Is That All There Is?

A while ago, I interviewed Ian Rankin for The Fountain, in anticipation of the recent Rebus Fest.

Been enjoying him on Veep
Man, I can’t keep up with all the incarnations of Hugh Laurie any more

Well, Hugh. Let’s see, shall we…?

[For more whimsy and less namedropping, check out the Apoplexy Tiny Letter.]

The character of John Rebus – who’s a fan of The Rolling Stones – has been around for thirty years now, and during the course of the interview I noted that’s longer than the Stones had been around when his debut novel came out in 1987.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
1987/2017: Hard-right Tory elected PM; Norman Tebbit a disgusting racist

The Stones were formed in 1962, The Beatles in 1960. Yet 55 and more years later, it’s axiomatic to describe them as the greatest pop bands in history. A history that – according to Ian Wiki – began just a few years before those bands started and has now been rolling on for 60 years.

Eh… lads? It’s 1957, and a Scotsman’s perfected the form

It’s axiomatic to describe the Beatles and Stones as the best bands in pop history, but is it right? Well, if we ask that limited sample of British pop music obsessive of a certain age – Hi, mom! – they come up with a different answer.

The Festive Fifty was originally an annual list of the year’s fifty (though the exact figure varied above and below this number) best songs compiled at the end of the year and voted for by listeners to John Peel‘s BBC Radio 1 show. It was usually dominated by indie and rock songs which did not fully represent the diversity of music played by Peel but rather the majority opinion among his listeners.

Right. And the listeners of the Peel show submitted an all-time Festive Fifty in the year 2000.

Saddoes or Weddoes? Eh? Eh?
“Imma need a drink before compiling these saddoes’ opinions.”

Peel favourites The Fall managed three entries, and his favourite single, Teenage Kicks by The Undertones came in at #2. But Joy Division – and New Order, as Joy Division was reconstituted after Ian Curtis’s death – amassed nine out of the fifty entries, including Atmosphere at number one.

…and celebrates the big news…

I’ve been thinking about Joy Division this week for a couple of reasons:

  1. Hi, I’m Stroke Bloke; and
  2. I was in a room above a pub last weekend checking out a young Scottish band that made me think about them.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a band that remind me of Joy Division. I saw Interpol opening for The Delgados in… 2001? JD’s influence on them was a little more pronounced. So much so, I remarked

If I wanted to listen to Joy Division, I’d stay home and put on Unknown Pleasures.

Oi! I've got *shades* of grey!
Joy Division Fan In Miserable Bastard Shock!!!

Speaking of young bands, Matthew Higgs talks here about sitting in a rehearsal space in Manchester in 1978 watching Joy Division rehearse shortly after the release of Unknown Pleasures. The band members would have been 22 or 23 at the time. Higgs is caught in an iconic photo of the band taken by Kevin Cummins, and describes how

Joy Division weren’t cold. They were down-to-earth and funny.

I got yer down-to-earth and funny right here, mofos!
To be fair, neither was Michael Nesmith

So, why are the Beatles and the Stones still set as the standard to which all others should aspire?

It’s probably got something to do with the fact that the Baby Boomers are still in charge. I imagine their musical taste is terrible, but Donald Trump and Theresa May are both Boomers.

Donald’s favourite song?!

Except, maybe I should take that back. Apparently, in around 2014, Trump declared that Leiber and Stoller’s Is That All There Is? as performed by Peggy Lee was his favourite song.

Rather brilliantly, genius.com describes here how Leiber and Stoller got the inspiration for the lyrics of Is This All There Is? German novelist Thomas Mann’s short story Enttäuschung (or Disappointment, or Disillusionment). And the recording has a Kurt Weill, Weimar Republic feel to it.

Go on, play She's Lost Control Again!
“Dude. I don’t even play any more, not after the accident.” Blue Period with Banjo by William Wegman

Whoodathunk it, eh? And it turns out that Donald has a taste for Neil Young, too. Or, kind of.

Can you call fake news on yourself? Or is it like "That''s what she said?"
Oh. Well. That makes sense?

So. Is that all there is? Certainly for this week. But be a love and join me to see where this goes next week…?

And sure, Hugh. You can have your bonus points.

Don't fucking patronise me, Hugh

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3 thoughts on “Is That All There Is?

  1. Pet sounds.

    That is all.*

    * ok of course that’s not all… the boomer domination of best of continues unabated and while abbey road and pet sounds and exile are masterpieces so are yankee hotel foxtrot. And we need to remember that history has a different view on music than the time we are in. For instance, don’t stop beleivin is the biggest song of the 80s now we are 30 years gone. Which is bonkers (although I think it’s a fine song). So I sort of wonder what’s the pet sounds and don’t stop believin of the 2010s? (I guess I would answer bitte orca and something by katy Perry but I’m not sure)

    And so this could go on forever. And therefore I will abruptly stop

    1. I had to stay offa this one for a minute to give respect to that top bit of top trolling. Well played, sir!

      I guess I need to look into Bitte Orca. Hasn’t showed up on my radar at all. Is it still not clear what the great – or zeitgeist-y – albums and songs are? I wonder. We’ve just hit the twentieth anniversary of OK Computer, which still seems to be held in roughly the same amount of esteem it was upon release. But it always kind of held the kind of shape of a classic classic album, didn’t it? Various Ricky’s would probably listen to Kid A or The Bends or Amnesiac or Heart-Shaped Pool at this point, but that’s a tribute to Radiohead more than anything else. I thought Primal Scream’s Screamadelica was amazing at the time, and I still think it holds up as an epochal album – but maybe that’s a fortunate confluence of my age at the time, Scottishness, Andrew Weatherall’s genius, and a good album.

      The 2010s, though? Try as I might, I’m not 17, so it’s hard to pretend to be definitive. The aforementioned Moon-Shaped Pool is pretty great. We’re both fans of To Pimp a Butterfly, of course, and Kamasi Washington’s sister album The Epic is great, too. Continuing to work backwards, Run The Jewels 2 and Aphex’s Syro are excellent, but not epochal?

      Then we get deep into the overwork/stroke/skint years. But This Is Happening sticks out, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day the answer is David Comes to Life?

      Song? Get Lucky? Uptown Funk? For that feeling of time and place, Call Me Maybe. I love Can’t Stop The Feeling, and it scans nicely with Don’t Stop Believing. But if we’re really looking for the Don’t Stop Believing of the 2010s, it’s gotta be Adele’s Hello. amirite?!

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