Thursday, March 22, 2007

The British Invasion

Among my guilty secrets is American Idol. It was a stroke of genius on the part of some programming functionary to air the show at this time of the year. A dose of this program cheers up even the most SAD-befuddled people. It is rather a dumb show for me to watch: even my best friends will tell you I am completely tone-deaf and there are many occasions when I hear a performance and think it is the worst thing I have ever heard, only to have the judging triumvirate declare it a stellar performance. It works the other way too. What do I know of “pitchy” and “getting in front of the music?” Worse still, about 95% of the time I have never heard of the song being performed.

But not this week. The theme was “The British Invasion.” My profile is brief, but helps explain why I was familiar with all the songs performed on Tuesday (except that rock number from the chick with the red streaks.) O the memories! I was back in my tiny bedroom in Bedford Crescent, listening to Pick of the Pops. I am pretty certain the show aired on Sunday evenings and I listened to it on the radio my father built for me. (Pretty handy, my dad: he built our first TV, the one where the picture was upside down until he reversed some gizmo.) By the time I left home we had passed through the Elvis era and had moved on to those performers who became known as the British Invasion. I can still remember the words and the tunes of a number of those songs, some of which I haven’t heard for over 40 years. I could find CDs, I know, but it wouldn’t be the same and I don’t listen much to music these days.

I want to take back my nasty remarks about Peter Noone. He was a coach on this show and though I wouldn’t pay to sit through a whole concert by him, I thought he was a lot of fun. He certainly hasn’t aged much, especially when you compare him to people like Ron Wood and Mick Jagger. And as for Lulu, she looked smashing.

All in all, the show made me sad. Not because the contestants didn’t do the songs justice, but because most of them had never heard any songs from that era before they had to perform one. Why should they? None is much above 30. Even Simon Cowell admitted he wasn’t familiar with one of the songs. But how can anyone hope to join the ranks of great performers of today without a nod to the great performers of yesterday? I will cling to my memories of my little room, and the radio in its square box sitting on the red formica table that my dad also made. I remember my parents referring to the music I loved as “that row.” I admit to making equally disparaging remarks about the music my kids played. Tempora Mutantur.

FYI: I think the red-streaked girl could have sung a wicked House of the Rising Sun.

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