Friday, 5 December 2014

How do they cope?

What a difference a day makes. I left the house early this morning to buy milk, and was met by a powder blue sky and a low watery sun which was turning the tops of the trees the colour of copper and brass. The birds were singing. The squirrels were stock-piling. The balance of the world had been reconfigured!

I started working on Brass at 8.45am, and the task instantly became so mind-numbing, that I started to give myself little treats as incentives for completing another section of the score. The incentives were tragic. On one occasion I allowed myself to wash up a cup on the draining board, on another, I cleaned the bathroom sink! I was talking to myself at one stage, offering up words of encouragement. I believe this is one of the curses of a freelancer who sits on his own for much of the day. Heaven knows what I'll be like when I'm 80.

I took myself out for lunch, by which point the whether had turned nasty. It was raining great blobs of freezing water and the birds had definitely stopped singing in my garden!

Whilst sitting in the cafe, The Name of the Game came on the radio. It was a treat to hear because it's not one of ABBA's most famous hits. I think many people would actually be surprised to know that it reached number one, particularly in the light of the fact that Thank For the Music and Money, Money, Money didn't.

This got me thinking about that very select group of pop artists who have had multiple number one hits, so I had a quick shufty at the Guiness Book of Records to see who'd had more British number one's than ABBA (who had 9. I'm such a chart geek...) I wasn't at all surprised to find the top three were Elvis, The Beatles and Cliff Richard, or that the top six included Madonna and Take That, but what astonished me was that Westlife equalled Cliff in 3rd place! What kind of insanity is that? I looked at the list of their number one singles; a tragic mish-mash of over-produced, asinine pop pastiches and cover versions (including a song by ABBA which ABBA hadn't even managed to take to number one.) I started to wonder what on earth went wrong with pop music in the late nineties and early naughties, and realised that everything generated in the name of pop in those days was cynically manufactured. The songs, the bands, the looks, the marketing, the blonde women playing their violins, even the chart performances, when the record labels discovered they could even manipulate that! It didn't even matter if you couldn't sing. Formulas took over. Experimentation died. For an entire decade the record-buying public was sucked into the scam. Fortunately, I get the sense that this trend is now coming to an end, but the days of cutting-edge sound experimentation at Abbey Road are over. Sadly, Abbey Road is now the place the oligarchs book for a fancy office karaoke party.

I sat in the cafe at Jackson's Lane this afternoon. Anything for a change of scenery! There was a children's ballet class going on in the room next to me. Periodically the door would fly open and a mother would rush out clutching a child clad in pink Lycra, who'd either wet itself or couldn't stand because it had such a terrible tummy ache. The noise coming from within the room was plainly something from a horror movie. A tinkling piano, the almost constant roar of weeping, wailing and the general gnashing of teeth. Would it be safe to say that little girls don't actually like ballet? I mean, that certainly wasn't the sound of pleasure, it was the massacre of the flamin' innocents! I really don't understand how mothers cope with this. I mean, that's your life for five years isn't it? Noise. Snot. Tears. Wee. Vomit.

All manner of technical things went wrong as I sat in the cafe. Then I spilt coke on my computer. Then I dropped a glass and cut my finger. Then I got so frantically stressed that I took myself to the gym and ran 5km without noticing! When I left the gym I saw the full moon, like a huge evil torch in the sky. No one's gonna tell me that this wasn't a factor in the mayhem!

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