Magazine article The Spectator

Know What I Mean?

Magazine article The Spectator

Know What I Mean?

Article excerpt

Know what I mean?

James Delingpole

For the many Spectator readers who believe that far, far too much television space is wasted on that dread new phenomenon 'popular' music, this has truly been a weekus horribilis. Elvis, Oasis, Elvis, Captain Beefheart, The Band, Elvis and more bloody Oasis - there's been no escaping it.

Being a rock critic, I suppose this should have made me very happy. But it hasn't because it so happens that all the people named above leave me completely cold. Elvis? Fat burger-eater who popped too many pills. Oasis? Loutish Mancunians who aren't as good as Radiohead. Captain Beefheart? Composer of pseudy, unlistenable weirdo music. The Band? Something to do with boring Bob Dylan, I think.

Still, there's been sod-all else to review this week so what can you do? I kicked off at Sunday lunch time by accidentally watching a bit of This is Elvis (ITV), a 1981 documentary which proved so enthralling I almost missed my afternoon session of boules.

What I found fascinating was how - at least by modern standards -- incredibly unrock'n'roll the young Elvis Presley was. He didn't swear, drink or do drugs; he called his elders 'sir'; and he served honourably with the United States army, even though by then he was so famous that he could easily have dodged the draft. His only concession to naughtiness, as far as I could gather, was moving his hips in a suggestive manner.

I'd never previously understood why those thrusting movements were deemed so shocking. The documentary made it clear. In the Fifties, America was a gerontocracy: even the radio DJs and Elvis's backing singers were in their forties and fifties. This meant that `official public opinion' was controlled by oldsters who were bound to disapprove of anything remotely young, new-fangled or sexy. Elvis changed all that.

For the worse, some might say, on the evidence of Right Here Right Now (BBC 1, Wednesday), a nauseatingly grovelling paean to Oasis. Presumably, in return for the honour of being allowed to make the documentary, the BBC had to give the band a bit of creative control. The result, at any rate, was so sycophantic it should have been funded by Oasis's promotions department, not the licence-payer. (Yeah, sure. They'll recoup on foreign sales. Even so.)

It consisted mainly of masturbatory footage of the band playing songs from their new album, Be Here Now, interspersed with unrevelatory interviews with the band's members. Liam said `know what I mean?' a lot. Noel told us that Oasis were easily the best band in Britain and - oh the excitement! …

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