Doorbitch: Dancing ‘round the power of music

Musicians are the creatives that float my boat in the field of sexual intercourse. I confess to having investigated the bodies of more musos than you can shake a drumstick at. It’s rude to gloat about quantity, but I sure was busy mis-spending my youth. Music playing along before/during/after all that mis-spending. Good sex and a good tune are hard things to beat. They’re the best entertainments you can get without breaking the law. Music is the sexiest of all the art forms (not that it’s a competition) but music and sex are closely related in a loose, rhythmic, repetitious, up-to-crescendo kind of way. If you feel me? I mean hear me. Yep, in my hetero normative working class white girl way I’ve used music to expand my horizons horizontally.

Music is the most popular art form (if-ing you don’t consider television an art form) just as sex is the most popular indoor sport. Outdoor too, if you like to infuse risk and fresh air into your inbox. The popularity of an artform shouldn’t be dismissed. Culture reflects us.

Is there anything that can confirm or change our mood faster than a song? Once the proletariat hears a tune they’re not afraid to say what they think of it. This willingness to judge, to engage in dialogue in and around an artform is no small thing. For somewhere along the line (maybe around minimalism), everyone got scared as fuck to talk about art. Not just the artists making the art got scared, art became such a closed shop, that even our audience clammed the fuck up. Which is why so many art school students swap visuals for noise: ‘Buff arts elitism, I can’t tell what they’re even on about, let’s go down the pub and start a band. We can jam in my oldies garage and tell everyone how great we are on MySpace’. Music and art are close bedfellows.

 Music is inextricably linked to fashion and hair styling too, many a music career hath begun with an excellent ‘do’. Music and dance are also closely linked and since MTV conquered us the film clip is like totally super important. Kristen Phillips and I made a film clip for the Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers song Pablo Picasso and Richman didn’t even ask us to. I play the weeping woman Dora Maar, she’s the star. There’s a chorus line of Picassol’s behind her because the genius man, there’s one of them on every corner. Getting all our Picassol performers to submit to our exacting choreographic direction, that was a fun afternoon. Loving how Brent wore red undies under his tights when we told him to wear black, he marches to his own drum that Brentoss. Picassol 4.33mins

We collaborated with Jonathan Richman well before before Kanye got vibed on Picasso, we beat Kanye, and before JayZ got turned on by Picasso and used his words to say he is Pablo Picasso (baby). Wish JayZ had a better grasp of the finer nuances of language:

Picasso Baby lyrics

I wanna Rothko, no I wanna brothel

No, I want a wife that fuck me like a prostitute

Let’s make love on a million, in a dirty hotel

With the fan on the ceiling, all for the love of drug dealing

Marble floors, gold Ceilings

Oh what a feeling- fuck it I want a billion

Jeff Koons balloons

JayZ accompanies his poetry (?) with a particularly naff film clip shot in an art gallery, Marina Abramovic in toe embarrassing herself again. Marina has commodified contemplation. She’s made it a spectator sport. You don’t perform contemplation, you don’t do it to be seen doing it, you do it for yourself. Only wankers take snaps of themselves meditating and post them on Instagram telling their friends they are not in fact vacuous, materialistic wankers.

Everyone wants to be rich like Picasso. Picasso becomes shorthand for the neo-lib wet dream, the one where the 1 percent accrue the wealth, their insatiable desire to not do good sharing results in vast fiscal inequality at the bottom. Money is a false god (as is Picasso). Much culture now is about money and power and nothing else.

Music makes excellent propaganda, even when the songwriter didn’t mean for it their song babies can still be used to sell all kinds of shitful ideals. There’s soft porn propaganda, and there’s political propaganda, which doesn’t concern youth much because their hormones got them stuck on the soft porn stage. Tony Blair and his bullshit New Labour lies invented Cool Britannia and Brit Pop in Downing Street. Like the love child of Margaret Thatcher, Tony used music to sell nationalist pride and political optimism to Blighty as he was simultaneously and ceremoniously selling out the workers. The United Kingdom (haha) bought it lock, stock and barrel, Brit Pop was the new old Carnaby Street, it put old Blighty back on top. The poor old Spice Girls, and Pulp, Blur, Suede, Oasis and Elastica, even Alexander McQueen and Damien Hirst had their creativity misappropriated by New Labour. The social contract was torn up but the anti establishment youthful rebels were too busy at Glastonbury, distracted by the unbridled posturing of their music hero’s and getting munted to stage much of a protest.

Popular music doesn’t require the government interface that other art forms like opera rely on. The Bristol Trip Hop sound captured our imaginations. Neneh Cherry leveraged her own success to provide crucial financial support and in-kind assistance to the early careers of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky, even paying regular wages to the bands early in their careers. What a woman. Musicians are generous where governments move pieces of paper round and call it cultural policy. Massive Attack Unfinished Symphony (5.21mins) Neneh Cherry Man Child (3.54mins) Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry, 7 Seconds ft. (4.31mins)

Speaking of war, remember when a member of the Dixie Chicks dared express her embarrassment at being Texan like George W Bush? Members of the public were so outraged they burned the Chicks albums? He’d decided to invade Iraq because of the weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there. History is on the Dixie Chicks side, and this shocking scenario demonstrates the reactionary extremism of the alt right. It’s clarification that the bad guys have been winning for some time. 2.17mins. Trailer for Shut Up and Sing. The Dixie Chicks said 12 words against Bush, watch for the guy saying ‘Freedom of speech is all very well, but don’t do it in public.’

American President #45 well understands the power of celebrity branding and the persuasive power of music to sell ideals. #45 had a hard time getting a band to play his inauguration, no muso wanted to be within cooee of the event. The Boss had his song Born in the USA misappropriated by red necks who missed the anti war message by jagging on the chorus too hard: Got in a little hometown jam, so they put a rifle in my hand, sent me off to a foreign land, to go and kill the yellow man. The Boss always comes out on top but, he put them red necks straight.

The Army is an excellent career path for the muso who requires a steady income stream and likes uniforms and superiors. Morgi said it’s like when you’re getting ready to go out for a big night and you put on your really banging tunes to get in the mood as you preload alcohol or what-have-you. The army utilizes the same strategy, they use a live band and live music to put everyone in the mood for the task ahead. Hell, they even use speed to perk the troops the hell up.

Nostalgia is by its essence conservative. All that looking back, like the best has already gone past which in all honesty it probably has but there’s no need to put it on the stereo and turn it up full blast every goddamed day. It’s sad when young kids play ABBA, not because ABBA weren’t good, that’s classic pop, but don’t be wasting all that youth loving on your Mum and Dad’s music. Kids, go find your own soundtrack you conservative little gits. ‘The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.’ Kurt Cobain

We now have access to so much music it’s a full time job sifting the shit from the gold. Speaking of the strength of nostalgia, in my brain this song has become so emotionally linked to my Mum. Its like Helen Reddy was my Mum. Helen Reddy 1973, I Am Woman, 3.10mins.

Patsy would put this song on full blast every Saturday morning while she vacuumed up the lines of dead ants she Bagonned into oblivion in our 70’s acrylic shag pile carpet. We really did think gender equality was ours but then the patriarchy dug themselves into the trenches and denied it of us, one g-string at a time. It was a good dream to have had back then.

Our love of music extends into the genre of music documentary. Film makers attempt to explore the magic that happens if and when music enters the zeitgeist. We often meet the middle-aged producer, bandana tied proudly to his ageing, receding forehead. He sits proudly before his shrine, the high end mixing desk, nostalgic glint twinkling in his eye. He talks us through the genius session he recorded, way back when, how easy it was, how quickly the magic came. He presses play and we listen, engorged by the magic on his master tape. He twiddles his knobs, content in the knowledge that this is history, captured, relived and played over, and over again, so we all understand how important it truely was/is. He separates out the track, his wrinkled middle finger gently eases sliders up and down, bringing the reverb in and out to climax. Out rolls Bono or Henry Rollins, adding the expert cultural commentary of the often neglected rich white male to wax lyrical with a refreshingly rehearsed but seemingly off the cuff reminiscence that demonstrates something profound about the old man band we’re commemorating.  

I wonder how many documentary makers have made a film celebrating the creative mysteries of their favourite band, but what they’ve accidentally made is a subtle and nuanced portrait of how misogyny functions within friendship groups. Groups where women are allowed to date the band, marry the band, work the door for the band, book the band, manage the band, sell the merchandise for the band but not be in the band. Lots of men still prefer playing with each other rather than letting women play with them. Prince never had a problem locating musically virtuosic women for his bands and its just one of the reasons why we miss him so. Prince loved playing with women.

Speaking of nostalgia, the film A Star is Born, starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson was big in my house as a kid. It’s a tragic musical tale of the perils of a woman outshining her man on stage. The lauded male genius, grown weary from the demands of public adoration and a lifestyle of excess, senses his agency slipping. He falls for the authenticity of the undiscovered hot young female singer, passes her his torch, thereby redeeming himself. Babs, after a shaky start, kills it. I wish this happened more in real life (attention all ageing rock stars well past it). Barbara Streisand A Woman in The Moon 4.33mins.

Women on stage have the ability to change up the public discourse through song which is probably why men are so reluctant to hand us the mic. Women who have the nerve to take to the stage are harshly judged by misogynistic media. Their contributions rewritten, as cautionary tales for the next generation wondering about a future in the music business. Incredible cultural contributions of trailblazing women told and retold as tragedies: Billie, Nina, Janis, Edith, Tina Turner, Amy, Kylie, the signing budgie, forever unlucky in love. Scant respect paid to their successful rebellions, their powers of persuasion and abilities as ferocious, inspiring examples for us to all listen to and marvel at.

Here is my most musical friend, Mary Hanson (1966-2002). She was born in Maryborough into a family of many girls, famous for decency and good form. I had the great fortune of meeting Mary at teachers college in Brisbane where we were both attempting to learn to be Home Economics teachers. Mary reinvented herself through music, she was in a groundbreaking international band. She’s featured here in this clip with vibraphone. We miss her. Stereolab – Cybele’s Reverie, live on Jools Holland

Recently I attended a small ‘boutique’ music festival. On the first night not one woman set foot on the stage. Every one of the 6 bands in the opening night line-up was an all male #cockfest. At the after party all the DJs were men, female participation confined to the hot young scantily clad hoola-hoopers and a scattering of fire twirlers keeping the trippers on their toes. The next morning in the coffee queue I mentioned the female onstage absence to the couple I’d run into. They said they’d had a great night and didn’t care about gender on stage as long as the music was good.

Music is so terrific I’ve accidently misspent a good part of my youth in a haze of lust and throbbing beats, almost all proceeds of which have ended up in the hands of men. The male musos, the male promoters, the male venue owners, the male bookers, the male festival organisers. See lately, I’m realising I’ve misspent my power as a consumer disproportionately being entertained by and in establishments owned by men. Men think they’re more entertaining than they actually are because they’re living large off a disproportionate amount of the entertainment budgets of women. When women support women, provide opportunities and budgets to other women, that’s when this shit changes up a gear.

Hey men stop hogging the friggin’ mic, hand it over, there’s loud noise to be made.


Sheila E




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