Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Yesterday morning driving to work I heard "The Shoop Shoop Song" by Betty Everett and "I'm Hennery the 8th I Am" by Herman's Hermits, 2 '60s hits in the teen idiom of the day. And I thought of Joshua Clover's excellent piece in the collection from the first Pop Conference sponsored by Seattle's Experience Music Project, which I cited here a week or 2 ago. Joshua talks about various pop songs through the piece and near the conclusion says that he loves each and every one of the songs he's mentioned, "even," he adds, "The Name Game."

I'm glad Joshua loves "The Name Game," and it's not just because I particularly love the song too that the word "even" struck me. Ebullient joyous welcoming nonsense -- baby that is rock and roll! (Memory lane: A long time ago I proposed to a band I led that we learn this song and use it to introduce ourselves at shows. The bass player vetoed. Which is fine.)

Here was a rock critic addressing an audience of rock critics, pop music academics, and a scattered handful of musicians and maybe even some interested "lay" listeners. It was a convocation billing itself as a "pop music" conference. And yet this critic felt constrained to apologize for loving a particular pop song. I don't blame Joshua too much for this -- I think his judgment was astute, that the group he was addressing would feel more comfortable with his presentation if he apologized for loving something goofy.

This exchange raises up an underlying discomfort, which springs from rockcrit's hope for intellectual seriousness and moral gravity from rock, which many critics apparently can't help but transfer onto their hopes for any pop music. To run this blog through the Name Game mill, "Turtle turtle bo-burtle banana-fana-fo-furtle me-my-mo-murtle -- turtle!" is hardly the stuff of heavy thinkitude or moralism, or of social critique, or of the implied social critique of inchoate rebellion (another rock hope), or of even the implied social critique of quiet alienation (a pale and wan version of the hope for rebellion). Turtle-turtle-bo-burtle is the stuff of child-like socializing; it is inclusiveness itself, if only on its own terms; yet those terms exclude nobody who wants to be included.

Though Joshua was astute for apologizing, by assimilating his talk to the expectations of the so-called "pop" music discourse arbiters, he affirmed and therefore helped to perpetuate those expectations.

It's always a shame when somebody feels compelled to apologize for love.

Why can't we instead have a criticism where people feel compelled to apologize for hating something? Where even though I think most of Eric Clapton's records reside in uptight dullsville (for example), I shouldn't go around sneering about it, out of recognition that lots and lots of people LOVE his records. I shouldn't go dissing anybody's LOVE.

If you must express hate for something (and apparently I must), why not transfer that energy away from musicians and towards the people in this country (or your country, if you're not American) who want to bankrupt the polity, destroy the canons of science, allow industrialists to do whatever they want to the environment, and/or illegally invade non-threatening countries, kill tens of thousands of civilians, and strew chaos and mayhem?

Much more than "Wonderful Tonight," Bush's policies SUCK. I hate them.

And I love "The Shoop Shoop Song" and "I'm Hennery the 8th I Am" and, for the most part, Joshua's piece. And I love "The Name Game."

Peace now peace now bo-beace-now banana-fana-fo-feace-now me-my-mo-meace-now -- Peace Now!
Take a breath, guy. The "even" indexes my own sense that, among pop songs I like, "The Name Game" is somewhat annoying, but lovable nonetheless; a simple opinion. If you think I've ever apologized for a pop song, much less apologized because it's pop, you're profoundly finding what you wanna find, Rorshach-stylee; it has zip-nada to do with anything I've ever said. The only thing that having a journalistic "career" is good for is that there's a massive public record on this. I mean, really.

Suitably chastened. I *thought* you were apologizing, but I no longer *think* so. It did seem odd, from the little I've read of your stuff. My reasons for reading what you said as I did have little to do with you.

Funny thing about language, isn't it -- something someone says can be taken to mean so many different ways.

"Guilty pleasure-ism" has a stronghold in rockcritdom, including EMP and its Pop Conference, and my reading of what you said is *plausible*. Even if you disagree that the reading is plausible as a statement by you (a character we've gotten to know, or not, from long reading), it's *plausible in the context*. And, you'll have to take my word for it, ingenuous; I wasn't combing your stuff closely for nits to pick; I was reading because I was curious & because I dig your stuff. That "even" jumped out at me, because it fit so well with my sense of that milieu; it confirmed my prejudice about that milieu -- not because it fit, or not, with my sense of you, which is based on necessarily incomplete (even scanty) knowledge.

Anyway, thanks for the clarification. The misunderstanding has been worthwhile for me; my apologies if it pained you. And thanks for reading.
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