Film Review: Freedom

Australian musical theatre star, Peter Cousens, has reinvented himself as a film director, and his debut feature is not a cheap slasher horror or gritty suburban crime thriller, but a big budget drama tackling important social and historical issues, shot in the US with a big name cast. Aspiring filmmakers should be jealous. I know I am.

Coming hot on the heels of Django Unchained and other slavery themed productions, it is easy to dismiss Freedom as Twelve Years A Slave-Lite but Cousens’ feature is a very different creature altogether.

Screenwriter Timothy A. Chey runs two plot lines in parallel. The first is set in 1856, following slave Samuel Woodward (Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his family as they escape from a plantation in Richmond, Virginia and begin their dangerous journey to Canada on the Underground Railroad. Not far behind throughout their journey is slave hunter, Plimpton (William Sadler).

Almost 100 years earlier, we meet ship captain John Newton (Bernhard Forcher) who is struggling with his faith and conscience as he transports slaves, including Samuel’s great grandfather, to the New World.

This reviewer found the second plot line to be the least effective. Although developing a human connection to his cargo through a series of incidents at sea, Newton’s final expression of kindness is to pen the hymn, “Amazing Grace”, not save anybody from their hell-like future existence. I suppose the song does provide Samuel and family some comfort and motivation a century later. It may also have helped my understanding of the film had I been aware that John Newton composed the iconic song. Pardon my ignorance, I assumed it was written by God.

Samuel’s tale, on the other hand, is a gripping tale of escape and near recapture, and I was willing Gooding Jnr. and co to get across the border throughout the whole 98 minute runtime.

Although not a musical, Freedom uses music, in particular singing, as a metaphor for the humanity that we all share. I was moved by some of the numbers, sung in their entirety, such as the joyous singalong between the escapees and a troupe of theatre performers, including Australian musical theatre headliner Tony Sheldon. Less successful were a few songs, performed out of context, musical theatre style, especially Samuel’s wife Vanessa (Sharon Leal) breaking into tune whilst walking inside a church. The result was being snapped out of my engrossment and remembering that I was watching a film.

Freedom was shot on location in Connecticut. It looks beautiful, courtesy of cinematographer Dean Cundey (Back to the Future, Apollo 13).

The cast is wonderful. I have no idea how Cousens’ managed to enlist such a lineup for his first feature. Cuba Gooding Jnr. really delivers in his best performance in years as his Samuel struggles between the choice of revenge or freedom. William Sadler is capably menacing as a slave hunter with ethics. Even one of my favourites, Terrence Mann (The Dresden Files, A Chorus Line) makes an appearance.

Peter Cousens has concocted a beautiful and haunting film which will appeal to a “Best Exotic Marigold” audience. Despite its religious undertones which frankly did not bother a non-believer like me, Freedom still has plenty to say about slavery, an issue which is just as relevant now as it was in 1748 and 1856.

Advertisements
Published in: on September 6, 2014 at 00:26  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Christmas Albums 2013

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th December 2013.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Such a shame then, that the holiday season has to come with such awful music. That’s right, it’s Christmas album season. Every December, musicians around the globe have just a few short weeks to cash in with generally horrible albums which are completely useless 11 months of the year.

BYO earplugs folks. Let’s trawl through the latest holiday music offerings competing for your, or at least your grandmother’s, hard earned present money.

First up is Leona Lewis, 2006 winner of The X Factor in the UK. Christmas, With Love is a Motown style album of traditional fare, such as O Holy Night, Winter Wonderland and Silent Night as well as some original material. Lewis has a similar voice to Mariah Carey and the album could easily be mistaken for one of Carey’s mega successful Christmas releases. For my money though, if it’s a Motown Christmas you’re after, you must listen to A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector. It’s the best Christmas album ever.

Typing of Motown, Australian vocal group Human Nature have also unleashed a Christmas album, imaginatively titled The Christmas Album. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I was surprised to be confronted by huge advertisements for their Motown show at The Venetian, proclaiming their “modern twist” on the genre. I suppose a quartet of squeaky clean white guys from Australia performing music of a predominantly black origin is a “modern twist”. I look forward to their upcoming negro spirituals album.

Human Nature have been running their Vegas act for the past 4 years. Good luck to them I say. And thank you for permanently performing so far away from me. Back to the task at hand. If your idea of a good time is being stuck in an elevator during the Christmas sales, then this is the album for you.

Remember the band Heart? They had a huge hit in the eighties with All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You, but have actually been around since the early seventies. Well sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson are back with a new Christmas EP, catchily entitled Heart Christmas Single 2013. No longer the hard rocking act of yesteryear, they’ve teamed up with soul crooner Aaron Neville and eighties heartthrob Richard Marx on two holiday themed original songs. This one is strictly for the fans, and anyone who thinks that all they wanna do is have a nice cup of tea and a lie down. File under bland.

What’s better than a Christmas album? The answer is a Christmas single. At least it’s all over in 3 minutes. This year Susan Boyle teams up with Elvis Presley on O Come All Ye, Faithful. The recording sessions must have been a blast. I actually feel bad for the King. It’s pretty hard to object to having your legacy besmirched when you’ve been dead for 36 years. Please don’t buy this single. It will only encourage them.

My pick of the litter is the debut single from Abigail Breslin, the former child star of Little Miss Sunshine. Still an actress and now a budding musician, 17 year old Breslin has a sweet voice and Christmas In New York is a pretty song. I’m not completely certain that a Christmas single is a good way to kickstart a music career, but hey, who needs credibility in the music business at this time of the year?

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:37  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

New Music Roundup – August 2013

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6th August 2013.

On a recent trip to the States, I was disappointed to find that the record shop had become extinct. I wandered the shopping districts of NYC and Las Vegas, only to find that the major music retailers I remembered from previous visits had disappeared. Only the iconic Amoeba Music store in Los Angeles remained.

So for those of you who remember albums, here’s my rundown of the latest offerings.

The Pet Shop Boys have been producing their unique brand of synth pop for the past 22 years. Their twelfth studio album is entitled Electric and is a welcome return to the dance floor after the joyless creative failure of Elysium last year. Reminiscent of their Disco series of albums, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have rediscovered the right combination of beats per minute, catchy synth hooks and quirky lyrics to appeal to the Tony Manero is all of us. Electric is the first release through X 2 (“times two”), their own label.

Remember Lou Bega? In 1999, he hit the jackpot worldwide with Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of…) and was subsequently never heard from again, thankfully. This week, his fifth studio album hit shelves and I’m predicting that next week, it will hit bargain bins. Entitled A Little Bit 80s, Bega gives his favourite songs from the decade without taste a little bit of the Mambo No. 5 treatment. That means dancehall style grooves and lots, and I mean lots, of synthesized brass hits. Unfortunately, Bega’s low vocal register means it is impossible to sing along with the tunes. Red Red Wine is not a complete disaster but best avoid his version of Olivia Newton-John’s Physical.

Hey, how good was Madonna’s last album? Nope, I have no idea either. Along with the rest of world, I didn’t buy it. For those interested in the other end of the Madonna timeline, an album of largely unreleased recordings has emerged under the title, The Early Years. I would suggest an alternative title: The Unlistenable Years. This collection of stodgy synthesizer tracks with avant garde German artist Otto Von Wernherr features Madonna vocals in the form of barely present samples accompanying a horribly augmented male singer. Imagine the vocal stylings from Taco’s Putting on the Ritz with Madonna on backing duties. Yep, it’s that bad.

Following a bizarre album and tour with New Kids on the Block, billed collectively as NKOTBSB, the Backstreet Boys return with a new album, In a World Like This. With Kevin Richardson back on board, the original line-up returns with a collection of inoffensive acoustic guitar riddled power ballads. Unfortunately, there’s very little in the way of hooks, making it one for the fans only. As crazy as it sounds, I’d recommend instead the also newly released offering from NKOTB (no longer new or kids) entitled 10.

Published in: on September 11, 2013 at 00:09  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Concert Review: Paul Simon Live – 2 April 2013 Sydney Entertainment Centre

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 9th April 2013.

Many, many moons ago, for my twelfth birthday party, I compiled a wish list of cassettes that I wanted to receive from my family and schoolmates. For the uninitiated, cassettes were the precursor to compact discs and had a tendency to melt in the car on hot days in summer. They were also much harder to use as drink coasters.

My list was varied and contained just as many albums that would be considered classics as embarrassments. For every Crowded House debut album, there was a Rick Astley disaster. For every Kick by INXS, there was a Tiffany album. As always, I will deny owning these terrible albums if asked (I’m still talking to you, Doug, the newspaper guy).

One cassette I loved from the moment I pressed play was Graceland by Paul Simon. My gateway track was the hit single You Can Call Me Al, which featured a music video starring Chevy Chase, back when he was funny (he later became funny again in the hit comedy series Community but sadly left the show last year, which for fans like me wasn’t funny).

Graceland was the amalgam of Simon’s pop and folk roots and his discovery of South African music. Every track is a gem and the album, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is still on regular rotation in my home and car (on CD even).

So it was with great excitement that I witnessed a 70 year old Paul Simon in concert at the soon-to-be-demolished Sydney Entertainment Centre last Tuesday night. I missed his support act, Rufus Wainwright, but heard some audience members giving him scathing reviews in the foyer, so I may have dodged a bullet there.

Opening with the Graceland classic, Gumboots, it was clear that the capacity crowd were in for a musical treat. Simon’s eight piece multi-instrumentalist backing band was absolutely remarkable and recreated the sound of the Graceland tracks, in particular, flawlessly.

In his awkward introductory speech, Simon announced that he wanted to play an upbeat set, which was fine by me as I had just driven for three and a half hours from work and had the same journey ahead of me immediately after the concert. Hit after hit followed in rapid succession: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, The Obvious Child. Unfortunately, the overzealous security folk kept those wanting to dance in their assigned places, however, with a largely baby boomer audience, arthritis may have also been responsible for everyone else staying comfortably seated.

Simon performed six Graceland tracks during the show, including You Can Call Me Al, as well as songs from his earlier solo work right up to his new album, 2011’s So Beautiful or So What. He also performed some covers including a beautiful version of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.

Returning for his third encore, Simon announced that he felt like playing some Simon and Garfunkel tracks and sent us all home after two hours of pure musical bliss with joyful renditions of America, Homeward Bound and The Boxer. I might have shed a tear or two during the final track. I said “might have”, Doug.

Published in: on April 9, 2013 at 18:42  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Crowdfunding Conundrum

richard-cheese

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 12th March 2013.

In my very first column for the Central Western Daily way back in 2009, I discussed my interest in microloans via kiva.org. This fantastic non-profit organisation allows investors worldwide to collectively loan small amounts of money to entrepreneurs. No interest is charged by Kiva and when the loan is repaid, investors may reinvest their $25 share in another project.

Since then, this model of collective finance has become popular and is now known as crowdfunding. There are many different platforms for investors and entrepreneurs but the emphasis has shifted away from loans towards investment and incentives.

Music fans can purchase “parts” in musicians and bands through sellaband.com and receive limited edition CDs should enough investors pledge to fund a new project, usually an album. Kickstarter.com, pozible.com and indiegogo.com allow punters to invest in creative and technological projects in exchange for incentives.

There are literally thousands of projects available, from short films and theatre productions to books and inventions, each with its own range of incentives and offers. For a dollar or so, you might get a thank you acknowledgement online. For $20 – $50, you may receive a DVD, CD or t-shirt. For $1000 or more, you may receive an executive producer credit on a film, or a private gig with your chosen band.

Like all investments, there is an inherent risk. There have been reports of some entrepreneurs disappearing after funding has been released as well as complaints about extended delays with fulfilment of incentives.

One of the many success stories of crowdfunding has been lounge singer Richard Cheese, portrayed by Mark Jonathan Davis. With cheeky album titles such as I’d Like a Virgin, Aperitif for Destruction, Tuxicity and Lounge Against the Machine, Cheese has developed a cult following for his swinging arrangements of popular hits.

To date, two new Richard Cheese albums and a biography have been crowdfunded via kickstarter.com.  With a busy tour schedule, online merchandise store and worldwide fanbase, I assumed RC could be considered a successful independent musical act, so I was surprised to receive an email inviting me to participate in another Richard Cheese crowdfunding project, corneal transplant surgery.

Cheese is seeking $19500 to help fund the surgery on his left eye. Cursed with congenital eye problems since birth, RC has been unable to get health insurance and had been saving towards the vision restoring operation until two unplanned abdominal surgeries over the past year wiped out his finances. With failing vision, it has become almost impossible to tour and music piracy has decreased his income from record sales.

After pledging $35 towards RC’s operation in exchange for a signed photo, I went for a quick scout around indigogo.com and found over 1000 different health related projects seeking funding, from assisting a stroke victim to return to work, to a couple wanting financial help to adopt twins.

I was floored.

A week later, I still have mixed feelings about crowdfunding shifting into the realms of health. Firstly, it’s a sad indictment of the American health system and I’m really glad I live in a country with Medicare. However, I’m impressed by the ingenuity of Richard Cheese and others to seek alternate means to improve their health. On the other hand, I’m concerned about the lack of fairness in an open market where the flashiest project may get more attention than others, which may be just as worthy. What do you do if you don’t have CDs and autographed photos to give away?

Anyway, whilst pondering the pros and cons of health crowdfunding, please visit indiegogo.com and send a few bucks towards my (or your new) favourite lounge singer, Richard Cheese.

Help Richard Cheese now

Never Tear Us Apart: An obituary to INXS

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 20th November 2012.

Aussie music fans were not at all stunned last week with the not particularly shocking announcement that INXS were calling it quits after 35 years as a touring act. On the final night of a tour supporting Matchbox Twenty in Perth, drummer Jon Farriss informed the Perth crowd that they were witnessing the last live performance of the band that at one time were Australia’s biggest musical exports.

My earliest memory of INXS involves dancing along to Original Sin during a sleepover at a mate’s house. The year was 1984. The album was Throbbin ’84 (on cassette). At the time, neither of us even knew how to pronounce INXS. As far as we were concerned they were “ink-sus” (rhyming with sphinxes).

A few years later, MTV arrived on our shores, though not as we know it today. Pay TV was still a few years away. MTV first aired in Australia as a three hour late Friday and Saturday night music show on the Nine Network, hosted by Richard Wilkins, complete with mullet. Each year, as a special, the MTV Music Awards was also broadcast. I still have the 1986 awards on videocassette somewhere which features an in form INXS performing What You Need.

In 1987, INXS released Kick and the rest is history. Selling over ten million copies worldwide, Kick is a perfect forty minutes of pop. Featuring the singles Need You Tonight, Devil Inside and Never Tear Us Apart, the album launched the band into the stratosphere and for a few short years INXS was arguably the biggest band in the world. I really must put the special edition Kick 25 reissue on my Christmas wish list. I love that album.

Flashforward to the mid-nineties and INXS had begun to lose their shine. Creatively the band had not been able to match Kick and sales had slumped. It was during preparations for their “comeback” tour in 1997 that Michael Hutchence committed suicide in a Sydney hotel room. I had front row centre tickets for the first of these comeback gigs at the State Theatre. What a bummer.

Rather than retire the INXS name, the remaining members continued to tour with a succession of singers, making them one of those rare creatures in the music industry: a band that transformed into their own cover act.

I finally caught INXS (with ex-Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens) live in Cardiff on a double bill with Blondie. It simply wasn’t the same. Michael Hutchence had a unique stage presence and charisma that was irreplaceable.

A little later, a new singer, Canadian J.D. Fortune was promoted to vocal duties via a TV talent search. Although his Michael Hutchence impersonation wasn’t bad, J.D. only lasted one album before being dropped for Irishman Ciaran Gribbin.

As far as I’m concerned, INXS ceased to exist in 1997 with the death of Hutchence. It has taken 15 years for the other band members to understand this but I think deep down most fans would agree with me. Just like The Doors without Jim Morrison or Queen without Freddie Mercury, INXS were simply not the same without their charismatic frontman.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 08:50  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Christmas Entertainer Humiliation: A Confession

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 11th December 2012.

Many moons ago, I played drums and sang with a moderately unsuccessful rock band. We were big in Japan. Well, I wasn’t, but the guitarist Scott was quite tall and well above the average height for Japanese men. One Christmas, the bass player Craig and I were hired to play a corporate Christmas party for a non-specific engineering company.

The theme for the party was medieval times and we were to be jesters. I instantly had a bad feeling about this, Han Solo style, when I was asked if either of us played the lute or pan flute. “Err, no,” I replied. “But Craig can play the guitar and I will sing.” At the time, we were both poor university students, and despite our reservations about the gig we were both skint and desperately needed the $300 appearance fee.

Besides, we only needed to dress up in tights and entertain the guests as they arrived at the function marquee set up in Parramatta Park. What was the worst that could happen? Well, the answer to that question is that the organiser could forget to mention that we also had to lead the party in a 20 minute Christmas carol sing-a-long.

I don’t know if you’ve ever attended a boozy corporate function, but trust me, the last thing you would ever want to do is sing carols. I take that back, the last thing you would ever want to do is sing carols with me. Even worse still, the function manager had requested that we also perform a version of John Williamson’s little known ditty, No-one Loves Brisbane like Jesus, replacing Brisbane with the name of the engineering company’s manager. This was going to be a massacre.

The pre-event entertaining went well. Craig and I sang some covers from our usual band set. I carried around a kiddie size guitar that I pretended to strum. No-one seemed to notice that we weren’t playing lutes or pan flutes. The tights were pretty comfortable.

At show time, we were led to the stage like lambs to the slaughter… lambs with little jester hats on their heads. By this time, the crowd was mid-dinner and well hydrated.  We introduced ourselves, invited the audience to sing along and launched into our first carol.

To be fair, they respected us enough as performers to not boo through the first minute. They were probably too shocked by the talent black hole on stage to make a noise. We must’ve looked hungry too because they started to throw bread rolls at us soon after. You can imagine the reception to our “special” comedy song about the company manager.

We somehow managed to get through the set and left the stage with our dignity intact. Actually, we left the stage with a half dozen dinner rolls each and no dignity.

In my short career as a jester, musician and corporate entertainer, that Christmas gig was the worst ever. I’ll never forget the jeers and humiliation. To this day, I have never hired an engineer from that firm. I’ve never needed the services of one either, but that’s not the point.

So this Christmas, spare a thought for mediocre performers everywhere. Wait until the end of the carol before jeering and always butter the bread rolls before throwing them.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 08:28  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Gangnam Style & Other Non-English One Hit Wonders

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th September 2012.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, or at least a rock without an internet connection, it’s been pretty hard to avoid a kooky music video from South Korean pop star, PSY. His high energy performance, along with its irresistible horse riding dance, has made the video to “Gangnam Style” a viral hit on YouTube with over 251 million views to date. The song is currently sitting at the top of the Australian iTunes downloads charts and has hit the top spot in 30 other countries. Start the clock. PSY’s fifteen minutes starts now.

In celebration of K-Pop (Korean pop music) hitting number one for the first (and most likely last) time in Australia, here are my five favourite one hit wonders that were (mostly) not sung in English.

5. 99 Luftballoons – Nena Ok, this one is a bit of a cheat. Originally recorded in German, 99 Luftballoons was a 1983 hit in Germany, which prompted an English language version a year later entitled 99 Red Balloons. It was this single which topped the Aussie and UK charts. Apparently the song is about children releasing a bunch of balloons (99 in fact) which float into the air and trigger a military scramble which results in nuclear annihilation. That must be why parents tie helium balloons to their kids at the Easter Show. It only takes a couple of kiddies to let go of their balloons and we’re all doomed.

4. The Ketchup Song (Aserejé) – Las Ketchup This ditty, sung in spanglish, topped the charts in 2002 and sold over 7 million copies worldwide. That’s an awful lot of CD singles in landfill. The four members of the group were all daughters of a famous Spanish flamenco guitarist known as The Tomato. Only three of them appeared in the music video because the fourth one was pregnant at the time. Insert your own tomato related joke here. The group followed up their hit single with a Christmas version of The Ketchup Song. What did we learn from this? Adding sleigh bells to an annoying song does not make it less annoying.

3. Macarena – Los Del Río Speaking of flogging a dead horse, this worldwide smash in 1995/96 was also followed up with a pointless Christmas version. Los Del Rio were essentially a Spanish lounge act who accidentally sold 11 million copies of their horrible song with its associated horrible dance. Fortunately the group broke up in 2007 before there could be any further accidents. Let’s not speak of this ever again.

2. La Bamba – Los Lobos East LA group Los Lobos topped the charts in the UK, US and Australia with their 1987 hit from the soundtrack to the Ritchie Valens biopic, La Bamba. Unlike Valen’s career, which lasted all of 8 months before his unfortunate death by gravity in 1959, Los Lobos are still recording but have not been a threat to the charts since La Bamba. Perhaps they should have considered a Christmas version?

1. Ça plane pour moi – Plastic Bertand Everything’s going well for me. Everything’s going well for me. Repeat this in French ad nauseam and you have yourself a hit single. In 1977, this punk rock novelty, with its bouncy music video, graced charts worldwide. It was recently revealed that Belgian Plastic Bertrand did not actually supply the vocals for this song. Producer Lou Deprijck was responsible but was deemed too unattractive to front the record. I guess everything wasn’t going so well for him.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:45  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour Review

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 11th September 2012.

Last month I finally fulfilled a lifetime dream. I sang live with The Beach Boys. Well, to be fair, I sang along with The Beach Boys. Close enough.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the surviving original members of the legendary Californian supergroup regrouped for a brand new studio album and world tour, which hit Australian shores in August. Their Sydney gig at Allphones Arena was almost sold out and I was lucky enough to acquire seats within metres of the stage.

The crowd was mostly baby boomers but I certainly wasn’t the youngest person there, although it’s possible that I was the youngest person there without my parents, or grandparents. A cashed up crowd, there was already lines twenty deep at the merchandise stand by the time I arrived at the arena. With t-shirts at $50 each, I’m sure there were plenty of punters spending their kids’ inheritance money to beef up The Beach Boys’ retirement fund.

Prior to the show, I had looked up some live clips of the band from the last time that they were all playing together – the late eighties. To my dismay, I stumbled across a concert when they were joined onstage by the Tanner Family. That’s right, The Beach Boys guest starred on an episode of the atrocious sitcom Full House in 1988 that culminated in a live concert vocal massacre of Kokomo and Barbara Ann. I sure hoped the band had gotten rid of their daggy eighties stage clothes and more importantly, left Danny, Joey and Uncle Jesse behind.

To my relief, The Beach Boys have updated their wardrobes to tasteful Hawaiian shirts (is that possible?) and are certainly up to date with technology. From my seat I was able to observe lead singer Mike Love check his mobile phone for messages before climbing the stairs to the stage at the start the show.

Joined by an ultra tight backing group featuring members from Brian Wilson’s solo touring band, the boys were in fine voice. Their trademark harmonies were glorious as they ploughed through a whopping 52 song set over two sets. Hit after hit, the band covered five decades of music from their early tunes about surfing, girls and cars right through to their sophisticated wall of sound masterpieces from the Pet Sounds and Smile albums.

Audience interaction was kept to a minimum with only a small amount of banter every couple of songs. Mike Love’s self-deprecating jokes about the band’s advanced age were predictable but funny. Most noticeable was the lack of any obvious camaraderie between the original band members. I guess after fifty years together on the tour bus, there isn’t much left to say.

Three hours with The Beach Boys went by in a flash and before I knew it, I was thrust back into the sterile foyer area to find that almost all of the merchandise was sold out. Not so fun fun fun.

If The Beach Boys make it to their 60th anniversary, you can be sure that I’ll be there to sing along with them, dance badly to their hits and buy my merchandise much earlier.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:07  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Nonsensical Pop Songs

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th June 2012.

I love a good pop song. Always have. Probably always will. As a kid, I’d hang out at the newsagency near my bus stop every weekday morning. Each fortnight, the latest issue of Smash Hits would hit the newsstands and I’d usually have it read by the time I got to school.

My favourite part of the magazine was the song words pages. At the time, there was no quick and easy method, such as the internet, to look up the lyrics to the latest pop songs. If you were lucky, a cassette sleeve might have the lyrics, but most of the time it came down to Smash Hits magazine or just listening to the song repeatedly until I worked out the words. Or at least thought I had worked out the words.

I still come across songs that I’ve been enjoying for decades and realise that I’ve been singing the wrong lyrics. How on earth did I think that Starship built this city on logs and coal? And it turns out that their pony doesn’t play the mamba…

Occasionally, I come across a pop gem that on scrutiny of the lyrics, appears to make absolutely no sense. The song probably has some meaning to the writer but every now and then, I’m certain that it’s all a conspiracy to make millions of people around the world sing ridiculous lyrics. Here are my top five prime offenders.

5. MMMBop – Hanson Cute as three cloned buttons, the Hanson brothers peaked at number one in 1997 with this ditty about well, nothing. The chorus is phonetic soup. On closer lyrical inspection, I think that an mmmbop is a unit of time. So in that case, it is safe to say that Hansonmania lasted about an mmmbop.

4. I Am the Walrus – The Beatles I know it’s hard to believe but there are actually bad Beatles songs. For every Hey Jude, there’s an Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Walrus sits somewhere in the middle. It’s almost as if the lyrics are simply a method of delivering a melody to your ears in the same way that corn chips are simply a method of delivering salsa. Is it homage to Lewis Carroll or a salad recipe? You decide.

3. Blue (Da Ba Dee) – Eiffel 65 Apparently Italian dance group Eiffel 65 wrote the tune first with the lyrics coming later. No kidding. This 1999 hit is about a man who lives in a blue world. A lot of his stuff is blue too. How interesting. As you can see by the title, those looking for further explanation need go no further than the clarification of the title in brackets. The Teletubbies really need to stop writing songs.

2. We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel Yes, I know. It’s a list of historical events. The problem is that the chorus doesn’t really give the verses any perspective. You don’t believe me? Try replacing the lyrics from the verses with your shopping list. It’s pretty much as meaningful as the original.

1. Africa – Toto Surely this ditty must have some deep spiritual meaning? It mentions rain in Africa, doesn’t it? Sing along with me. “It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you. There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do. I bless the rains down in Africa. Gonna take some time to do the things we never have.” Nope, I have no idea either.