The Public Gets What the Public Wants

the “funny” thing about Syd Barrett dying was the way the BBC announced it on Five Live; they got a bloke in from the finance and business department to talk about Pink Floyd, purely on the basis that he was a big fan, and therefore “qualified” to talk about their music, to give public eulogy to Syd and discuss his legacy.

-I’ve never really liked Pink Floyd much, they always struck me as music for accountants.


-The accountant dude at the BBC who talked about Pink Floyd didn’t actually talk about their music, just their… mythology, their backstory, the tragedy of Syd, the fact that the rest of Floyd went on to be mega successful by writing songs about Syd going fruit-loop and boarding up his windows and how they wished he hadn’t taken acid. It strikes me that this is what Pink Floyd are for.

-Because you can’t very well talk about their music, especially if you’re an accountant.

-“Yeah, there’s a few bits of… real-life sound, like money clinking… and some nice stereo separation… and some very drawn-out guitar solos, which are quite beautiful. A bit trippy, if you listen to them while smoking a spliff… there’s a saxophone solo too, and three minutes of a G chord or something… and then, a few years later, some stuff with a children’s choir. No, there’s not really a great melody or a hook anywhere. I think.”

-Everything Pink Floyd did, Funkadelic did earlier, better, more creatively, with better grooves.

-Journey vs. destination.

-In a stroke of irony so delicious, a brand new BMW sought its revenge for my mauling of modern cars by pulling out of a roundabout into our little car.

-I don’t read much music journalism because not much music journalism actually gets into the nuts and bolts of what music sounds like.

-A lot of it appears to be about cultural contextualisation. Which is alright. But doesn’t do much for the ears.

-Or the SOUL!

-I never used to believe in “soul.” I’m not sure I do now.

-The theory being that Western capitalist Christian culture operates a divide-and-conquer tactic that seeks to divorce “you” as a thinking, feeling, spiritual entity, from “your body,” as in the pipes and scales and gunge that carries around said spiritual entity. Hence people talk about “my feet” in the same way they might talk about “my penknife,” when “my feet” is an intrinsic and constituent part of “me” and “my penknife” is not.

-Because if you can convince the spiritual entity that there’s some kind of mad reward at the end of physical life, the self (united) will put up with pretty much anything en route.

-And that ties in with the idea of “selling out,” somewhere along the line.

-But then God dies, killed by war and science and philosophy and nano-technology and corn starch and alcohol and psychedelics and literature and pop music and consumerism, and we’re left, still divided, with a load of impulses that tie in to a life under God, but no god to live under.

-“Mastering for radio” is a LIE. Radio stations use a huge amount of pre-transmission compression in order to make their signals louder and more efficiently broadcast-able, which means that no matter how “hot” a song is on CD, it’ll sound pretty much the same level as every other song once it’s on the radio. In effect, this means that radio stations crudely remaster stuff before broadcast anyway, so doing it yourself, especially when the principles of “mastering for radio” are so reductive and negative in terms of actual sound quality, is doubly harmful to your music. What are the two songs that have jumped out of the radio at me most in the last twelve months? “Made Up Love Song #43” and “Trains To Brazil,” because they both sounded different to what was being played around them. And besides, when someone actually BUYS your record, they’re not going to be listening to it on the radio anymore, you idiot!

-Probably only 10% of the people involved in making a record, producing it, publicising it, designing the sleeve, getting it on shelves and on the radio, actually give a shit about the music on that record. Including the band.

-I cannot, and do not want to, listen to every record ever.

-Of course, we’re now into the territory of music being a business just like any other. Which is true, and which is also entirely disheartening. But, you know, capitalism beat God, so everything we do now is as a consumer, everything is dictated by choice, including the sex of our children. But if you choose your child’s sex, you’re no longer its parent—you become its owner.

-Capitalism encourages a state of arrested adolescence, because the pre-parenthood period is when we have most disposable income to fritter away on stuff, and also because we’re generally more concerned and confused with and by our own identities during our mid-to-late youth, and thus more likely to “try” (read “buy”) different “lifestyles” (read “products”) in an attempt to “find out who we are.” If we’re wracked with doubt about our identities, we’re more likely to conform, and thus homogeneity rules.

-Businessmen are possibly the only people in the world who are more smug, ego-driven, and self-aggrandising than “pop” and “rock” musicians.

-The popularity of “process-revealing” reality shows like American Idol (pause a moment—the UK origin of that show was called Pop Idol, non-nation-specific—wtf is wrong with you Americans?!) and X Factor may be because modern albums, across all genres, seem to be much more focused on the arrival than on the journey.

-Start with the big single, kids. Give your audience nowhere to go afterwards. Why would you want them to listen to the whole record? They’ve already paid for it.

-That makes sense in my head, at least.

-The public gets what the public wants.

-The public wants what the public gets.

-The public isn’t getting what it wants, merely what it thinks, at its laziest and most immature, that it wants.

-Of course.

-I’ve promised to name my friend James, who is a musician and sex-symbol and excellent acquaintance, because he gets irritated everytime I use a conversation between the two of us as source material for a review or article. Anytime I refer to talking to a friend about music, it’s more than likely him.

-The journey in music is massively undervalued today. It didn’t used to be. Did it? People seem to be trying to squeeze the destination into the journey.

-Which means, essentially, that it’s Roxette’s fault.

-Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus.

-We can do the most amazing things not only with music but with recorded sound itself, things that make your mind boggle at the world we live in and make you feel outrageous emotions. So why would you make a record and NOT attempt those amazing things?

-Record companies are STILL having a shit-fit about how to stifle the flow of illegal downloads of music. The latest brainwave is to get ISPs to pay (probably huge) phased fees, in the mould of the PRS license which governs the playing of music in public places (bars, clubs, venues, shops etcetera) in the UK. The ISPs would then pass that charge onto you, the internet-user, by increasing your monthly subscription.

-Here’s an idea, record company people;


-Because, you know, if the MP3s you pay for off iTunes or Napster or whatever are low bitrate, shitty sound quality, musically dull, target-market focus-group bullshit, people aren’t going to want to pay, are they?

-The problem is, as ever, that people don’t listen. Literally—some model on Love Island couldn’t recite the alphabet, and the BBC were talking about how in a busy, consumer-driven capitalist visual culture, we sit babies in front of TVs instead of talking to them. They don’t learn how to listen because no one speaks to them, because everything is mediated by an image, a sign, a screen. How do you encounter music in the 21st century? Via a TV, with an image, a video, as the artifact, rather than the actual music. Look. MTV actually did kill music.

-If you don’t learn to listen, to process sequences of sounds such as the alphabet, times tables, and pieces of music, without visual stimulus, then you’re screwed. You’ll never be able to concentrate on anything. Over-stimulation.

-Debord was right. Bugger.


By: Nick Southall
Published on: 2006-08-07
Comments (7)

Today on Stylus
October 31st, 2007
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews