Monday, August 13, 2012
Musical Oddities from Naptown to Londontown
Maybe it is the continuing heat wave in the dog days of August but there seem to more than the usual number of musical happenings that strike me as slightly off kiilter.
For starters, the elder statesman of American Rap, M.C. Hammer, is giving a free concert tonight at the Indiana State Fair. One hopes his drawing power will attract some paying customers who might have stayed home for fear of contact with flu-infected barrows and gilts. Still, it’s difficult to imagine young men and women skipping 4-H meetings to watch reruns of “Hammertime” on A&E. While his music has become what many would consider mainstream, my request tonight is “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt Em!”
Then of course there was the second musical spectacle of the summer from England. Last night’s closing ceremony was like an endless of loop of Super Bowl halftime shows that had the last day of the Olympics as an excuse for another orgy of dancers, waltzing extras, light shows, fireworks and even some singing. As a tribute to Britain’s musical heritage, it was a cavalcade of stars. As an Olympic event, it seemed comical every time there was an obligatory cutaway to participants dancing in the dark holding medals up to the camera. The disconnect from sports to spectacle reminded me of Robert Sherill’s great book title: “Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music.”
I suppose it was Britain’s turn to strut its stuff but it sure lacked the restraint and taste of the Queen’s Jubilee concert (where you could actually hear the lyrics) and seemed more like the Disneyfication of England’s Charttoppers. Annie Lennox in a gigantic ghost ship? Giant holograms of Freddie Mercury? The Spice Girls reuniting via London Cabs coated in electronic sequins? Fat Boy Slim spinning discs atop a huge inflatable octopus? Giant truck billboards of super models? What comes after “wretched excess?”
I guess Eric Idle, who can still poke holes in the pomposity by becoming a dud falling out of a cannon and leading a sing-a-long of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
And whenever anyone revived a Beatles song, it gave the set list some class.
I confess I gave up before The Who made it onstage, only to find out today from the internet that NBC delayed them until midnight so they could air a new sitcom and let local stations do the news. What can you expect from a network that missed chunks of live competitions (volleyball and the men’s basketball final) to air commercials?
A happier note was the music used during the equestrian dressage grand prix. One contestant used the music from Elton John’s Lion King. The gold medalists, Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro performed to a wonderful British collection. It began with the theme from the “Great Escape,” followed by “Live and Let Die” and then segued into Edward Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory,” which we commoners would recognize as the “Pomp and Circumstance” march from countless commencements. In between Elgar selections, there were bells rung from Big Ben and the fanfare that has become an Olympics theme.
Their winning “dance” may not have rocked you but it was hauntingly beautiful.