Today’s guest blogger – Word Masseuse, Countess Wrangler, Dilettante – Helena Hann Basquiat explains how difficult it can be to give a proper musical education to the next generation. So what happens when indomitable will meets immovable object? Education never sounded so good!
Enjoy the post, and check out her blog at Memoirs of a Dilettante, and on Twitter.
TODAY’S MUSIC: Elvis Costello: Watching the Detectives
Penny doesn’t like Elvis Costello.
Well, that’s not entirely true, darlings. Thanks to me, The Countess Arcade has the most exquisite musical taste, and could therefore never utter such a heresy as “I hate Elvis Costello” without good cause. Penny doesn’t like Elvis Costello in the same way that someone who once got food poisoning from a bad hot dog doesn’t like hot dogs. She obviously likes hot dogs, otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten food poisoning in the first place, but now that she’s had a bad experience, she just can’t even stand the smell of hot dogs.
In the case of Elvis Costello, I’m afraid the fault lies with your favourite dilettante.
Mea culpa, darlings. Mea maxima culpa.
Shortly after Penny and I got our place together, as a sort of christening of the apartment, I set up an office for myself, and build my shrine of music — hundreds — literally hundreds of LPs, cassettes and CDs — certain albums I own on multiple formats because… well, just because. Penny laughed at the folly of me trying to organize them, and issued a bold declaration:
“There’s no way you could ever listen to all of this music!” She decreed. “Not in a million years!”
Challenge accepted, darlings.
But how to approach it? Well, silly as it seems, some Greeks and Latins (work with me here) and later Anglo-Saxons developed this system called the alphabet, and who am I to argue with a bunch of dead guys? So I decided that I would leave my collection in utter disarray, only shelving an item once I’d listened to it, and that the best way to do that was to listen alphabetically.
We made it through Ryan Adams, Laurie Anderson, Arcade Fire and Joseph Arthur, The Beatles, Bjork, Kate Bush and Bowie, and even the Bangles Greatest Hits (don’t judge me — like you aren’t right now, as we speak, looking up Walk Like an Egyptian on YouTube). Penny cheerfully endured Cake, The Clash, and even the Cocteau Twins — but then we got to Costello, Elvis.
I admit, I may be a little obsessive about Elvis Costello. I have every album, every bootleg I could get my hands on — hell, I’ve even made my own box set of various live recordings, organized by decade. What can I say — other than writing, all I ever really wanted to do was work for a record company.
So after about a week of listening to Elvis Costello and nothing but Elvis Costello, Penny finally conceded defeat.
“Enough! No more!” She cried, cringing. “I give up! Listen to something else! Anything else! I can’t stand it anymore!”
“How can you not love Elvis Costello?” I asked, aghast. “I mean, listen to the lyrics to Miracle Man, and tell me who he’s singing about.”
Baby’s gotta have the things she wants
You know she’s gotta have the things she loves
She’s got a ten-inch bamboo cigarette holder
And her black patent leather gloves
“God, Helena, is your personality completely manufactured?” Penny asked, as if that were an insult.
I acted wounded for her benefit, and then told her that fictional heroine Lizbeth Salander had called, and said that she needed her look back.
The Countess Penelope of Arcadia, which is apparently located in the heart of London, circa 1977, flipped me the V and spat Bollocks! and then pulled the needle off of the record that I was listening to and enjoying, and replaced it with The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks.
“Did you know that Elvis Costello’s infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live only happened because Malcolm McLaren forgot to get the Sex Pistols’ visas. It’s true. The Pistols were supposed to play, but Elvis filled in at the last minute. It was Elvis & The Attractions’ first big US television appearance. The drummer, Pete Thomas, wore a T-Shirt that said THANKS MALC in reference to Malcolm McLaren’s fuck up.”
“Gee, Helena, that’s really fascinating,” Penny said in her most patronizing voice, and then cranked the music up to an intolerable volume and yelled, “If I never hear the name Elvis Costello ever again, I’ll die happy!”
Imagine her delight tonight when I tell her who we’re going to see at Massey Hall in June.
For more Helena, go to HelenaHB.com