The emperor's new dinner jacket
After being definitely on this year, the Truck Festival is now definitely off again until 2022. Still no news at all on the Wheatsheaf, or the future of live music in the city centre. Meanwhile, Oxford University is planning to build a new 500 seat capacity £150m concert hall opposite the Radcliffe Observatory. How the other half lives.
There's no business like show business
I found this old clip of Rod Stewart on the legendary Kenny Everett studio, so anarchic and unpredictable. The thing that struck me most though was Rod Stewart's voice. People always used to say his voice was gruff and growling, that he couldn't sing, but it is much more melodious than I remembered. A lot of music sounds so much better now than it did when I was a kid, simply because we were listening to it on a crackly AM receiver with a miniscule loudspeaker that made Rod Stewart sound like a hamster with laryngitis.
Here is a trivia question for you. What does Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" have in common with "Imagine" by John Lennon, the cover of "Proud Mary" by Ike and Tina Turner, "Rainy days and Mondays" by The Carpenters, and "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone" by Bill Withers? Read on for the answer.
Let's get classical
Did you know that the Oxford Dictionary defines classical music as "serious music following long-established principles rather than a folk, jazz, or popular tradition". A common claim for classical is that it has stood the test of time. All of those memorable songs I listed above were all hit records in 1971, all fifty years old this year. Surely that is standing the test of time and having lasting value. And if fifty years isn't enough, what about this song which was one of the most popular songs of 1921, one hundred years ago. I'm sure you'll know it well.
Classical music is an invention of 19th century marketing. Orchestras themselves did not begin to appear until well into the 17th century and for a long time they were no more than a dozen or so musicians, so really just a larger than average band. The word "classic" only came into common usage in the English language in the 18th century and was initally used by academics to refer to the Greek and Roman period of history.
In a masterstroke of marketing around about 1829, the 19th century music industry rebranded orchestral music and symphonic music as "classical music", claimed that it was one of the cornerstones of European culture, with its roots in Roman theatre, and that classical music had stood the test of time, even though it was barely five years since Beethoven had composed his final symphony. In particular, classical music was promoted using the idea that listening to orchestras playing Mozart and Brahms made you a better class of person, you were more educated and refined than the vulgar working classes who listened to mere folk music and popular songs. That marketing of elitism, snobbery, and the Emperor's new clothes syndrome still exists today.
And that's why classical music needs £150 million concert halls.
The pictures tell the story
A survey this week concluded that 1984 was the best year for music. I grow weary of these slow news week stories which seek to pick out one era as being better than another. Music isn't a competitive sport, no matter how much the likes of X Factor tries to promote that idea. Every year produces many many gems. Here is a piece of music from 2012 by a popular beat combo of the 21st century, The Dropkick Murphys. I am so impressed with this. It combines poetic lyrics, beautifully structured music, tasteful and aristic images, and it is about an ancient artform found in cultures the world over, the canvas of the skin, the art and symbolism of the tattoo.
Will we still be playing this record in 2121, a hundred years from now? Perhaps not. But that is only because there is just so much good music in the world that we won't remember everything, we won't even have time to listen to everything.
The politics of xenophobia
Today, 25th June 2021, is "One Britain One Nation Day" when the Department For Education is trying to get schools to participate in a mass singalong of an "anthem" (which I refuse to inflict on you), suffice to say it is all over youtube if you really want to hear childrens' voices rendering jingoistic lyrics of "Strong Britain, Great Nation". Is it right to get kids to sing a propaganda song? Maybe they should sing this one instead. It's over 40 years old so it has stood the test of time.
One if the lyrics of the official nationalist song reads: "Weve opened our doors, and widened our shores, We celebrate our differences with love in our hearts, United forever, never apart".
People might sing this song today, but next Wednesday the goverment will be singing a different tune. June 30th is the deadline for EU citizens to apply for UK settlement status. This requirement is another consequence of the politics of Brexit. If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, but have set up home and life here in the UK, quite legally and properly during the years when we were members of the EU, you now need to apply to the UK Governments EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to protect your rights and to allow you to continue living legally in the UK.
Even if you have permanent residence in the UK, even if you have been in the UK for many years, and even if you have been married to a British spouse for a long time and paid your taxes here, you might still need to apply for EUSS status to stay in the UK after June 2021. Otherwise, you may find you no longer qualify for NHS treatment or prescriptions, will be unable to rent accommodation, and if you leave this island to go on holiday for example, they could even decide to refuse to let you back in. As is the hallmark of this government, this has been really poorly communicated, and even though English is my first language, I found the government website tortuous to understand. If you are an EU passport holder and in any doubt at all, please check the government website ASAP.
If you have friends, flatmates, neighbours, relatives, or band members originally from the EU, please do make sure they know that they might need additional documentation to prove they are entitled to be resident here, that the deadline for applying for this document is only days away, and help them if needed.