ten minutes before the worm – alice cooper

One thing about working at something where my mind has time to fly off in odd directions, is, I’ve started to become subject to earworms.

I’ve only experienced this occasionally for years but now it’s back, on a pretty much daily basis. Some days, I get an Alice Cooper song I haven’t heard for years – which is good. In a best case scenario, I’ll remember when I get home to dig out the LP (the last one was a track from his ‘Muscle of Love’, which I’m thoroughly enjoying all over again).

Other days, I might be stuck with the Phil Collins version of ‘Can’t hurry love’ – a song I’ve always hated, performed by someone I’ve always despised. And this can go on for hours, fading away and then crashing back into my consciousness, driving my sanity away in tatters. Like one of those people who listens to Phil Collins.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s angelic or demonic, once it’s stuck in my skull, the song attaches its wee hooks and I’m trapped in the bastard. There’s no reasoning with it – I can’t give my mind a pat on the back when it’s Cooper’s ‘Crazy little child’ any more than I can threaten to nuke Switzerland when it’s the attack of the fifty-foot Collins.

Mibby there’s a lesson in all this. I’ve devoted a goodly chunk of my existence to the pursuit and consumption of music and a sizeable fraction of that time, I’ve been exposed to terrifying and repulsive anti-musics.

Matt Callaghan, in his book, ‘The trouble with music’ reckons there’s only three possible themes in the entire history of music: struggling, suffering and rejoicing. Any ‘music’ based around any other subject matter (i.e. conspicuous consumption, titillation, or self-aggrandisement, for instance) is, by definition, anti-music.

And there’s so much anti music surrounding us. Another good way to spot anti music is, did the performer struggle to write it in a damp cellar while practicing an instrument? Or did they stand in a queue, before being handed this song by Simon Cowell or a representative of some other criminal organisation?

The advent of compact disks in May of 1983 was an important nail in the coffin of both the production and the consumption of music. Because all frequencies above twenty-one-point-five kilohertz are simply thrown away when music is boiled down to CD, the emotional impact of the music is tossed out with it.

Remember how that song used to make you get up and dance, or burst into song, or punch the air when you were around fifteen? Try listening to it now. It sounds weak, like a middle aged tribute band doing a half-hearted cover of the original. And what we do, deprived of the emotional impact, is we raise the volume – which almost works – and has led to a massive increase in hearing loss among young people who’ve grown up trying to feel something.

And along with the flattening out of the frequencies available, mainstream music since about 1983 has been pretty shit, hasn’t it? And Phil Collins was a major solo artist in the 1980s – coincidence? I think not!

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