about people who don't rate Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and all the true greats of music - people who seem to think that third rate but cute little creeps are more worthwhile than Bob and Jimi, and more worth taking to a desert island, but then I thought - wait! I've been missing something.

Here's the thing. Had the first gigs I went to as a teenager been some great stage shows by the likes of Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Billy Fury and Helen Shapiro - maybe I'd have remained to this very day convinced that these people were great artists and brilliant music makers. Whatever grabs you as a teenager - in a live show or even on the radio or TV -  tends to stay with you. There's a time in our adolescence when we're wide open to whatever's currently out there and happening, as you might say.

Or then again, is there really? I'd like to think I'd have run screaming from a Cliff gig no matter what age I was. As I would a Radiohead gig. I might have hung around for a while at a Prince gig when I was a teenager, but only out of curiosity.

On the other hand, it seemed pretty damn obvious to me when I was a sixteen year old that Bob Dylan, whom I never saw playing live till years later, was an absolute genius. So what's stopping the likes of Nick Clegg from also seeing that?

Also - I didn't need to see them play a live gig in order to know that there was greatness in the likes of John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Louis Jordan, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Janis Joplin, alongside all the greats that I have indeed seen playing live. So what's stopping Nick?

Here's another thing. Nick admitted to Kirsty that he'd done a 2.00am shift of actually listening to some music in order to compile his list. How desperate is that? This is clearly a guy - yet another on DID - who never really listens to music, and probably never has. Music has never been seen as important or a priority for Nick, let alone as essential stuff for the soul and spirit. Nick's spent his whole life chasing after achievement and success in one way or another - for example, gaining TWO masters degrees - so he's never had the time, let alone the inclination, to discover and to savour what actually exists in the world of music.

It's either that, or he's indeed listened to the good stuff - Dylan, Cohen, Hendrix, etc - and rated it below Radiohead and Prince. Which really would mean he's a total fuckwit.

So what did Kirsty Young make of young Nick? Not a lot, by my reckoning. It's pretty obvious when Kirsty's enjoying a guest, and their music. She clearly felt very little rapport or empathy with Nick, which is because Kirsty herself has such a lot of soul, spirit . . . . and a sense of humour. Nick has none.

Nick seems to be a decent and intelligent guy, in the sense of intellectually able and astute. Like bank managers used to be decent and intelligent. Unfortunately that's not enough to make him enlightened, original, radical, creative, amusing, and so on.

Interestingly, though, in the following programme on R4 - The Unbelievable Truth - the brilliant David Mitchell admitted that he's a total ignoramus when it comes to music. David Mitchell is one of our most gifted, original and hilarious artist/performers. A real national treasure. Far too good to be in politics. The quickness of his wit is phenominal. How the hell to explain his lack of interest in music?


Joined Up Thinking

Interesting talk today on The Politics Show. It seems Ken Livingstone has advocated that London should have no more than 5 local authorities. And now 3 of the existing (Tory) LAs - Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham - have decided to join together in running services, and indeed in decimating them. Is this a Good Thing?

Way back in 1990, when the Inner London Education Authority was abolished by Thatch, Oxzen was loudly advocating that the inner London boroughs should voluntarily join together on a north/south basis to run education and schools. It made no sense at all for a major city like London to have a fragmented education system. There should at least be a West London collaboration, an East London collaboration, a North London collaboration and a South London collaboration.

20 years on, and it seems that there may soon be a joint approach to managing education services by Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. Finally . . .

Similarly it makes no sense at all for Hackney, Islington, Camden and Tower Hamlets to remain separate.

Other couplings could be an Outer Southeast group, an Outer Southwest group, an Outer Northwest group. an Outer Northeast group, and an Outer North group.

Since Thatch hated ILEA it goes without saying that ILEA was a brilliant education authority. Its very size attracted hundreds of very talented and visionary people to its education services. In arguing against the break-up of ILEA some of us used to emphasise the sheer impossibility of attracting the best talent and the most visionary leaders to the likes of miniscule Southwark, Lewisham and Lambeth. And so it has proved. Merge them together, however, and you'd be in with a chance. Well . . . we shall see.

What a pity New Labour never, ever, had the vision to promote effective collaborations between the pathetically tiny London banana boroughs. That's politicians for you.


David Attenborough on TV today was shown ripping off a Moroccan fossil collector by paying only 850 dosheroons for an amazing piece of rock containing several perfect trilobites. Whatever is the world coming to?


Essential reading in the Observer today:

Chris Riddell:

Will Hutton:

The coalition is taking a huge gamble with the economy

Unemployment and miserable poverty are about to hit Britain hard. Unstable times lie ahead.

Nick Cohen:

Wayne Rooney symbolises the greed that laid us low

The Manchester United striker has negotiated a deal for £10.4m a year. That's small beer to our avaricious financiers

No such critical self-awareness troubles the City. Its managers were worse than irrelevancies, they were calamities. They did not understand the risks their banks were running. Now that we are all suffering the consequences, they continue to throw money away on bonuses, despite the evidence that lavish rewards provide traders with an incentive to maximise risk in the search for short-term profits.

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