Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
Write The Fucking Manual
Most of the important turning points in pop music have come from errors, thefts, frauds or tricks played by pretentious conceptualists bent on calculated inauthenticity.
These gestalt shifts, which other musicians ignore at the price of their relevance, all have something in common. They are often based on misunderstandings by people on the margins of the scene who don't really know the rules. They come to life in recording studios under the hands of 'inept' people who seem to lack the technical skills needed to make 'good' records and are too bored or stoned to 'read the fucking manual'... although sometimes later they write one, turning a regular chaotic invasion of leopards into part of the temple's sacred ritual.
These opportunists, schizos, and crazies, far from expressing roots, solidarity or sincerity, are trying to be something or somewhere they're not supposed to: a different race, a different place, in the wrong face.
I'll say it again: In the end soul itself is the longing of the soul-less for redemption. There is no purer motive than the desire for impurity. You get to change things, to rewrite the rule book, only if you give yourself at least the chance, the license, the right, to fuck everything up.
Pop Error: Rerouting
1956: Elvis Presley steals black music and sells it (a lot of it) to white people.
1963: The Rolling Stones, straight white men, start singing, dancing and talking like black gay men.
1965: Bob Dylan, a Jewish intellectual fake yokel folk singer, goes electric.
1966: Lee Scratch Perry puts the background into the foreground and invents dub.
1966: Serge Gainsbourg throws an aniseed fizzbomb into the superbland Eurovision Song Contest with a song about semen trickling down a young girl's throat.
1966: The Monkees, a fake band, have real hits.
1968: The Velvet Underground put Brill Building songwriting skills together with all the wrong subjects: heroin, death, transvestism.
1968: Dr Robert Moog assists various people to imagine what would have happened if Bach had had transistors instead of valves in his organ.
1969: The Archies become the first cartoon band to make it to number one.
1974: Kraftwerk abandon the avant garde and start making laughably literal-minded synthesiser songs celebrating roads, radios, trains and computers.
1975: David Bowie makes an album of what he calls Plastic Soul and is the first white artist to be invited to appear on Soul Train.
1977: Devo remake the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction as algebra.
1978: John Lydon kills punk by switching from rock to dub with Public Image Ltd.
(Not everybody gets the message immediately. Sonic Youth ironically call 1992 'the year punk broke America' and Kurt Cobain commits suicide to prove his integrity).
1979: Neil Innes invents Oasis and all the other 90s PoMo death-of-rock tribute bands with his Beatles pastiche The Rutles. First and best.
1980: Brian Eno makes Possible Musics with Jon Hassell and My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with David Byrne, records which use sampled voices instead of vocals, and blend third world and hi tech. (King Sunny Ade does the same from the other side of the continental curtain with Synchro System.)
1982: Pallid goth rockers New Order suddenly become the most inept and alienated disco band ever, and release a record consisting of the glorious sound of the group failing to master the programming of their drum machine. Blue Monday becomes the biggest selling 12 inch single of all time.
1983: Michael Jackson's face becomes a bare-faced and beautiful lie. With Planet Rock, Arthur Baker introduces Afrika Bambaata to Kraftwerk (so stiff they're funky, so white they're black) and invents hip hop. Malcolm McLaren's loopy Jewish hip hop album Duck Rock leads, eventually, to the Beastie Boys and other surrealists changing rap's deadend braggardry into lyrics about Dutch pancakes and winning at Boggle.
1984: Morrissey, whilst doing everything in his considerable power to stimulate his audience into a frenzy of sexual desire for him, lies that he is celibate and has no chance of attracting a lover.
1985: MIDI sequencing arrives: the normal way to make music is now to steal little fragments of other people's records with samplers.
(1994: I walk into a studio session with Bertrand Burgalat and Louis Philippe and am shocked to see they're not using MIDI and samplers! By now it almost seems wickedly immoral not to have a computer in charge.)
1986: At a time when the average snare drum sounds like an avalanche in a canyon, Prince makes Kiss without any reverb. Surely some mistake?
1987: The Gypsy Kings make fake ethnic music for tapas bars in Fulham and S Express start the 70s revival. The Kopyright Liberation Front (KLF) start the death of copyright by deliberately mis-spelling the word.
1988: Milli Vanilli admit they've only been pretending to sing.
1989: De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising. All that hard black attitude and sexy gangsta threat gets (thank god!) wasted when rap turns into Sesame Street.
1990: This Is Spinal Tap. All members of all rock bands who see this movie (and they all do, it's compulsory viewing on every tour bus) realise instantly that now, henceforth and forever everything they do, play and say is utter and total kitsch.
1991: Lenny Kravitz makes the first self-consciously retro record by using only analog technology. Rotterdam Termination Source unleash Poing, the reductio ad absurdum of hardcore techno. It goes 'Poing, poing, poing...'
1994: Beck, a blond white geek, raps in Spanish about being a loser.
1995: Towa Tei makes global sci-fi valium the drug of choice with Future Listening.
1996: The Mike Flowers Pops' version of 'Wonderwall' is an intricate speculative fiction about time and context, and the joke is that it reveals its source to be just as fakely postmodern, if slightly less intelligent. Cornelius makes 69/96, paving the way for the Disneyrock landmark Fantasma.
1997-9: Daft Punk, Air, Cassius misunderstand the genres of disco, lounge and funk because they're too young and come from the wrong part of the world. Special award for Daft Punk's almost Brechtian application of filters.
1999: Momus invents patronage pop. Integrity is ruined. Again.