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Daft Punk Get Lucky. How a middle aged man can enjoy the ‘latest thing’

There is a saying ‘I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like’.  I guess we could extend that to: ‘I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like’ as well.

I am always for the lookout for new music to be put on my iPad which provides a musical background to most of my weekends as I do the usual chores.  So inevitably I heard the hype about the new Daft Punk album and I thought that I may want to hear if anything took my fancy.

As someone who gave up keeping up with music around 1987, I didn’t really think that Daft Punk had much to offer.  The only songs I remembered were Da Funk (which had a video which for some reason irritated me)  ‘One more time‘ and ‘Around the World‘.  (where this time I loved the choreography in the video).  The music was initially appealing,  but it’s repetitiveness I think would drive me up the wall if it was on shuffle on the iPad.  I always thought this music was designed for dance parties (something that I never been to, or interested in) where the repetitiveness is part of the deal.

So I went on youtube and searched for ‘latest Daft Punk single’ and ‘Get Lucky’ came up.  Immediately from its first notes I recognised the music immediately, it was a disco song.  A good one, an intelligent one, but it was late 70’s disco to me.

And this is music that I know, as a middle aged 52 year old.  Because this was the music that was played on commercial radio in my late teens – and then I hated it.  Probably because it coincided with an unhappy period of my life, struggling as a young fat teenager just after migrating to Australia.  But the most listened Top 40 radio station in Sydney at that time was 2SM (sister station to 3XY in Melbourne) and disco was played quite a lot.

It was when I was able to come to Melbourne and start listening to 3RMIT-FM, later to become 3RRR during my HSC year that I discovered music that I liked, like Buzzcocks, Talking Heads, XTC etc. Disco was for the commercial pap radio.

Later in life, as the personal negative connotations of disco evaporated I was able to enjoy it ‘ironically’ such as my 30th birthday party where there was a bit of disco played.

So it was quite a surprise when I heard ‘Get Lucky’.  It sounded almost straight from 1975.  Of course my uneducated ears may be wrong.  Someone who knows about modern music, Pete Paphides talks about the new Daft Punk album in his blog and titles the post thus: “It’s not actually a disco album per se.”

He writes:

……it’s a love letter to the disco era, a sometimes poignant memorial to the unquenchable optimism of pre-Aids dance music – but not actually a disco album per se.

Dear People Who Seem Convinced That It’s All Been Done Before. Listen to Get Lucky. Then go back to your record collection and try and find a song that really sounds like it. I tried it the other week. I pulled out all of my Chic records. I pulled out Diana Ross’s Upside Down. I pulled out Sheila B. Devotion. None of them scratched the itch that Get Lucky scratched. The deep, foetal bass of Get Lucky couldn’t have been laid down in a pre-techno era. The gradual mutation of the vocal melody into robot-ecstasy – I haven’t heard that on any other record of the era.

Which is fair enough.  I haven’t the depth of knowledge that Paphides has, however my brain reached for its databank of music and immediately went to ‘Shame Shame Shame’ by Shirley & Co.

What got me to think about the song is the constant back rhythm of a strummed guitar which goes 1-2..3-4….1-2….3-4 for the whole song, which is something that ‘Get Lucky’ does as well.

The same strummed guitar, and a song that feels that it also shares a similar chord progression is ‘Shake your booty’ by KC and the Sunshine band.

I reckon that someone, somewhere is going to do a mush up of these two songs, which will be interesting.

What it is also interesting is that these two songs, were released in 1975 and 1976 respectively, which is basically the same time when the two Daft Punk musicians were born.

For me, well it is cathartic.  After all this year I can enjoy disco as a 52 year old and feel OK about it.  Even sharing it on ‘cloud’ with my 13 year old son.  Who would have thought.

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Mind your child.

One of the ‘perks’ of working at Melbourne University is attending free lunchtime concerts organised by the Faculty of Music. Students and staff perform a wide variety of music. Some well known and some totally new.

Of course ‘free’ means also a number of things. One is that for some reason the value of the experience is seen by some as less formal than if you paid to see the performers. So on occasions we get buses of geriatrics from nursing homes. Free concerts is a great way for occupational therapists (or whatever they are called) to do a day trip. So we enjoy that faint smell of urine and detergent that people living in those homes tend to acquire.

We also get the other end, that is people bringing their children. I have to admit that since I became a father I surprisingly became much more tolerant of children and their foibles. It’s amazing how quickly you become adept to have a reasonable conversation with another adult (which has to be another parent, as they would have acquired the same skills as yourself) with two and three years olds screaming, running and bouncing. However there this can be a double edged sword because as you enter the world of parenthood and get immunisation from children behaviour this may not apply to adults who have no children or have had limited exposure to them.

Some say that children have every right to participate in the world and that our society is anti-children. I think we must help children participate in society, but there are limits. Going to a restaurant? Ask them what time the kitchen opens so you can be there early and have a great time and be at home watching the telly while adults have their romantic meals in peace. A win win situation. For the child, for the parent and for the adults later in the evening.

So I sat down looking forward to hear the concert when just after it started a couple sat in front of me with a child who would have been about one and a half or two. I knew that this wasn’t good.

Before being accused of being anti-children I can say that I am the opposite. Being stuck in a plane near young children is bad luck but children have to travel as well and I would be understanding of their (and parents) predicament. But unless that child was sitting for a Faculty of Music entrance exam there was no reason why he had to be there. The sun was shining outside and there is a park across the road. The child would have been much happier to run around with a ball instead of listening to a piano piece of Prokofiev.

The child became restless, started to talk and therefore disturbing everyone in the vicinity. What was the point of all this? The child was unhappy because he was bored, in a dark place with music he wasn’t interested in. The parents were stressed as they tried unsuccessfully to keep him quiet, and everyone around was unhappy because their musical experience was spoiled.

I would suggest the Wiggles next time.

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Missing in iTunes

I know that there would be many people out there who may have some disdain for iPods and iTunes, but for some dude like me who is not totally into the downloadable music caper it is an easy system.

I am also an old fashion guy that is happy to pay for his music downloads (maybe because being a librarian and knowing about copyright and all that stuff).

I must admit I am amazed about people having iPods that can hold 10,000 songs or more. How anyone can place that much music on an iPod, where that massive musical knowledge comes from? I got a iPods shuffle, the tiny one without the display that holds only 250 songs or so and I am struggling to fill that.

Maybe because I come from the days of the audiotape where your favourite songs could only be accomodated within 60 or 90 minutes (or 120, but many audiophiles would tell you that the tape would stretch if it was that long) and that is the mentality of the best compilation. Maybe those who grew up with the abundance on MP3 are happy to just throw as much as they can in their players.

In the book High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby the main character makes lists of music to fit a particular occasion and makes a tape of it. For me that is what the iPod is about. Its like a huge C650 tape that I would listen once in a while, not as a constant background in my life.

I must admit that iTunes has been pretty good in finding most of what I wanted. However there are some tracks or artists that I haven’t been able to find.

Jane Clifton/Stiletto

Most people would remember Jane Clifton as an inmate in ;Prisoneror as a broadcaster on ABC 774, but she was a singer in a new wave band called Stiletto in the late 70s. I am not sure about the song titles but one I think was called license to rage while the other was the name of a girl.

I would also love to hear the stations ID Jane did for 3RRR at that time.

Portsmouth Sinfonia

Brian Eno features in many forms on my playlist. Either as the artists himself in the songs Backwater and Kings Lead Hat; from his album Before and After Science, as a producer of songs from Talking Heads’s More Songs About Buildings and Food right to his latest output, again with David Byrne in the album ;Everything That Happens Will Happen Today;. However there is one of Brian Eno;s enterprises that I can;t get anywhere, and that is the Portsmouth Sinfonia. The Portsmouth Sinfonia was a real orchestra founded by a group of students at Portsmouth School of Art in Portsmouth, England, in 1970—however, the Sinfonia had an unusual entrance requirement. Players had to be either non-musicians, or if a musician, play an instrument that was entirely new to them.

While the result was hilarious, it had a strange fascination, because while the music was played badly it still has a sense of structure and rhythm. This was probably because while anyone could join, regardless of talent, ability and experience, everyone had to come for rehearsals and that people should try their best to get it right and not intentionally try to play badly. You can see an example on youtube here.

Unfortunately as their albums haven;t been re-issued on CD, and the only way I could get their music id by paying a princely sum by purchasing the original LP on e-bay from England.

I;m in Love with a German Film Star – The Passions

Apparently the Foo Fighters covered this song which was from an English band called ;The Passions; in 1981. It was a big hit in the UK but not in Australia. The frustrating thing is that it is available in the UK and the US iStore but not in Australia. I have sent a request for that to be changed.

Confrontation – The Aliens

There have been and there are plenty of bands called ;The Aliens;, but this was an Australian band from Melbourne. The important thing about this song was that it was played on 3RRR around January-February of 1979 and they came to play at Orientation Week at Monash in my first year at Monash that year, so it is quite evocative. I knew the song but I didn;t know the band name and lo and behold I was twiddling the dial few nights ago and I came across a music program on 3CR where this band and song was mentioned.

It is even on Youtube and you can see it here playing the song on Countdown.

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