Musical Associations

April 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Well, I guess that’s one mystery solved. I’ve been a bit bemused over the past week watching from afar the strange, intertwined, convoluted mourning and celebration of Margaret Thatcher’s death in the UK. Not bemused by either the death or the divisions it revealed in a society, no, what threw me was the choice of song chosen to celebrate her passing. Ding Dong the Witch is Dead  was hardly the most subtle of ridicules. Instead, I’d thought, a truly ironic taunt would have been the endless playing of Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris. The irony of the insult would have laid in the fact that Mrs Thatcher’s favourite song, while shallow and maudlin, was nevertheless an anthem to altruism. An attribute which, I’m sure, however hard the pathologist may have searched during the post mortem, was remarkably absent from Thatcher’s DNA.

The dearth of any single note of Rolf Harris’s masterpiece can now be revealed as a vast intricate establishment conspiracy to protect the Iron Lady’s reputation. It has been reported that Mrs Thatcher held the present UK Prime Minister in contempt to such an extent that she told friends she was determined not to die while he was still in power. Now this is from a woman who over many years had a close friendship with Jimmy Savile who would sometimes share New Year’s Eve with her and her family. Look, I happen to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, Apollo 11 did land on the moon and that the Bermuda Triangle is merely a variation on the Brazilian wax but I’ll take some convincing that it was more than a coincidence that the day after Thatcher’s funeral it was revealed that Rolf Harris had been arrested and questioned in relationship to historic sex offences. Apparently the maestro of the didgeridoo and wobble board was first questioned over six months earlier and while the media knew of the police concerns, these were not made public until after her funeral. Surely its clear, it’s one thing for Tina to belittle her fellow Tory Prime minister and to intertwine her personal life with that of Jimmy Savile but it would have been an entirely different matter for her to have gone to her death in the knowledge that the singer of her favourite song was a suspected sex offender. Poor Rolf, he must have thought he was safe in the arms of the Establishment but now she’s gone he’ll start to regret that he didn’t tie his kangaroo down a little more firmly.

Of course, that’s the problem with associations, once you make them it’s hard to shake them. I start out having a few mild reflections on the death of Mrs Thatcher and now I can’t get the words of that damn song Two Little Boys out of my head. I suspect you don’t forget associations but perhaps you can progressively replace them, so I’d better give it a go. The miner’s strike, the poll tax and Las Malvinas will be nothing in terms of ill will towards Thatcher if I continue to carry this song in my head for much longer. Where to start? I guess in tune with her need to infantilise those who weren’t “one of us” and the need to rid myself of two little boys I should perhaps begin in my childhood.

It’s a concomitant of growing up that we learn to hate our parents’ music. Right now there are a few million toddlers crawling around the carpet and learning to build Lego towers who will one day hate Adele with an entirely undeserved venom. I was pretty good at wiping the generational musical slate clean and not a lot pre mid-sixties survived the purge. One ancient artefact did survive though from a gloomy Sunday afternoon  watching an old black and white documentary about the ’30s with my mother. The fact that at the time Cliff Richard was still making the occasional foray into the charts did to my mind rather prove my adolescent assertion that cool was somehow only born in the mid- sixties fortuitously just in time for my adolescence. I was wrong, in the gloom of that afternoon I was mesmerised by this edgy little crooner who burst from the TV full of humour, bounce and charisma. Mum had to explain who he was, so now when I want to remember her I click on YouTube and watch a few old Al Bowlly clips. He still bounces, thanks Mum.

You grow up, you go away and, if you are lucky, you leave some of your childhood behind but Al stuck around. He’s been joined by a few others along the way; I half fall in love with any woman called Donna just because I once did a few months’ bar work with an aging rocker with a compulsion to play Richie Valens at the drop of a bar towel. Kris Kristofferson also creeps in now and then and always reminds me of standing on the deck of a boat as it pulled into Freemantle, listening to a rip- off tape of Sunday Morning Coming Down  that I’d bought in Singapore. The associations kick in again, the girl I was with that day had been brought up in an orphanage outside Rockhampton. As we listened to Kris K she told me, with some embarrassment, that her favourite performer was actually Rolf Harris because he’d once visited the orphanage and been kind to the kids! Oh Jake the Peg, where have you not travelled to with your extra leg. Mind you, Rolf, just on the basis of that girl’s affection for you I’m inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt (Two Little Boys excluded of course).

This desensitisation isn’t working too well, is it? What else can I throw into the mix? Pulp’s Common People has always been a stalwart companion owing to its timely intervention in making me realise I’d become part of someone else’s lifestyle experiment. The list could go on but I’m becoming terrified that each acquisition will become  contaminated by Rolf’s ode to altruism, so trying another tack I will turn to YouTube. The associations there are even more oblique. Remembering the epitaph on a Belfast wall “Iron Lady, Rust in Peace” I recalled Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps and go in search of him. He was there in all his splendid sulkiness but in the midst of his clips there is also a smattering of clips by a band from Sydney called Sans Normality. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of them and they seem to be just starting out. Not the sort of music I’d usually think of listening to yet it was just right for the moment. Such energy, enthusiasm and optimism. Okay, it looked like the lead guitarist had overdosed on Heavy Metal but he sure as shit knows how to lay down a cord. Anyhow, it wasn’t his fault if as a baby he was tied in his cot as his parents smoked dope and loudly and incessantly playing AC/DC (I can only conclude that not everyone  overrides the musical tyranny of their parents).Sans Normality, great band; at least one of their songs, Laundry Window, deserves to become a classic. It’s joined my list and is already nestling in with Common People. So, Sans Normality, I’m not sure who you are but the next time I’m in Sydney I’ll call by wherever you’re playing and offer to buy you blokes a drink. Oh, and thanks, you seem to have purged me of Two Little Boys.     

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