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Ich bin ein Ed Sheeran: Germany’s 2018 Eurovision Entry.

germany

It’s vaguely assumed that if you invest in the world of lookalikes (and cheap knock-offs generally), that you’ll get something not quite as fresh faced and good looking as the real thing.

In true postmodern fashion, however, Germany’s knock-off Ed Sheeran is better looking than the real thing.  Baudrillard ye should be living at this hour.  Ye probably are.

Remember that Simpsons’ episode set in Las Vegas where The Moody Blues have become the support act for their own tribute band?  I think the same thing should happen to Ed Sheeran.  Ed should be forced to open for Michael Schulte.

Here is the video, which just involves a camera swooping around this taller, cleaner, better looking Ed Sheeran:

This song title –  “You Let Me Walk Alone” – sounds like the title of something that jeering Liverpool Fans might sing at Anfield at fans of a visiting team that have just lost seven nil.

I heard read a piece once that suggested that tribute bands are better than going to see the real thing for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, tribute band members are younger that the real thing, and are more likely to resemble the real band/artist in their prime.  They are, in this sense, more “real” than the real thing – a more realistic portrayal of a majoritarian consensus regarding a desirable reality.  Furthermore, a tribute band will play the hits.  They won’t plug their unmelodic new album at the expense of the songs people have actually come to hear.  These Charming Men, or the Bootleg Beatles will never utter the ominous phrase “hope you like our new direction…”

Michael Schulte belongs in a Don DeLillo novel.  He and Ed Sheeran deserves to be squeezed into some narrative context that reinforces the postmodern condition that refuses to acknowledge that one “precedes” the other or that one stands “behind” the other.  Schulte and Sheeran, Sheeran and Schulte occupy instead a sort of mobius strip of continuity that delights in surfaces and the constant oscillating referentiality that honest superficiality confers.

Michael Schulte looks far more like a globally successful pop star than Ed Sheeran does.  Indeed, if Ed Sheeran, just prior to his strange global fame – had been submitted to a focus group from the marketing division of any branch of the entertainment industry  to be tweaked, airbrushed and restyled in any way that suggested greater conformity with established industry expectations – the result would undoubtedly have been Michael Schulte.

Perhaps instead of saying that Michael Schulte looks like a good-looking Ed Sheeran, it would be more strictly accurate to say that Ed Sheeran looks like a version of Michael Schulte that escaped from the cyborg factory before stages 10, 11, and 12 of the finishing process were achieved.

I haven’t said anything about the actual entry have I?  I haven’t said whether or not it’s a good song or well sung?

Well…  it’s a lot like Ed Sheeran.

I have some thoughts about some other 2018 Eurovision entries:

Like

Georgia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/all-what-jazz-georgias-2018-eurovision-entry/

France:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/merci-mercy-a-song-thats-impossible-to-make-fun-of-frances-2018-eurovision-entry/

Finland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/table-for-twenty-six-please-finlands-2018-eurovision-entry/

FYR Macedonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/too-much-unsmudged-love-fyr-macedonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Estonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/eleni-versus-the-volcano-estonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Denmark:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/just-leave-the-danegeld-waiting-for-us-on-the-beach-next-time-and-nobody-gets-hurt-denmarks-2018-eurovision-entry/

Czech Republic:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/no-bactrian-camels-were-hurt-in-the-making-of-this-video-the-czech-republics-2018-eurovision-entry/

Cyprus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/money-to-burn-this-one-does-annoy-me-the-2018-cypriot-eurovision-entry/

Croatia: 

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/call-me-crazy-probably-the-kiss-of-death-for-me-to-say-it-but-i-think-this-ones-got-legs-croatias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/equinox-eurovision-by-committee-bulgarias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belgium:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/just-a-matter-of-time-belgiums-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belarus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/unsure-whether-this-isnt-just-3-minutes-of-emotional-blackmail-the-belarus-2018-eurovision-entry/

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/sadly-nobody-is-stronger-than-cannonballs-azerbaijans-2018-eurovision-entry/

Austria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/the-sound-of-musics-austrias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Australia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/thinking-inside-the-box-we-got-love-a-strikingly-unoriginal-sentiment-and-australias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Armenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/dry-ice-ice-baby-armenias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Albania

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/mall-means-yearning-incidentally-the-2018-albanian-eurovision-entry/

UK:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/i-misread-the-headline-initially-and-thought-that-siri-would-be-representing-the-uk-at-the-2018-eurovision-song-contest/

Ireland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/what-will-this-look-like-as-a-live-stage-performance-irelands-2018-eurovision-entry-together/

 

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All what Jazz? Georgia’s 2018 Eurovision Entry.

georgia

 

I am a little puzzled by the name of this outfit.  Everywhere I look they are called “Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao”.  If they were just called “Iriao”, I’d understand them better.  Why they seem so keen to be categorised as “Ethno-Jazz” is not clear to me.

I know very little about jazz, but Iriao aren’t serving up anything that I would call jazz – “ethno” or otherwise.  If jazz means (among other things), Iriao, then it would seem to me that jazz can mean anything.  And therefore nothing.

What “For You” is, is something else entirely.

Here’s the promo video:

The video shows the five members of the band in an abandoned circular building, singing to nobody in particular while a few dancers with white veils perform tastefully in the background.  There’s no reason why this performance can’t be precisely replicated in Lisbon.

The song itself has a quiet charm to it.  It (apparently) draws on well established polyphonic Georgian traditions and has a slightly liturgical feel to it.  The more you hear it, the more subtly engaging it is, and I’m surprised to see that hard-hearted bookies can rate its chances so slightly.  I am optimistic that it will get a boost from the juries at least, and that it will reach the finals – thus enabling millions of people to hear it at least twice.

When these gentle looking men sing in their native Georgian, it makes you want to learn Georgian, ever though there are 137 other languages that would probably make your CV look more useful.  As always, with Eurovision, the sound of the words is far more important than their meaning in English.  It’s hardly worth looking up whatever it is they are supposed to “mean”.

Sheni gulistvis

Sikvarulistvis

Tundac erti tsutistvis

Isev vagrzelebt gzas

Rasaca gascem shenia

It is striking to think that the nation that gave us this harmonious work of choral devotion also gave us Joseph Stalin.   S’funny ol’ world.

I’ve some thoughts about a few other 2018 Eurovision Entries:

Like

France:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/merci-mercy-a-song-thats-impossible-to-make-fun-of-frances-2018-eurovision-entry/

Finland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/table-for-twenty-six-please-finlands-2018-eurovision-entry/

FYR Macedonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/too-much-unsmudged-love-fyr-macedonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Estonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/eleni-versus-the-volcano-estonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Denmark:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/just-leave-the-danegeld-waiting-for-us-on-the-beach-next-time-and-nobody-gets-hurt-denmarks-2018-eurovision-entry/

Czech Republic:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/no-bactrian-camels-were-hurt-in-the-making-of-this-video-the-czech-republics-2018-eurovision-entry/

Cyprus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/money-to-burn-this-one-does-annoy-me-the-2018-cypriot-eurovision-entry/

Croatia: 

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/call-me-crazy-probably-the-kiss-of-death-for-me-to-say-it-but-i-think-this-ones-got-legs-croatias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/equinox-eurovision-by-committee-bulgarias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belgium:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/just-a-matter-of-time-belgiums-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belarus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/unsure-whether-this-isnt-just-3-minutes-of-emotional-blackmail-the-belarus-2018-eurovision-entry/

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/sadly-nobody-is-stronger-than-cannonballs-azerbaijans-2018-eurovision-entry/

Austria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/the-sound-of-musics-austrias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Australia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/thinking-inside-the-box-we-got-love-a-strikingly-unoriginal-sentiment-and-australias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Armenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/dry-ice-ice-baby-armenias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Albania

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/mall-means-yearning-incidentally-the-2018-albanian-eurovision-entry/

UK:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/i-misread-the-headline-initially-and-thought-that-siri-would-be-representing-the-uk-at-the-2018-eurovision-song-contest/

Ireland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/what-will-this-look-like-as-a-live-stage-performance-irelands-2018-eurovision-entry-together/

 

 

Merci Mercy. A song that’s impossible to make fun of. France’s 2018 Eurovision Entry.

monsieur

France hasn’t always taken Eurovision all that seriously.  Try looking up “Moustache” by Twin Twin (2014) as an illustration of the frivolous attitude that has characterised recent French involvement in this show.  This year, however, they’re being as serious as anyone – and it may work for them.

This year France gives us a female-male singing duo with the Ronseal “does what it says on the tin” name of “Madame-Monsieur”.  These two do not wear silly costumes or caper about.  They sing, very proficiently.  They humbly affirm their sense of continuity with a great chanson tradition.  And why not?

They are serious without being pompous – “seriousness” is not some kind of calculated effect that they are battering us over the head with.   Every so often, Madame looks as though she might favour us with a smile -but then she doesn’t.   Their video is set in a variety of European cities and features people wearing those shiny cloaks that get given out to people who’ve just run a marathon.

 

The haunting chorus, sung, of course in French, sounds as though it might actually have something plausible and important to say about the human condition.

Je suis née ce matin

Je m’appelle Mercy

On m’a tendu la main

Et je suis en vie

Je suis tous ces enfants

Que la mer a pris

Je vivrai cent mille ans

Je m’appelle Mercy.

 

I’m not sure this level of pretension could survive in English, but it works perfectly well in French without wreckers and cynics like me wanting to deflate the mystery and ambition of the strange claims being represented.

I can see this song scoring very highly with juries in particular – who tend to be a po-faced bunch and pride themselves on their immunity to gimmicks and vulgar visuals.  The song deserves all the votes it gets from whatever source.

Madame Monsieur will not, however,  secure the drunk vote – and the drunk vote is quite significant.  Those who have already consumed four or five pints before Madame Monsieur appear on stage and who are using Eurovision as an ambient excuse for a big party are unlikely to be particularly arrested by “Mercy”.  The drunk voters tend to prefer Polish milkmaids and Romanian yodelers (though I liked the Romanian yodelers too, and I was stone cold sober).

In terms of the popular vote, Madame Monsieur will score highest with those who take time to listen to all the songs ahead of time.  This song is of sufficient melodic interest to grow on you.  It has that sort of mnemonic efficacy if you give it two or three goes.  I am unaware of the percentage of Eurovision phone in voters who have heard a song more than once.

Oddly enough, I think being one of the BICs who make it straight to the final without having to compete in the semis is not an unmixed blessing.  A BIC (Big Important Country) does not get to benefit from the extra days of exposure and attention conferred on songs that have made it through semi-finals. I’m aware that the BIC countries are showcased (as videos rather than as live performances) during the semis, but not within an urgent competitive context.

Correct me if I’m wrong – but I don’t think that any BIC has one Eurovision since the controversial queue-jumping structure was initiated?

I’ve some thoughts about some other 2018 Eurovision entries.

Like

Finland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/table-for-twenty-six-please-finlands-2018-eurovision-entry/

FYR Macedonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/too-much-unsmudged-love-fyr-macedonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Estonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/eleni-versus-the-volcano-estonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Denmark:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/just-leave-the-danegeld-waiting-for-us-on-the-beach-next-time-and-nobody-gets-hurt-denmarks-2018-eurovision-entry/

Czech Republic:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/no-bactrian-camels-were-hurt-in-the-making-of-this-video-the-czech-republics-2018-eurovision-entry/

Cyprus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/money-to-burn-this-one-does-annoy-me-the-2018-cypriot-eurovision-entry/

Croatia: 

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/call-me-crazy-probably-the-kiss-of-death-for-me-to-say-it-but-i-think-this-ones-got-legs-croatias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/equinox-eurovision-by-committee-bulgarias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belgium:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/just-a-matter-of-time-belgiums-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belarus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/unsure-whether-this-isnt-just-3-minutes-of-emotional-blackmail-the-belarus-2018-eurovision-entry/

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/sadly-nobody-is-stronger-than-cannonballs-azerbaijans-2018-eurovision-entry/

Austria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/the-sound-of-musics-austrias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Australia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/thinking-inside-the-box-we-got-love-a-strikingly-unoriginal-sentiment-and-australias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Armenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/dry-ice-ice-baby-armenias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Albania

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/mall-means-yearning-incidentally-the-2018-albanian-eurovision-entry/

UK:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/i-misread-the-headline-initially-and-thought-that-siri-would-be-representing-the-uk-at-the-2018-eurovision-song-contest/

Ireland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/what-will-this-look-like-as-a-live-stage-performance-irelands-2018-eurovision-entry-together/

 

 

 

“Table for Twenty Six Please”: Finland’s 2018 Eurovision Entry.

finland

In recent years the full name of Finland, as reported by Eurovision commentators, seems to have been “Well This Should Be Interesting – Finland”.  Ever since they triumphed in 2006 with a bunch of heavy-metal playing Uruk-Hai, they’ve been associated with entries that find a way to “think outside the box”.

Well, this year, I think they’re stuck in a box of a relatively tedious kind.  Saara Aalto (who certainly has pipes and does not sing alto) serves up the sort of song that makes loud protestations about the need to act all wild and uninhibited and iconoclastic, while being somewhat formulaic in terms of delivering on its message.

Saara, you see,  is “making friends with the monsters under her bed”:

 I ain’t gonna hold on to these monsters anymore

Now I’m gonna let in all the light, tear down the walls

At my worst I found my army strong, all the demons are gone

You can try and scare me now but I ain’t scared no more…

 

Here’s the promotional video – which seems to feature not so much “monsters” – but fairly common or garden goths that you might see dangling outside nightclubs anywhere across Europe from Reykjavik to Athens – from Lisbon to Helsinki.  These are not the monsters I imagined lurking under my bed.  Perhaps beds were just scarier back in the 1970s.  In a calculated and rather predictably “edgy” gesture, Saara and her monsters keep arranging themselves as Leonardo di Vinci’s Last Supper in a classic “Table for 26” configuration.

 

So I suppose my problem with Finland this year – is that instead of being authentically left-field, we’re presented with a fairly conventional pop song that keeps telling us that it is authentically left field – in the same way that nobody is more tedious that someone who boasts about being a crackpot.

Last year, Finland offered what I thought was a very haunting and strange and original song that failed to make it to the Saturday final.  Saara may well do much better – which is a sorry reflection on something or other.

I’ve some thoughts about some other 2018 Eurovision entries.

Like

FYR Macedonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/too-much-unsmudged-love-fyr-macedonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Estonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/eleni-versus-the-volcano-estonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Denmark:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/just-leave-the-danegeld-waiting-for-us-on-the-beach-next-time-and-nobody-gets-hurt-denmarks-2018-eurovision-entry/

Czech Republic:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/no-bactrian-camels-were-hurt-in-the-making-of-this-video-the-czech-republics-2018-eurovision-entry/

Cyprus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/money-to-burn-this-one-does-annoy-me-the-2018-cypriot-eurovision-entry/

Croatia: 

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/call-me-crazy-probably-the-kiss-of-death-for-me-to-say-it-but-i-think-this-ones-got-legs-croatias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/equinox-eurovision-by-committee-bulgarias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belgium:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/just-a-matter-of-time-belgiums-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belarus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/unsure-whether-this-isnt-just-3-minutes-of-emotional-blackmail-the-belarus-2018-eurovision-entry/

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/sadly-nobody-is-stronger-than-cannonballs-azerbaijans-2018-eurovision-entry/

Austria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/the-sound-of-musics-austrias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Australia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/thinking-inside-the-box-we-got-love-a-strikingly-unoriginal-sentiment-and-australias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Armenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/dry-ice-ice-baby-armenias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Albania

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/mall-means-yearning-incidentally-the-2018-albanian-eurovision-entry/

UK:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/i-misread-the-headline-initially-and-thought-that-siri-would-be-representing-the-uk-at-the-2018-eurovision-song-contest/

Ireland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/what-will-this-look-like-as-a-live-stage-performance-irelands-2018-eurovision-entry-together/

 

“Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite,” The strange and irritating centenary of Spike Milligan.

spike-milligan

What to show to young people?  What to use to explain him with?  Why was he so darned important?

Well, actual children are easier to talk to about Spike Milligan.  Just tell them that the author of “On the Ning Nang Nong” was born a hundred years ago.  If Spike Milligan had done nothing other than write inspired children’s doggerel he would be remembered for endless generations to come.  If he had done nothing other than write hilarious wartime memoirs, his reputation would be similarly secure.  And, needless to say, had he been known exclusively as the main who wrote the lion’s share of “The Goon Show”, he would also be revered by the cognoscenti until cognoscenti are themselves no more.  But because he’s done all and more of these things, he’s impossible to tether in the collective memory.

It is impossible to over-state the influence of The Goon Show, though many try.  Without the Goon Show there would be no Monty Python, of course, but probably The Beatles would not have existed in anything like a recognisable form without the Goons, and their defining relationship with George Martin was cemented with Goonery.

The pressure of writing Goon show scripts resulted in serial nervous breakdowns for Spike Milligan, who had already been severely traumatised by his wartime experience.  Further identity crises lay ahead.  In 1962, his right to British citizenship was removed as a result of a legislation that disenfranchised commonwealth born “citizens”.  Milligan, a London-Irishman born in India tried variously to be Irish and/or Australian and ended up buried in Winchelsea with his preferred headstone joke translated into Irish because the parochial powers that be deemed it more decorous in the decent obscurity of a “foreign” tongue.

The idea of being an alien who is barely tolerated and can never be allowed to feel completely at home defined him.  As a performer, he was hamstrung by the fact that he was barey an actor, yet never a secure persona either.   He did not dissolve into whatever character he played and he wasn’t a “character” in his own right.  People never did “impressions” of Spike Milligan – because beyond meaningless descriptors like “anarchic” or “subversive” – nobody could really describe him.

It is lonely being a trailblazer – because the strange path that you beat is always being replaced by far more elegant and palatable paths being tarmacadamed behind you.   A few weeks before Monty Python started to air, Milligan’s first “Q” series was broadcast and some of the Pythons felt that the old master had stolen a march on them.   It is very difficult, however, to watch any “Q” series these days and they tend to inspire rather more of the unheimlich than actual mirth.  In other words, Milligan did not produce “classics” of television or film, but he ensured that others did.  He was not, incidentally, the “onelie begetter” of The Goon Show – although the its supporting writers felt obligated to try to imagine that they were themselves Spike Milligan and to copy his idiom.

Milligan did more to make the late twentieth century a hilarious place than any other human – but he was not himself hilarious.  Most of the laughter that he sponsored he only heard at second or third hand.  This is not the applauding mirth that serves to self-validate – but then again – self validation was not compatible with the gnawing and aggressive puzzlement that lay at the heart of his best writing.  Writing was not the reason he was famous, because writing was not the reason why anyone who was very famous was famous in the late twentieth century – but writing was the reason why the many many things he was associated with was famous.

So let us cherish Terence Spike Milligan on this his hundredth birthday because he is responsible for a heftier percentage of the reasons why I and you have laughed and will laugh.

And yes – he told us he was sick.

 

 

Yesterday’s annual family weekend to check out the secret location of Dad’s ashes.

Snapseed

I think once you’ve done something two or three times, you can officially call it a “tradition”.   My Dad didn’t care much for traditions that go back centuries and which are acknowledged by humanity as a whole – but he loved talking up the traditional qualities of anything that had been done about twice and which he himself had invented.

Yesterday, therefore, was the traditional annual family trip to check out the secret location of Dad’s Ashes.

There are now established ingredients to this weekend venture.   We trudge very muddy fields in footwear that isn’t quite adequate, risking trenchfoot.  We cross a bridge, and at some point ensure that an album cover quality photo of us is taken on the summit of the bridge.  We examine the marker stones for the relevant ancestral ash deposits.  Then we climb over some barbed wire and examine an old well in the middle of another field – and photograph one another face down in the well.

Sometimes some of us may plunge from the top of the bridge into the icy water below.  This is very very optional.   After we’ve trudged back through the fields we then drive to a nearby posh market town that we all of us despise.  We will drink and eat curry there, stay overnight and spend the morning tramping around this town saying mean-spirited and spiteful things about this town and its rich local heritage.

In this way, we feel that we are paying tribute to my Dad.  The trudging, the drinking, the laughing and the sneering are all designed with him in mind.  Traditions do evolve of course, and when they becomes too tediously numerous – some may be jettisoned.  We like the idea of the album cover photo (which we’ve now done twice), and I was explaining to my nephew this afternoon that eventually he will be able to see us all wither and shrivel if these photos are properly sequenced and time takes its efficient toll on us all.

It will be just like the end of Zardoz – and the photo-montage should be run with the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony playing in the background.

An alternative and perhaps more upbeat solution would be to gradually replace band member in the album cover photograph with representatives of a younger generation.  I’m not sure which music should play.

 

Too much unsmudged love… FYR Macedonia’s 2018 Eurovision Entry.

Eye Cue

Whenever I hear the official nomenclature of “FYR Macedonia” announced, I keep wanting to mishear it and then misquote it as “FYI Macedonia”.  “For Your Information Macedonia” sounds more redolent of this country’s definitional squabble with Greece than “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

Eye Cue are successful enough in Macedonia I hear, and this competition will help shift quite a few records for them.   The band consists of Bojan Trajkovski on lead guitar and Marija Ivanovska on vocals and whoever they can scrape together on an ad hoc basis.  Good for them.  I wish them every long term success.  What they won’t actually do is win – or even threaten to win – Eurovision 2018.

It’s not quite or exactly that this song is too raunchy – it’s that it’s too individuated.  She’s not singing to the world – she’s singing to someone very specific – and that very specific very sexy someone is most definitely not you or I.  This is a “get a room” ballad.  Except that they already have a room, and you and I feel a bit awkward about being in it with them.

The song itself is actually quite interesting and repays repeated hearings.  There are reggae verses and techno-blast choruses and soft and isolated vocal passages as well.  It manages to do rather a lot in three minutes.  There’s an admirable formal eclecticism at work which may result in appreciative nods from jury voters.

Here’s the video…

 

The Eurovision problem with this song is that its raunchiness is too exclusionary.  When Bulgaria sings about “Bones” they seem to be trying to reach some universal truth about personal intimacy.  When Marija Ivanovska sings “come and take me…”  it’s more like we’re overhearing something we perhaps shouldn’t.  She leans against a bed and closes her eyes (whose lids are darker than anything Dusty Springfield dared attempt) in a telling millisecond of orgasmic abandonment.  And when she talks repeatedly of the “deeper, deeper, deeper love” that she wants then any adult (or adolescent) viewer of this video will infer something other than metaphysical profundity.

So the problem with this song, from any sort of competitive point of view – is not that it’s sexy – the problem is that it’s not Eurovision sexy.  When singing of love at Eurovision, it’s important for “eros” to occasionally smudge into “agape” – for binary intimacies to somehow hint at something a bit more collective.

Otherwise we can’t really feel we can join in the chorus.

I’ve some thoughts about some other 2018 Eurovision entries.

Like

Estonia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/eleni-versus-the-volcano-estonias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Denmark:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/just-leave-the-danegeld-waiting-for-us-on-the-beach-next-time-and-nobody-gets-hurt-denmarks-2018-eurovision-entry/

Czech Republic:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/no-bactrian-camels-were-hurt-in-the-making-of-this-video-the-czech-republics-2018-eurovision-entry/

Cyprus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/money-to-burn-this-one-does-annoy-me-the-2018-cypriot-eurovision-entry/

Croatia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/call-me-crazy-probably-the-kiss-of-death-for-me-to-say-it-but-i-think-this-ones-got-legs-croatias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/equinox-eurovision-by-committee-bulgarias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belgium:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/just-a-matter-of-time-belgiums-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belarus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/unsure-whether-this-isnt-just-3-minutes-of-emotional-blackmail-the-belarus-2018-eurovision-entry/

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/sadly-nobody-is-stronger-than-cannonballs-azerbaijans-2018-eurovision-entry/

Austria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/the-sound-of-musics-austrias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Australia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/thinking-inside-the-box-we-got-love-a-strikingly-unoriginal-sentiment-and-australias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Armenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/dry-ice-ice-baby-armenias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Albania

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/mall-means-yearning-incidentally-the-2018-albanian-eurovision-entry/

UK:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/i-misread-the-headline-initially-and-thought-that-siri-would-be-representing-the-uk-at-the-2018-eurovision-song-contest/

Ireland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/what-will-this-look-like-as-a-live-stage-performance-irelands-2018-eurovision-entry-together/

Oh Maharishi – what haven’t you done?… Fifty Years On… What might have been?

maharashi

Today provides a rather unusual and interesting anniversary.  Fifty years ago today, George Harrison and John Lennon finally left Rishikesh in confused and acrimonious circumstances, thus sundering the relationship between the Beatles and the Maharishi.

In hindsight, the obvious positives of transcendental meditation for John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr seem to by far outweigh the tragi-comic negatives.   At a confused and pivotal point in the career of The Beatles, Rishikesh allowed the band to detox, to pause for thought, and (although Harrison had mixed feelings about this), write a great many songs.  Indeed, it is not claiming too much to suggest that Rishikesh extended the functioning and creative life of The Beatles by at least a year.  Without Rishikesh, we certainly wouldn’t have The White Album.  Amid all the chaos and the scandal and unnecessary eventual nastiness – a deal of timeless beauty was created.

They could not have stayed in Rishikesh indefinitely, and Lennon and Harrison probably should have had a pre-determined exit strategy before they arrived.  Starr left very early and McCartney returned for “business reasons” having apparently set a timer on the whole meditative endeavour from the outset.  The longer any of them stayed, the harder and more difficult the decision to return to “work” probably was always going to be.  It’s now pretty much established that the serpent in the garden, the snake in the ashram,  was actually Yanni Alexis Mardas (“Magic Alex”), a bizarre adventurer in speculative electronics whose baleful association with the band would last another year.   According to Cynthia Lennon and others, Magic Alex, despite having encouraged Lennon to go to Rishikesh, resented anyone, including the Maharishi, spending more time with Lennon than him.  Magic Alex may have shrewdly calculated also that a calm, meditative, detoxed Lennon would be harder to manipulate and that it was time for unhappy and paranoid Lennon to return.  He it was, by all accounts, who exploited and expanded and distorted a few existing anxieties regarding the Maharishi’s touchy-feeliness into a portfolio of poisonous allegations that ruined Rishikesh for everyone.  Given Lennon’s (understandable) abandonment issues, stemming from painful childhood experiences, it was easy for Alex to persuade Lennon that the Maharishi was just another treacherous failed Daddy figure.  Alex activated a recurring narrative of personal betrayal that was always latent and always primed.  Perhaps that was the electronics expert in him – he knew about a kind of emotional circuitry.

And so, on the 12th April 1968, Lennon confronted the Maharishi with hard looks and vague allegations and left, along with Harrison, who hadn’t yet developed the confidence to act decisively independently of Lennon.

Much later (and sadly long after Lennon’s death), the survivors of Rishikesh ’68 all agreed that Maharishi had been innocent of all charges and that his programme of meditation had been a positive and creative experience.  Harrison, McCartney and Starr all sought and obtained reconciliation with the Maharishi.

The most interesting speculation concerns what might have happened of this toxic conclusion hadn’t occurred 50 years ago today?  Suppose Rishikesh had been a regular restorative annual sabbatical for The Beatles – a way of chilling and reconnecting and writing lots of songs in a secluded environment?  Could Rishikesh have enabled the band to survive for years longer?  What if, after the horrible Get Back sessions, they’d all gone back to Rishikesh?  Maybe the Get Back sessions would have been less horrible if everyone had known that Rishikesh was waiting for them?

It’s a nagging possibility, though the possibility for exploitation and disappointment from some source or other was always perhaps too strong…

Oh, and the food. I forgot.  Ringo Starr really couldn’t handle the food in Rishikesh.  I forgot about that.  Nah – they couldn’t have gone every year.

Eleni Versus the Volcano. Estonia’s 2018 Eurovision Entry.

elina-la-forza

If the contest were to be judged sartorially (and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be), then Eleni Nechayeva has already won – literally overwhelming all other possible competition.  This dress of hers is simply huge.  It not only reaches the floor – it covers the entire stage and quite possibly the first few rows of the audience.  This dress could provide emergency accommodation for an entire Estonian village.  A medium sized scouting jamboree could pitch under it in case of inclement weather.  P.T. Barnum could organise a three ring circus inside it and still need a safety net to protect the high wire performers operating at a dangerous altitude.

And as Eleni belts out her song,  lighting effects play up and down the folds and flanks of this “Mount Doom” of a garment giving the impression of lava flows.  By the end, Eleni looks as though she’s been wedged into the crater of an active volcano as a sort of ineffectual plug – but she keeps on singing with increased gumption despite the fact that a full scale eruption is taking place.

And yes, she’s got the pipes.  This is proper serious singing from someone who’s been taught.

Perhaps she’s the Eurovision entrant least like Bucks Fizz in the entire history of the European project.

So here is the video.  It’s a performance video – and hopefully – what you see hear is what we’ll see in Lisbon:

Eleni sings “Forza” in Italian.  Which I like. All this talk about whether or not nations should perform in their own language or in English is taking a depressingly dull and narrow Anglocentric view of things.  I think a great Eurovision experiment would be to force every competing nation to pick a European language to sing in out of a hat.  It would just be a randomly lucky nation each year that got Italian.  This would do wonders for closer European cultural integration.

Eleni is one of the bookies’ faves this year – perhaps sensing that Portugal’s rather unusual but haunting success last year may have created something of a precedent.  People may not be humming this song in the shower for the next twelve months, but as a performance experience it is truly startling.   I for one would be content to see it win.

If only because if Estonia triumphs in 2018, then Eurovision 2019 will be staged inside Eleni’s dress. Lots of room for everyone.

BUT WAIT – STOP PRESS.  Eleni is in trouble.  The cost of transporting and constructing and lighting her enormous costume is so prohibitive (€65000), that this spectacle is threatened – with neither Eleni’s family nor the state broadcasting corporation able (or willing) to foot the bill.

If Eurovision is no longer allowed to indulge or accommodate bizarre sartorial spectacle, then we’re living in sad, sad times my friends.  Maybe Eleni’s dress should be crowd-sourced or something.

Because I’m looking forward the the announcement.

“There will now be a short break in the programme while an army of tekkies try to remove Eleni and her costume from the stage.”
I have a few thoughts about some other 2018 Eurovision entries.

Like

Denmark:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/just-leave-the-danegeld-waiting-for-us-on-the-beach-next-time-and-nobody-gets-hurt-denmarks-2018-eurovision-entry/

Czech Republic:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/no-bactrian-camels-were-hurt-in-the-making-of-this-video-the-czech-republics-2018-eurovision-entry/

Cyprus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/money-to-burn-this-one-does-annoy-me-the-2018-cypriot-eurovision-entry/

Croatia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/call-me-crazy-probably-the-kiss-of-death-for-me-to-say-it-but-i-think-this-ones-got-legs-croatias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/equinox-eurovision-by-committee-bulgarias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belgium:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/just-a-matter-of-time-belgiums-2018-eurovision-entry/

Belarus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/unsure-whether-this-isnt-just-3-minutes-of-emotional-blackmail-the-belarus-2018-eurovision-entry/

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/sadly-nobody-is-stronger-than-cannonballs-azerbaijans-2018-eurovision-entry/

Austria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/the-sound-of-musics-austrias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Australia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/thinking-inside-the-box-we-got-love-a-strikingly-unoriginal-sentiment-and-australias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Armenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/dry-ice-ice-baby-armenias-2018-eurovision-entry/

Albania

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/mall-means-yearning-incidentally-the-2018-albanian-eurovision-entry/

UK:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/i-misread-the-headline-initially-and-thought-that-siri-would-be-representing-the-uk-at-the-2018-eurovision-song-contest/

Ireland:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/what-will-this-look-like-as-a-live-stage-performance-irelands-2018-eurovision-entry-together/

 

Left, Right and Centre. Belated Thoughts on Charles Kennedy.

Since everyone is writing about “centrism” right now – I thought I’d repost something I scribbled following the death of Charles Kennedy…

conradbrunstrom

kennedy

Most people have had their say about Charles Kennedy by now.  His memory provokes a kind of rueful smile.  One of the few politicians of his age you’d actually want to have a drink with… which turned out to be the problem.  He seemed kind of human, and it turns out that being kind of human is not the way to get on in politics.

Perhaps most important of all, Charles Kennedy was not a centrist.  Never trust a centrist.  Charles Kennedy did not define himself along a continuum.  Charles Kennedy was not the prisoner of a paradigm derived from the seating preferences of the 1790s French national assembly.  He did not wake up in the morning and consider ways in which the political agenda seemed to have moved to the left or the right and move his party accordingly.

Because that’s what a centrist does.  Someone who is obsessive…

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