Happy Birthday is the worse song there is, because you only ever hear it sung by people who would never, never otherwise attempt choral singing. But this song, they do attempt, with a combination of extreme shitness and the excruciating embarrassment that comes with everyone knowing that they are perpetrating extreme shitness upon one another. This ghastly song reaches its nadir of ghastliness with that high note towards the end: Happy Birthday dear … whoever. Ghastly. Totally, totally ghastly. I have never heard Happy Birthday not sung ghastlily.
And then came last night. Last night I attended GodDaughter2’s birthday party, here. GodDaughter2 is studying how to sing, at the Royal College of Music, and so were the majority of those also present at the party. Oh, there were some civilians present, but the heart of it was singers. So there I was just sitting there, spouting rubbish to some poor defenceless singer, who had to listen to me because I am GodDaughter2’s Godfather, when, guess what: Happy Birthday starts up, behind me. I do not turn to look, thank goodness, because I am a very poor judge of singing when I am looking at it being sung. I just listen. And as soon as it gets under way, I realise that, for once, the Happy Birthday bit at the end is going to be sung not just non-shittily, but actually well, really well. So I don’t just enjoy that bit when it finally arrives, I am able to relish beforehand how good it was going to be. It was the opposite, in other words, of how Happy Birthday usually happens, when all present know beforehand how shit it will be, especially the last bit. and then have to listen to how shit that last bit especially duly is.
So Happy Birthday last night was … well, St Matthew Passion, eat your heart out. It was glorious. The high note was nailed to perfection by all who attempted it, and there were also harmonies. And I did not see this coming. I had forgotten all about Happy Birthday. It all happened in a rush. And when something that is usually ghastly is instead glorious, the glory is at least twice as glorious.
The entire party was, so far as I could judge after one champagne and two pints of lager (to get how that would be for you, multiply by three – I have a low alcohol threshold): really good. But even if the only thing about it that was good had been Happy Birthday, it would still have been great to have been there.
All of us who know anything of the broader picture of art and its history have what we know to be blind spots, in the form of things we know to have merit, to be significant, to have an intelligent audience, but which we personally can’t stand. Great, great, glad you love it, just don’t make me look at it, listen to it, etc.
My big artistic blind spot is jazz. Especially recent jazz, jazz perpetrated in my own life time, by drugged up artists more concerned with hiding from the shambles of their ruined and soon-to-end lives than with making proper tunes for a potentially wider audience. There you go. I can’t even write about jazz – can’t even think about it – without hurling abuse at it. (Early and badly recorded jazz with proper tunes, that I quite like. But, like many who hate a lot of classical music but might also strongly like some of it, I know too little about it all and don’t know where to start.)
Today, however, it occurred to me that there are plenty of things which I can’t stand actually experiencing, but which I love to read about. Most of history is ghastly, but I like reading history. And consider, in particular: war. I’d hate to actually be in a war, but I love to read about war, all the more so because war is so bloody horrible and I can congratulate myself on having throughout my life totally avoided all direct involvement in it.
Prompted by an amazon.co.uk email (amazon already knowing of my interest in a particular musical author (see below later in this sentence)), I have just ordered a couple of books by Ted Gioia, about jazz. (I quoted Gioia on the subject of JS Bach in this earlier posting here.) That way, I can learn lots about jazz, without having to listen to the bloody stuff.
I have labelled this photo “NearlyEverything” because for me, it has nearly everything. Scaffolding, roof clutter ancient and modern, a crane, Magic Hour light, the lot. Well, not the lot, there are things I like that are not present in this photo. But a lot of the lot.
There is even present a favourite item of London public sculpture, in the form of the statue of Mercury that adorns a building on the north bank of the River called Telephone House. If you follow that link, you’ll learn nothing about this sculpture being there. But it is.
Googling for “mercury statue” is greatly confused by the fact that a statue of pop singer Freddie Mercury has recently been on display outside the Dominion Theatre, across the road from Centre Point.
I am Old, but I have made enough friends among the Young for me to be able to twist Young arms and mostly get them to do all this for me. The other day a Young Person agreed to get a copy of this CD for me. (I only buy CD’s on line from Amazon, and this CD is not on Amazon.) If I had tried to buy this CD, I would probably have spent longer failing to accomplish this than I will take listening successfully to the CD.
One of the things I like about living in London is that if I want to buy tickets for something, I can go there beforehand, and buy them, the twentieth century way.
Increasingly, I find that trying to visit any “visitor attraction” is starting to resemble trying to get on an airplane. And as McIntyre explains, booking beforehand on your computer is just as bad.
A good bit, concerning those never-read “terms and conditions”:
I’m slightly worried that in five years time iTunes are going to show up at my door and say: “We own this house now.”
And don’t get me started on passwords. Just watch him speaking (for me) about passwords.
I don’t know why there are big black bits above and below Michael McIntyre. If anyone can suggest a way to get rid of these that I am capable of doing, I would be most grateful.
Behold the killing fields that lie before us: Bob Dylan (78 years old); Paul McCartney (77); Paul Simon (77) and Art Garfunkel (77); Carole King (77); Brian Wilson (77); Mick Jagger (76) and Keith Richards (75); Joni Mitchell (75); Jimmy Page (75) and Robert Plant (71); Ray Davies (75); Roger Daltrey (75) and Pete Townshend (74); Roger Waters (75) and David Gilmour (73); Rod Stewart (74); Eric Clapton (74); Debbie Harry (74); Neil Young (73); Van Morrison (73); Bryan Ferry (73); Elton John (72); Don Henley (72); James Taylor (71); Jackson Browne (70); Billy Joel (70); and Bruce Springsteen (69, but turning 70 next month).
For me, the mere physical death of all these oldies will mean little. David Bowie died a bit ago, but I only noticed because there was a sign on the BT Tower saying this. I like photoing the BT Tower, so I photoed this sign. Then I photoed him on some stamps. But the Bowie that matters to me is the Bowie that was recorded. And that will live on more than long enough to suit me. On the rare occasions when I have attended live events at which a big name rocker and roller performed, I have been very disappointed. If I die and wake up at a pop festival, I will know that there is a God, and that He has consigned me to Hell.
Even the sight of Paul McCartney, all died hair and skin moistener, who ought to be on but is not on this list, can’t put me off his wonderful vocal contributions to the Beatles tracks he sang on.
But, one thing I was glad to learn from this list was that “The Molly-Ringwald-serenading lead singer of the Psychedelic Furs” (he sang “Pretty in Pink”) was someone called Richard Butler. He now looks like this lady.
On July 23rd, Darren and I went to the Oval to watch Surrey lose to Middlesex. I photoed signs, and I photoed a drone, and that was about the half of it, if by that you mean about 0.5% of it.
As earlier noted, we got there with lots of time to spare and to spend taking in all the incidental sights and sounds of the Oval before the actual game got going. Which meant that when we reached our seats, the entire place (not just the place we were in) was nearly empty.
Darren had purchased seats for us in something called Bedser Upper, in honour of this Surrey legend. And the first thing we noticed when we reached our seats was how very cool it was, compared to how hot it might have been. We could see everything perfectly, yet we would be sheltered from the sun:
Remember, this was was the hottest day ever in London since the dawn of creation. 38 degrees centigrade, and a sure sign of Gaia’s Wrath To Come, to punish Sinful Man for burning too much petrol, gas, oil, etc., and for being too happy and comfortable and well off. Humanity used to be a bunch of slave labourers. Now it is a much vaster throng of, pretty much, sports fans with, compared to olden times, part-time jobs. And the sort of people who disapprove of that disapprove of it by talking about such things as how very hot it was, in London, on that day. And it was indeed very, very hot.
But, not quite so hot in Bedser Upper. Darren had chosen very well.
Later we realised that we were also sitting inside a giant loudspeaker, into which dementedly deafening pop music would be inserted for the duration of the game. Such is modern (very) limited overs cricket. But, we agreed that this was a price well worth paying, for the lack of extreme hotness.
I love the architecture of the Oval. (By which of course I mean the Kia Oval.) So much more interesting that some dreary built-all-at-once football stadium. The big sweep of that big new stand, with its big curved roof, on the left. The classical nobility of the ancient gasometer. The magnificently tall pavilion, on the right. And in the distance, occasional glimpses of the Big Things of central London. What a place.
And, just as divertingly, for me, before the game got started there were lots of interesting rituals being played out by a total of getting on for a hundred people. WIth other sports, a lot of this stuff is hidden away behind the scenes. But with cricket, if you get there early enough, you see it all. More about all that in further postings here about this wonderful night out, Real Soon Now.
Friday, so cats and kittens, or other creatures, and again, I go to 6k to get my posting here sorted on what is turning out to be a rather busy day, involving claims by my computer that its Antivirus Protection has Expired. Not what I want.
So, yes, other creatures, very other creatures, in the form of an octopus and a mantis: