Spice… Nice!

It’s quite fashionable to dislike the Spice Girls. I’ve had discussions with people who dislike the Spice Girls and I’ve asked them what’s wrong with the group. The response is usually along the lines of “They’re crap”, “They suck”. So I ask why the Spice Girls are “crap” or “suck” and the answer is “because they… because they just do”.

I was listening to bFM, the local student radio station, and the announcer had just played a remix of “Who do you think you are”. He said he’d give away tickets to an Everything But The Girl concert for the first caller who identified the group. It took about 15 or so calls guessing all sorts of bands, before someone called and correctly answered. I think the idea of a station like bFM playing the Spice Girls was a bit too much for some people to comprehend.

For the last five years popular music has been dominated by so-called “alternative” music. Guitar-based songs that came to replace the excessive monsters of rock that previously dominated music. “Alternative” music became a genre known for its no-nonsense approach to music. Bands like Nirvana performed songs with honest truthful lyrics, songs that made social comments or explored themes that were previously untapped.

But that’s all gone now. The music scene is changing. Electronic-based music is becoming more popular. Even the previously guitar-based Smashing Pumpkins are releasing very electronic songs.

So along come the Spice Girls. And it feels good. They’re not singing songs of woe and angst, they instead sing about subjects that are more real to the average person. The average teenager can’t really relate to a song about how the singer’s record company makes him feel like a whore, but a song about putting a boyfriend in place strikes more of a chord.

The Spice Girls’ debut album “Spice” reminds me of Madonna’s second album “Like a Virgin”. The songs aren’t heavy political issues, but life is not always heavy. They’re not manic depressives feeling suicidal, so singing about death would be silly.

The group also embraced some feminist politics, with their “girl power”. This might seem contradictory to their image as sexy babes, but what I think it signifies is that they can wear what they damn well please. In other words,”Girl power” does not have a dress code.

But it can not be denied that the Spice Girl’s physical appearance has won over a lot of males. Their appearance in bikinis on the cover of the March ’97 The Face might have made the magazine a little more popular than usual, but didn’t change their music. Back in the early 1980s the Go-Go’s appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in their underwear, but that didn’t make their music any worse or better.

The band, particularly Geri, is known for supporting the British conservative party. This is rare in rock. A lot of artists support popular, but decidedly liberal political causes. For a band like the Spice Girls to come out on favour of conservative politics is quite phenomenal.

Emma is undecided.
Geri is a supporter of the Conservative party.
Mel B is the anti-christ, oh I mean Anarchist.
Mel C is a Labour party supporter.
Victoria is a Conservative party supporter.

So I don’t think the Spice Girls suck, nor do I think they’re crap. Their music is great, not perfect, but they do what they do very well. There’s nothing wrong with their music. Leave the angst, pain and suffering to artists like Alanis Morrisette. The Spice Girls are going to have a good time.

Loser

I was in the car with my brother, driving to KFC. I was, as I usually do, playing with the car stereo, skipping from station to station trying to find some reasonably good music. I hit a button and the familiar slide guitar at the beginning of “Loser” came through the speaker. And I thought to myself what the hell was that?

When loser was a hit, in 1994, it seemed like a such an incredibly cool song. It was the definition of cool. There was the dorky slide guitar, the underlying hip-hop beat, the lyrics that didn’t really mean anything and the glorious chorus peaking with “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me!”

For the nations of fashionably cynical teens, it was an anthem. I remember driving around with my friend singing along. Man, we were losers! Who cares about job, education, responsibility, we were losers so we didn’t have to care about that sort of “bullshit”.

How wrong can you be?

I think the turning point for me came when I saw Beck perform live. Surrounding me was a sea of alternative conformity. Doc Martens boots. Piercings. Goatees. It was everywhere and most of the audience was there for one man and one song.

A few much cooler people were there solely for the support band, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who really confused the audience who wanted to like them, but couldn’t yell and scream because the JSBX played continuously, with no breaks between songs.

Beck joined the JSBX for a song, which massively excited the audience, but it wasn’t Loser so it didn’t really matter.

When Beck finally got on everyone wanted him to play Loser, Loser Loser and for an encore, Loser. Unfortunately he played other songs, but the B-sides from the Loser single were recognised and screamed joyfully at.

Then Beck did something that really confused the alterna-gang. He sang a capella. At one part of the song, he paused and from the audience a guy yelled out “But you’re a loser!”. Beck stared straight ahead and sang “Have you seen the shit? It’s all here tonight”.

I just stood there wondering if anyone else was as amazed at what he’d just sung than I was.

He eventually played Loser and the crowd jumped along. But when it came to the chorus, he sang what sounded like “I’m a milky baby, so why don’t you kill me”. The crowd was pleased.

So back in the car with my brother, I was trying to work out what the song was all about. The lyrics didn’t mean anything: “Dog food skulls with the beefcake pantyhose”. At best it’s some sort of 1980’s reminisce, but in actuality it was meaning to its listeners.

The chorus starts with (according to a magazine article of the time) “Soy un perdidor”, Spanish for “I’m a loser”. Of course a lot of people had no idea what he was singing and various interpretations such as “So, I walked in the door” were sung by the alternoids.

The song has various samples. My favourite was “I’m a driver, I’m a winner, things are going to change, I can feel it”. It seemed like a message of hope, like all this cynical bullshit was going to end, but I realised otherwise when it was revealed that it was from a George Bush speech.

Then the song ended and I was left wondering just what the hell was going on in 1994 that made Loser such a hit. Fortunately whatever it was has gone away, taking with it the slacker attitude that went with it. Because if all the cool people are losers, then wouldn’t that make all the people who suck winners?

Bryan Adams – Reckless

What is rock? It is perhaps a term that holds different meanings for different people. But if someone were to ask me what rock is, I would reply “Reckless, by Bryan Adams.” To me, Reckless represents all that is good with rock. All that is pure, and all that is strong. Reckless is about love and fun, two central themes of anyone’s life. It’s dirty, yet clean. Old, but new. Sexy, yet ugly. There are a lot of things that can be said about Reckless, but the one thing I’d like to be said about it, is that it rocks.

1 – One Night Love Affair

The story of a one night stand starts the album. He meets a girl, two strangers and thinks that it’ll just be a case of spending the night together in passion, then parting their ways. But there is an attraction between them. He tries, as she does, to pretend that there’s no attraction, that saying goodbye the next morning will be easy, but when it comes to doing it, it’s hard. They both wanted a little company and got it, but could never continue. He says goodbye and knows that he will never see her again and wonders what it could have been like. A driving bass hold the song together, while light keyboards plays on the top, but Bryan’s rough voice portrays the raw emotion of a man who scored, but lost.

2 – She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’

A song about a girl. She has a mundane 9 to 5 job and doesn’t have a particularly interesting week, but when Friday comes along, she has a great time. She goes to her favourite bar, ironically called “The Ball and Chain” and dances the night away. The guitar solo gives her a chance to shake her booty. In the chorus the whole gang joins in singing and adding hand claps, they too are feeling the joy that she is when she’s dancing. There’s a guy – possibly Bryan – watching her from across the dance floor, but she’s not about to let him have his way. If he wants her, he will have to earn her. But there is the feeling that she doesn’t really care about men. When she’s out on the dance floor she just lets her worries melt away. Ahhh…

3 – Run To You

The song has a dark feeling to it, which perfectly reflects the fact that in this song Bryan has been bad. A synth lurks during the verses, then erupts into the chorus. For a moment the song pauses and goes into a moody bridge, before the guitars kick back in. He has a girlfriend, but he’s getting sick of her. She’s faithful, and says she loves him, but he’s found another woman, who gives him the pleasure he desires. He has been torn between the two women, but he’s got the stage where he really wants a good time so he’s going to the other woman. If it’s good then instead of going home after the deed is done, he might stay all night. Lucky Bry.

4 – Heaven

“Honey, they’re playing our song”. Heaven is an “our song”. Unlike the infidelities of Run to you Bryan has decided that there is a woman for him, and she is all he wants. He has found love with her and she is the one for him. He’s been waiting for true love, dreamed of heavenly perfection and has finally found it. He pledges that he will be there for her, forever. The song is perfect for slow dancing.

The video to Heaven is worth noting. Bryan performs the song on a stage in a hall, as he must have done on many occasions. The thing that is interesting, is that the audience he is performing to consists of television sets with teenage girls on the screens. A flipside of the world of these girls seeing him playing on their TVs. An interesting comment on the life of a big rock star.

5 – Somebody

Sometimes life is tough. Bryan knows this and he knows that life can be a lot easier when there’s someone there to go with you, to help you along your way. There are a lot of contradictions and confusing situations in life but having a companion makes it clearer. Then one day he sees someone – someone who looks like Madonna. He realises that he needs someone like her, or maybe even her in his life. This could be interpreted as Madonna, mother of God, giving him divine guidance, or Madonna, mother of Lourdes, being his chick (back in ’84 Madonna wasn’t a mother and she used to dance around with her belly button thing happening – she was so cool). Being alone can really suck.

6 – Summer of ’69

Who doesn’t love this song? It’s the ultimate reminisce about the pleasures of being a teen. The first band fuelled on rock ‘n’ roll dreams. Then comes the first band. The feeling that she was going to be Bry’s girl forever. Hanging out with his friends, going out, being wild boys. But nothing lasts forever. All the reminiscing makes him ask “what went wrong”. How did all those dreams disappear? He might he older, but is he any wiser? Can he recapture the essence of his youth (Bryan’s latest album ’18 Till I Die’ suggests he’s trying). And then there’s the whole ’69 thing – just what went on down at the drive in?

7 – Kids Wanna Rock

This songs sums up the albums feeling of rock: “Turned on the radio, sounded like a disco”. Dance music might have appeal to some, but Bryan knows what the youth of the world want. Forget about programming those synthesisers, the only pure comes from a pure guitar, plugged in and turned out up. Hear the voice of youth screaming out! Rock ‘n’ roll will never die as long as Bry’s around.

8 – It’s Only Love

And he continues to rock. This time enlisting the help of the powerful voice of Tina Turner. This song is a song for survivors. People who have been there and been walked over, kicked in the head and been shattered – all in the name of love. They both passionately tell the trouble person, don’t worry, it’s only love. Don’t make things so bad because there’s no need for them to be. The searing guitar solo kicks in and provides more relief for a broken heart. The message is, take those feelings and turn them around.

9 – Long Gone

D-i-v-o-r-c-e. Sometimes the perfect relationship turns sour. The woman of his dreams turns into an evil devil woman and she don’t want him no more. She’s taken all the good stuff, leaving him with the clothes he’s wearing. He wants her to know that even though she didn’t like him, he still had strong, true feelings for her. But he knows that she might have all his possessions, but she doesn’t have him.

10 – Ain’t Gonna Cry

Those devil women – he just can’t get rid of ’em. This woman comes along and she’s just no good for him. She said she’d wait forever, but she’s turned out to be bad news. He wants to get away from her so badly that he’s even changed his phone number. She might want him, but he’s strong enough to tell her to get lost, even threatening to rearrange her face if she tries to get close. The song abruptly ends then a voice “A one, a two, a one, two, three”, like the voice of god, can be heard before the song restarts and ends in an eruption of noise. The final sound is a scream.

But above all, I recommend going out, getting the album and listening to it at a loud volume and feeling the power of Bryan Adams rockin’ real hard.

My Parents’ Record Collection

My first purchase of a recorded piece of music was a compilation tape called “The Hit Zone”. I was 10 years old and I only bought it because it has “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News on it. Sadly the tape broke a few months later due to it being left unprotected and getting dust and stuff inside it. This has since taught me that tapes, records and CDs come in protective cases for a reason.

But before I started buying my own music. I got my musical thrills partly from my parents record collection. The record collection was definitely part of my childhood and has shaped me and made me the person I am today. A bit.

Before my parents got married they both had their own record collections. My father had a variety of records including classical and those James Last records that people are getting into at the moment. He had a method of cataloguing them with little labels that were numbered. My mother had no cataloguing system. When they got married and combined their records the one record that was doubled was the soundtrack to the film “Dr Zhivago”.

My parents belonged the World Record Club, which, in the late seventies, sent out complimentary records. This is supposedly the origin of musical masterpieces by such respected artists as Rolf Harris, Nana Mouskouri and a personal favourite “Non-stop Party Hits”. It is also the origin of the album that everyone’s parents has, “Hot August Night”, by Neil Diamond.

Here’s a list of the best and the most distinctive albums in my parents record collection.

Victor Borge – Caught in the Act
Nimble-fingered Vic goes off.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Soundtrack
It’s a cool movie and Henry Mancini’s score is good.

Neil Diamond – Hot August Night
Everyone’s parents has this. A classic.

Dick Hyman – Moog
Scary moog music, best song title “The Legend of Johnny Pot”. Also, this guy has a very scary name.

Hair – Soundtrack
I got into this when I was about 13. It is a very cool musical.

High Society – Soundtrack
“Well Did You Evah!” I haven’t actually listened to it, but the cover, with Bing, Grace and Frank, haunts me…

The Geisha – Feilding Community Players
This is a record of a musical my mother was in in 1960. She was one of the four Tea Girls.

Gilbert and Sullivan – The Mikado
I haven’t heard it but the cover is cool.

Golden Hour of Best Loved Fairy Stories – Famous people
Like Laurence Olivier and Roger Moore. I used to get so frightened when I heard Roger’s reading of Snow White.

Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant
I used to laugh at the cover photo, but one day I listened to it and yeah, it’s good!

Rolf Harris – All Together Now
I just don’t dig this.

Francis Lai – A Man and a Woman
Un Homme et un Femme. I haven’t listened to it, but it has a cool cover.

James Last – Trumpet A Go Go
Very cool. Impresses some people.

Nana Mouskouri – The Magic of
“Ypomoni” rocks the house

Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
This is a bit of a classic Parents Record Collection album. Warning on the back “This stereo record can not be played on old tin boxes no matter what they are fitted with. If you are in possession of such equipment please hand it into the nearest police station”.

Music for the Millions – I don’t know…
Cute cats on the cover, and Bach’s classic “Happy Am I, That I Possess Jesus”.

Bobby Richards Orchestra – Great Film Themes III
There’s a cool Manhattan skyline at sunset on the cover.

The Seekers – Seen in Green
Psychedelic squares.

Simon and Garfunkel – The Graduate
An excellent movie with a great soundtrack.

Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture
The one with the big bangs in it. I haven’t listened to this.