October 19, 2008
It was rather disturbing to read the other day that the Beatles were
celebrating the 40th anniversary of their animated film Yellow
Submarine. This makes Crutch feel quite ancient because I first saw
the movie in Bangkok in 1969, a year after its release.
Can't say that I remember too much about the movie except that, being
made at the height of psychedelia, there were lots of bright colours
and it featured a submarine which was most probably yellow.
And the baddies were called the Blue Meanies. It all sounds quite
dreadful, but I recall quite enjoying it.
It had some great music of course, including the controversial Lucy
in the Sky With Diamonds which some alleged was a reference to the
hallucinogenic drug LSD, but which John Lennon claimed stood for
pounds, shillings and pence. Nice one, John.
It was at that time Lennon was at his most prolific with eccentric,
some would say absurd, lyrics. He certainly possessed a fertile
imagination. Lucy featured tangerine trees and marmalade skies, not
to mention Plasticine porters with looking glass ties and rocking
horse people with marshmallow pies - splendid stuff.
Not to everyone's taste
Innocuous though the Beatles may seem now, at the height of their
success they prompted a considerable backlash for what was regarded
as irreverent behaviour, especially in the US. Here's what right-wing
journalist William Buckley Jr had to say about them at the time. One
gets the feeling he was not overly impressed:
"The Beatles are not merely awful, I would consider it sacrilegious
to say anything less than they are godawful. They are so unforgivably
horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to
the magic of art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music,
even as the imposter popes went down in history as anti-popes."
That sounds a bit like one of Crutch's early school reports by the
In tune with the times
William Buckley Jr might not have appreciated the Beatles, but the
people of Thailand certainly did.
The Beatles were at the height of their popularity when Crutch first
arrived in Thailand. Go to any nightclub or bar and Beatles numbers
from the bands of varying quality were guaranteed, although one group
singing Ticket to Ride always sounded like they were singing "Chicken
Thai people also seemed to think that if you were English you ought
to have personally known at least one of the group and were a little
disappointed when you couldn't talk about your old mates John, Paul,
George and Ringo. At that time I hadn't even been to Liverpool and
had severe difficulties understanding what a true Scouser was saying.
The only pop musician I ever knew played for the Wombles, which was
definitely not something to boast about.
There was already a huge Thai interest in English football at that
time and if people knew you played football they would ask which club
you played for, expecting you to trot out names like Manchester
United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Unfortunately no one had heard of
Reading Launderama Reserves.
The Thai fascination with English football in those days even helped
me learn a smattering of written Thai.
During visits upcountry beyond the reach of the Bangkok Post, it was
necessary to buy the Thai-language paper Thai Rath to find out the
results and I slowly got to recognise the 22 club names in the top
league. Everton won the title that year, which shows just how long ago it was.
The message is in the song
The aforementioned Mr Buckley probably felt more at home with Country
and Western songs. I must admit that, with the possible exception of
rap, C&W is my least favourite music, but it does have one redeeming
virtue, It produces some of the weirdest song titles. This is
possibly because it supposedly comes closest to conveying how life
really is, in America anyway. It often seems to be a combination of
deceit, death and divorce, not necessarily in that order.
Most of the songs feature people in a domestic crisis. First you get
the pending breakup as in the splendid Get Your Tongue Out of My
Mouth 'Cause I'm Kissing You Goodbye and the more cryptic If You
Won't Leave Me Alone, I'll Find Someone Who Will.
One song title that must have prompted a few divorce proceedings is
You Are The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly. Infidelity ranks high on the
charts as in Thanks To The Cat House I'm In The Doghouse. A somewhat
more complicated break-up is My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend And
I Sure Do Miss Him. But the situation is quite clear in She Got The
Gold Mine, I Got The Shaft.
Then there are the regrets, of course. My favourite in this genre is
I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim Is Getting Better.
Tuning in to the goalposts of life
Occasionally you get an inspirational sporting song such as Drop Kick
Me Jesus Through The Goalposts Of Life, although less eloquent is I'm
Flushing You From The Toilets Of My Heart.
One thing is for sure, the people in these songs suffer serious
Possibly the person most in need of counselling is the singer of the
number When You Leave, Walk Out Backwards So I Think You're Walking In.
But the most plaintive cry for help must be I Don't Know Whether To
Kill Myself Or Go Bowling.
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