Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pop! What is it Good For?

Lots of programmes about English pop music since World War Two on BBC4 in the past couple of weeks, some of them featuring the usual lazy mix of received wisdom and the same old clips of footage you’ve seen a million times before. Paul Morley though can usually be relied on for some intelligent perspective and I enjoyed his Pop! What is Good For?

At one point Morley asked Robert Wyatt what a pop song is for, in the context of his memories of the first wave of pop in the 1950s and specifically Adam Faith’s What do you want? (1958). Wyatt’s answer, aside from some time and place-specific details, could surely still apply today: “it connects you with other people. You’ve got the scene here, you’ve got the cafe, the jukebox... you’ve got girls there with their pink lipstick on. And silence, except... awkward conversations. Then you put on the jukebox then suddenly the whole room, everybody knows it, everybody can tap their feet to it. It makes a big full warm living thing out of the room where it was cold separate isolated individuals before”.

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