The Art of Writing

A question of the relative (de)merits of so-called “art rock” was raised earlier on this site. The comments excoriating the genre were posted with the degree of fervor that had been anticipated. One observation can be made from the posting is that it seems there is a good percentage of the current listening public for whom the term “art rock” is basically a cipher. While hoary characters like Aerosmith and the Who still resonate, art rock musicians have slipped silently (albeit stylishly) below the surface (“Emerson, Lake and Palmer—what’s that, a law firm?”).

One of the best movies made about music appeared in 1991. It is Alan Parker’s The Commitments, based on Roddy Doyle’s novel of the same name. Read the book. See the movie. (I note the film first simply because I suspect that more people will go to the video rental place than will go to the bookstore or library.) The Commitments limns the development of an Irish band that is created to play soul music. James Brown. Motown. As one of the characters in the novel, Jimmy Rabbitte, says to two of the musicians who will be part of the band:

—Where are yis from? (He answered the question himself.) —Dublin. (He asked another one.) —Wha’ part o’ Dublin? Barrytown. Wha’ class are yis? Workin’ class. Are yis proud of it? Yeah, yis are. (Then a practical question.) —Who buys the most records? The workin’ class. Are yis with me? (Not really.) —Your music should be abou’ where you’re from an’ the sort o’ people yeh come from.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Writing”

  1. Oh, yeah – I gotta go back and re-read that! What a great fucking book! Anyone who has any pretensions to knowing something about pop music needs to read the book. I never saw the movie, though I hear it’s not bad.What I love about the book (besides the Irish-ness of it) is that it shows not only that rock, pop, soul, etc. is universal (with minor dialouge changes it could’ve been set in the rust belt), it also deals with that obsession in an intelligent manner. Doyle would be incredibly intersting to sit down and discuss music with, since he obviously knows what he’s talking about.As for prog rock – ugh, let’s not open that can o’ worms again! : 0

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