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Pretend your name is Keith

March 9, 2014

Episode 63: simonsometimesshakesaleg

If you know the song from which the title of this post is taken, go straight to the top of the class. And I am guessing that will be the class of 1986 or thereabouts. (If you know who Keith is, you may graduate immediately, summa cum laude.)

If you don’t know it, grit your teeth and listen to Spitting Image’s Chicken Song. Then, if you can stand it, listen to the song which it was chiefly parodying: Agadoo by Black Lace. And before I move on, take a moment to reflect that we didn’t have it so good in the 80s.

Careful analysis reveals that the Chicken Song was poking fun at two aspects of Agadoo: the words and the music. The nonsensicality (if that wasn’t previously a word, I hereby reserve all rights) of the former, and the pernicious banality of the latter. The only thing to be said in favour of Agadoo is that it isn’t The Birdie Song* by, er, The Tweets.

Now there, indeed, can it be said that the tide of creative art reached one of its lowest ebbs since the arrival of musical notation. It is probably a good thing that there are no words: who can imagine what they would be? But on the other hand I rather think that it suffers from the absence of something – anything – that might distract from the excruciating music and the ghoulish memory of wedding parties full of middle-aged folk challenging their waistbands while performing the silliest dance ever contrived.

Salvador Dali: Homage to Terpsichore

Salvador Dali: Homage to Terpsichore
Image from

Not that there is a shortage of silly dances, or at any rate dances that make people look silly. Consider those same folk, in the 30 years that have followed their birdie exertions, attempting the Macarena, followed by the Conga, followed eventually, one fears, by the Fallova. I am not sure that this is what Terpsichore had in mind; and her sister Euterpe must have been looking the other way altogether.

Photograph of the original stone at Delphi containing the second of the two hymns to Apollo. The music notation is the line of occasional symbols above the main, uninterrupted line of Greek letteringPicture and text from Wikipedia

Photograph of the original stone at Delphi containing the second of the two hymns to Apollo. The music notation is the line of occasional symbols above the main, uninterrupted line of Greek lettering
Picture and text from Wikipedia

And with that opportunity, how can I fail to link to something by Muse: Guiding Light. Fantastic. And since we have wandered down this byway, but changing the mood entirely, here is a link to Cyril Scott’s Symphony No 3, known as The Muses. Half an hour needed for the full version of this, but it is compelling and vivacious, a portrait of these mythological figures which is at once mystical and colourful.

Had you heard of Cyril Scott? I had, or at least I think I had, but would not have been able to name a single work by him before today. But trawling for something to say about him I came upon this gem of a site: Cyril Scott. As a result of which I need say nothing beyond recommending it to you, and shrug with mild embarrassment at how little I knew about such an important and prolific composer. At least that is an omission that can be rectified.

Well, that little diversion into music has taken me off my subject, which started with silly songs and daft dances. Agadoo was a summer club sensation. I am truly sorry to say this, but while some of us were widening our horizons with serious music, thousands of holidaymakers were stomping the clubs and bars in the Costa Del Sol and such-like, doing their best to push pineapple and shake a tree and regarding it all as tremendous fun. Having never been a frequenter of establishments of that nature – indeed, having never taken a holiday of that nature – I must avoid passing judgement. But it does seem a strange thing to want to do.

And yet no stranger than immersing oneself in drink (or worse) and flailing madly around under strobe lighting to the mesmerising sounds that are apparently heard in those same clubs today – for extended periods, I understand. Admittedly, some of this is rather captivating in small doses: this, from Armin van Buuren, for example; but the thought of hours of the same sort of thing in a single evening is no more appealing than being chained to my seat for 5 hours of Wagner. What’s more, I would have no idea how to dance in a club.

Luckily, however, help is at hand:

And he doesn’t even have the excuse of being drunk. All in all, I think I would rather Hand Jive. At least I could have a rest while I’m grooving; catch up with e-mails; maybe have a bite to eat; do the crossword…

If instead you want some instruction from the world of opera as to how the inebriated are supposed to revel, see what you make of this excerpt from Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella). It’s a sort of set-piece drinking song led by the wicked stepfather of our heroine Angelina. He rejoices in the name Don Magnifico.
I wonder what Keith would make of that? Whoever he is.

*Are you serious? Did you actually want me to link to The Birdie Song?


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