Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

10CC and all that

It is time to return to that free CD and the pleasure of chopping carrots to it. Cooking to the sound of the big boys...

When I first knew and loved 10CC (and I did: I bought my own vinyl copy of both Original Soundtrack and their Greatest Hits, not to mention having How Dare You in...wait for it...the trendy form of a cassette tape!), I knew and loved them with the ears of an easily shocked adolescent. Precocious, yes, in my choice of listening pleasures. Unfeminine, true, in my appreciation of a good riff. And shortly about to fall for the distinctly uncouth and explicit likes of The Vibrators, the Stranglers and the Pistols. (As well as the more intriguing XTC, Magazine and Wire.)

But a teenager is going to miss the knowing sophistication of most of those lyrics. And probably many of the nods in the music too. So I thought it was very funny as I chopped my carrots, listening to all those songs I'd loved with a certain innocence in the 70s. Did I know then what the 10CC referred to? Most likely, but I'd have appreciated it at the childish level of smut and then gone off and been cool about it. I really didn't get the extent to which they were being smug and asking their audience to collude.

Take Wall St Shuffle:

Oh, Howard Hughes
Did your money make you better?
Are you waiting for the hour
When you can screw me?
'Cos you're big enough

I hadn't a clue about most of the stuff going on in there, either in terms of chords or concepts. Or the stunningly evocative I'm Mandy Fly Me (probably only evocative if you can remember the plane ads of the 70s with their inane air hostesses selling the dream of the skyhigh club.):

I've often heard the jingle
It's never struck a chord
With a smile as bright as sunshine
She called me through the poster
And welcomed me aboard
She led me, she fed me
She read me like a book
But I'm hiding in the small print
Won't you take another look
And take me away
Try me, Mandy, fly me away

Ah, yes, when flying was still glamorous. I can't do justice here to the musical complexities going on. But they weren't ordinary three-minute wonders. And thirty years later, they made a punching good accompaniment to my preparation of fish stew.

Just the other day, a friend and I were singing the lyrics to Girls Talk by Elvis Costello. That was another track I adored. "You may not be an oldfashioned girl but you're gonna get dated". And that was a three-minute wonder. So there was other sophistication in those days. But nothing quite as arch. If Costello was a clever young man, then 10CC were big smug boys.


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