Thursday, July 31, 2008

G-G-G-G-G-Granville! (#2): Stammering Songs

I was off work sick yesterday, but rather than feel sorry for myself I had a lot of fun creating this. Well I‘m sure everyone’s got their own favourites, but here’s my list of the Top-Ten Stammering Songs:

10: P-p-pick up a Penguin... Penguin chocolate biscuit advert. More a jingle than an song, and I always thought the old bloke Rex-Harrisoning the vocals sounded a bit dodgy; but it’s An Eternal Truth that you can make anything more lovable if you add penguins. Even stammering - so, thanks.

9: Ba-ba-ba-ba-Barbara Ann... Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys. Not a convincing stammer on account of its musicality, but all stammerers are surfers at heart – out there riding the waves they can enjoy the admiration of onlookers but run no danger of being engaged by them in conversation.

8: Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa... David Watts by The Kinks. This falls down for the same reasons as Barbara Ann, and also because the “F” is not the first consonant of the succeeding word. Interesting. But the boy in the story - who longs to be like the eponymous playground hero - would stammer in reality, and this oblique reference is appreciated.

7: Blah blah....{pause}....blah blah... King George VI by King George V and Queen Mary. More a newsreel than a song, but George VI stammered for his country. Unfortunately, they gave him therapy and rewrote his speeches avoiding the difficult sounds. But listen to his long pauses: stammerers know what's going on there; and, like great comedy, great stammering is as much about the pauses.

6: S-s-s-single bed... S-S-S-Single Bed by Fox. With the stammer actually in the song title – fantastic!! Plus, stammering women are sexy, and this song proves it.

5: C-c-could I stay just one more night... One More Night by Yellow Dog. A one-hit-wonder by a band that apparently included many members from Fox (see above). So maybe somebody there does have a genuine speech impediment. I’d like to think so.

4: ugh ugh ugh ugh... Lucky Number by Lene Lovich. Not stammering as we understand it, but Lovich clearly exhibits the vocal gymnastics of a woman who has overcome a speech impediment in the past, and this great song proves to what artistic heights that can lead.

3: B-B-B-Baby, you ain't seen n-n-n-nothin’ yet... You Ain't Seen Nothin’ Yet by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Yep, Smashy & Nicey’s favourite. Why? There’s the simple reason right there: top stammering on more than one consonant.

2: ...{all of it}... Stutter Rap by Morris Minor & Majors. In all seriousness, this “novelty single” points out many of the genuine issues facing stammerers. For this it was awarded the 1988 Golden Gargoyle by the British S-S-S-Stammerers Association (BSSSSA).

1: Why don’t you all just f-f-f-fade away... My Generation by The Who. The one that finally made heroes of us all. Roger Daltrey didn’t have to put the stammer on, but he just knew it was right. And they're all there: plosives, fricatives, approximants, you name it. Number One for every reason.

Monday, July 28, 2008

G-G-G-G-G-Granville! (#1)

As I nonchalantly remarked in my last post, I used to have a most appalling stammer, and I wondered if by relating my stammering story to you I might finally purge myself of these demons. Arkwright in Open All Hours had a stammer, didn’t he. Repeating the first consonant - about 6 times, in perfect drama-school iambs - of a few words carefully chosen for their comic potential. My, how we laughed! But those in the stammering community laughed longest and loudest, a hollow laugh, knowing as we did that this was no representation of the daily tonsil-twisting, gargoyling horror of our lives. Poor old Arkwright, eh? But, as Mrs Boyo has so considerately pointed out, there is a cure! In fact there are many cures!! All you have to do is subject yourself to the one that your local clinic is currently experimenting with.

Somebody once told me that Pacific Islanders take a homeopathic approach, and stammerers’ brains are made into a palliative which is fed to other stammerers. Somebody else told me that in Africa they make you stand on your head so that your visual world accords with your topsy-turvy verbal one, thus bringing inner harmony. In the light of such advanced science we should not belittle Mrs Boyo’s own remedy, or indeed the esteemed Lada 1500 car battery. The ancient Romans, it is believed, threw the stammerer into a pit full of poisonous snakes, the shock of which ensured that the person never spoke again, let alone stammered. I had this done on the NHS. It was the 1970s, and a return to natural remedies was being embraced by all sectors of an increasingly under-funded and drunken medical profession. Only, being the NHS, they couldn’t afford the snakes. It was basically just a council refuse skip with a few earthworms with stripes painted on their backs. It was rubbish. I wasn’t scared at all. I ate a few of them with some Jacob’s Cream Crackers that my mum had given me in my packed lunch and then went to sleep in the corner.

Now, I’m going to tell you in a future post - and out of especial respect to Mrs No Good Boyo - how stammering made a linguist amātor of me. But now I’m going to tell you how it made me a MAN. Due to my total inability to express myself verbally, I seized at the one way in which I could give vent to the emotions that were clamouring within my eager breast. Dancing! Yes, I hear a few of the sniggers starting up again. Dancing? Do what?….like that Wayne Sleep?…. Quentin Crisp? - he’s definitely thought about it! Dancing. Well, let me put it to you, which lady wouldn’t like to have a Gene Kelly or a Fred Astaire take her in their arms? Yes, not to beat about the bush, there’s always skirt around when you’re a dancer. And so, many classes with Mrs Twigginbottom-Booth and broken hearts later, I’d forged triumph from the dross of despair. Still not convinced? Well, where’d a lady rather be at a party: sitting in a puddle of beer with the fatties in the Motorhead t-shirts talking about vomit, or being glided expertly around the fag-butt-strewn floor by the quiet one with the intriguing sexuality? Go on, ask them!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Iggy Pop: Romanian Caesar

When I was younger I went to several concerts to see the man they dubbed The American Caesar. I loved this guy, his raw energy thrilled me beyond belief and, I know it's corny, but I felt he was speaking just to me. Once I even turned up at Brixton Academy from work in my suit and with a briefcase – one of precious few memories that I recall with any degree of pride. The point is, brothers, I’m now washed up a long way from home and from anything that affirms my own individual identity. Rather pathetically, I’ve decided that to survive in this alien culture I must prove that Iggy exists for me here just as he existed for me then. So..... oh, good grief..... here’s why he’s Romanian:

Pop is a very common surname here: we have a neighbour called Mr Pop. Romanian boys are named after Caesars: Iulius, Claudiu, Traian (Trajan), Tiberiu.... and you can even be called Cezar, as my nephew is. (You can also be christened Romulus or Remus - yeah, even the most Slavic-looking parents imagine that they’re direct descendants of Rhea Silvia and the god Mars, but that’s another story.)

The only other “American” man to look genuinely fantastic with his top off (and I’m speaking objectively, as a heterosexual) was Hollywood Tarzan and 5-gold-medal Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller. He came from near Timişoara - which is now part of Romania, thanks very much - though he tried to forget this.

The lank hair is a strong indication. Indeed, many women from Moldova might wish to ask him which shampoo he uses. The wild eyes and sunken cheeks bespeak a life-time of either recreational drugs use or herding sheep around in crap weather. He could have done either, really, it’s hard to tell.

So there you go, pretty conclusive I think you'll agree. I feel much better now, thanks.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Morning Has Broken Me

A strange thing’s happened to me, chaps: I’m so desperate for reminders that comedy, irony, make-believe, etc still exist in the world that I awake bolt upright in bed at 6am and rush to my computer to read your blog posts. But prior to this I was slug no. 1. When I lived in Denmark somebody told me that humanity divides into A-People and B-People: the former like the morning, and get up early with Mr Dickie Blackbird so they can enjoy even more of it; the latter are normal people who don’t wish to be alive, let alone awake, at any time before 10:00am. The Danish person then explained that A-People run the world: simply by getting up early they can seize the levers of power before their snoozy cousins have even seized their genitals. They can therefore dictate that in order to go to work, earn money, buy things, get wives and produce offspring (yeah? you see the chain reaction here?) you have to get up at 6:00am, which of course they already do. I think this is called “positive feedback” in Control Engineering terminology, or "a self-reinforcing and unbreakable tyranny".

Though morning itself is not the problem. Even hard B-People accept – and why wouldn’t they, they’re not unreasonable - that mornings have a right to exist. Reminds me of comedian Phill Jupitus’s session on BBC TV programme Room 101. He’s arachnophobic. But, very reasonably, I think you’ll agree, he accepts that spiders have a right to exist, the same as any other species. What he can’t stand is people that annoy him with spiders, concealing them in matchboxes etc and then letting them out in his face knowing that he hates them. And it’s the same with mornings because, left alone, mornings will simply go away and not bother us. The problem is the people who say “Oh, what a lovely morning!”, “Rise and shine!” and, yeah, worst of all “Come on, you’re missing the best part of the day!!” Tra la la. These people rule not by merit but by lucky biometabolic coincidence. Now it seems I’m one of them and I suppose this should feel like a triumph; but it doesn’t, because being awake in the morning is supposed to feel crap.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Girls Girls Girls

Girls Girls Girls… Sailor intoned in 1975, dressed rather self-consciously and perhaps over-literally in their sailor suits. Get up and meet those pretty Girls, Girls, Girls; Step on, the world keeps swinging; Put on the dazzling charm; Get up and find those pretty girls. Yeah, back in 1975. I’ve just been on holiday on a beach with my wife and 10 of her friends, who are single women, aged from 34 to 53, just a few years either side of my own age. For a single day back in the 90s I stood in for a friend as an artists model, and I realised then how much one thinks about it without ever wanting to; standing in Grecian poses trying oh so hard to think instead about income tax returns, Geoffrey Boycott, etc, while the budding Lucian Freuds and Tracey Bloody Emins smirked as they fancifully charcoaled in my pathetically quivering loins. But I’m happy to say that I have returned from my summer sojourn with my conscience intact. Sometimes being old makes things a little easier.