Random Play by Graham Reid

56

Police. Security. Screams. A singer comes to town.

Because I've spent the past week immersed in a collection of essays and rants entitled Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, I'm a bit bemused but increasingly annoyed by the babble from adults about tweenie star Justin Bieber.

I heard him on radio dismissed with the self-damning line from a commentator, “I'd never heard of him until the other day”.
Well, isn't that true of everything? You have to hear about something a first time.

But the subtext here is, “He can't be any good because I haven't heard of him”.

Hmmm.

I don't come here to praise or bury Bieber --- but only to defend the right of kids to scream at whomever they want. Beatlemania was fun, if deafening, and Bieber-fever seems much the same: if you a 13-year old girl.

Bieber seems cute and smart and fun – and if he has a song called Baby (with Ludacris) here and another called Eeenie Meenie then his is a grand tradition which goes back through Yummy Yummy, Sugar Sugar, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Da Doo Ron Ron and many more songs with such titles.

Add your own alliterative titles and reductive lyrics from the catalogue of the Ramones if you will.

To hear people on talkback – or whatever the one is which pretends to be slightly more highbrow that that -- bang on about what a no-talent this guy is just makes me angry. Then again – because my current reading also includes the David (Partridge Family) Cassidy autobiography Get Happy, which is anything but – I am right now listening to a three record set entitled SuperBubble (pink cover, The Turtles! Tommy Roe!! The Ohio Express!!!) which I scored at Real Groovy last year for $5.

So maybe this disqualifies me from being an adult and having an adult approach to vacuous and disposable pop. But here's the thing: love or hate bubblegum – and I am not disposed to much of it myself – it proved much more durable than a lot of other music of its period. Like gum, it sort of stuck to the bottom of your shoe/brain.

We'd be unwise to dismiss Bieber in the same breath as others who got screamed at by young girls (and boys) because in that list you'd start with Frank Sinatra and have to include John Lennon, Mick'n'Keith, Scott Walker, Madonna and many more who had creditable careers when the tumult and the shouting died.

And as my borrowed book – subtitled The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears -- tells me, there is a lot more going on in this music than just stripping pop to its essence, laying in simple lyrics (you think Chewy Chewy is simple, it's about fellatio, right?) and keeping it short so it gets more radio play.

And it is a dark world in many ways: as I am sure I have mentioned before here I once interviewed tween idol Tiffany who was 16 at the time – and suing her parents.

I also spent a day with with the young Billie (later to become Billie Piper) and she was lovely – although I had more in common with her dad of course who was trying to negotiate the difficult waters for his daughter. (She later married a much older DJ, so I guess he failed.)

So maybe someone should slip Bieber a copy of the Cassidy book by way of saying “Beware, Dangerous Rapids Ahead”. That would be useful than banging on about what a no-talent he is (and he isn't, actually.)

So I'm glad Bieber came here and flushed out the grumpy old buggers (who have forgotten what it is like to be young) and let girls scream their lungs out.

They are only young once and soon enough they will have to be dealing with the Resource Management Act, whether those godawful sheds are “historic” and just what a tax form is like. Boring adult stuff in other words.

I'm not saying we need more Biebers – like John Cale said when asked if there as too much evil in the world: “There's exactly the right amount” – but as the great cosmic wheel turns he's done nothing so far but bring fun into the lives of kids – and perhaps gouged their wallets a little.

No harm done. Nothing to see here, folk. Just move along.

Enough of that: Anyone care to stab at a translation of this? It was the opening paragraph of NZPA report which appeared in the Herald the other day and, to me, shows just what happens when spoken sports vernacular is put into print.
“New Zealand's Terenzo Bozzone was too quick on the half-marathon leg to secure victory in the Texas half-ironman in Galveston yesterday”.

If you are confused by how come he was “too quick . . . to secure victory” so was I. It means he won. Hmmm.

Finally: No bubblegum pop at Elsewhere right now (well, maybe just a little under From the Vaults here which is an ever-expanding section of one-off songs with a background story) but there is Frank Zappa reading The Talking Asshole section from William Burrough's The Naked Lunch.

And swags of new music reviewed here including a new album by Roky Erickson who lost his marbles in the late Sixties but is back with Okkervil River. It's very moving. So maybe that restores some music.cred?

Oh-oh. Time to turn the album over. Cool, Yummy Yummy Yummy opens side two.

     
Graham Reid is the author of the book 'The Idiot Boy Who Flew'.

(Click here to find out more)

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