musical meaning revisited

So I did really quite well at ‘Beat The Frog’ last night. I did, at least, pretty convincingly do the time with good laughs throughout and one quite big applause break; and when the time ran out at the end I felt like I was just getting going.

(Perhaps if I had just got going a bit before that, I would even have won the night – as it is I came second behind a young fellow whose name was, I think, Peter Brush, and who seemed something of an oddball but a very funny oddball. For the purposes of concluding yesterday‘s discussion, yes his act was deeply functional with some very well-crafted pullback-and-reveals, and the Manchester audience loved him. As well they should have).

But anyway, what I wanted to write about was not that I did well, but that the music of the show was so well chosen. It’s an odd thing to notice, but I couldn’t help but feel it really set the mood of the night. Seeing as how it’s a gong show, and I was so nervous before the show started, it seemed a little distasteful at the time that they played Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’, but looking back it seems perfectly appropriate.

They played ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ as acts came onstage; if they stayed funny for five minutes they played the ‘Frog Chorus’, and if they didn’t they had to leave the stage to the sound of Beck’s ‘Loser’. It was all so carefully thought about that I couldn’t help admiring it. Timmy Manners (who, for the record, also ‘beat the frog’) suggested it would be quite a funny idea to go out and say something like, “This is a lose-lose situation for me – I really want to do well, but I also have an irrational fear of Paul McCartney.”

It’s peculiar, though, how certain songs fit situations perfectly, and how they attach themselves to thoughts of people and places. Naturally I’ve been listening to The Smiths all the way around Manchester, and now I’ll always associate the Frog Chorus not with Rupert Bear but with last night’s gig.

But it doesn’t always make quite such perfect sense. For example: out of boredom with Manchester (again, see yesterday’s blog), I ended up getting a train over to York today to say hello to my friend Mariel, and she was talking about how these associations can be reset with new hearings of a song. She’s right to an extent, and I guess essentially she was just repeating what the awesome Lawrence Kramer says in his smashing book about the perpetual re-readings and re-applications of music with imagetext.

But there are some associations that seem to wedge themselves into the consciousness and stay there, and then keep reappearing in the most uncanny way. For example, I didn’t mention this to Mariel at the time, but I always associate the irritatingly catchy Black Eyed Peas song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ with her (I mainly didn’t mention it because I have no idea whether she’ll approve of this, or even if she likes the song or not; but I don’t think she reads this blog so I’ll probably get away with saying it here). Anyway, it always seems to pop up shortly before or after I speak to her. I’ve written this off as being an entirely ridiculous coincidence and just a reflection of the silly amount that it was played in public places last year. Its popularity has waned now, of course, and I hardly ever hear it at all; but I’m still consistently reminded of Mariel when I do.

Anyway, then we chatted about this and that and about half-an-hour ago I said goodbye and got on the train back to Manchester. Within about a minute of sitting down on the train, the phone of the kid on the seat behind me went off. Then it went off again. And again.

The ringtone was – obviously – that Black Eyed Peas song.

Uncanny.

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