Sunday, 6 May 2012

Pop Quiz

I've been trying to get some order into my "university facades" pictures, with a view to putting them into a sequence for a book.  This means coming up with a structural theme that is a bit better than just "Here's another bunch of my pictures, and I hope you like them".  Why I bother with this I'm beginning to wonder, though, given my sales rarely even enter double figures, but if you don't take yourself seriously, who else will?

One idea I had was to use a series of real or invented exam questions, something I've used occasionally in posts (you can tell how deeply I've been marked by the exam experience).  Then I thought, why not use the profound and often unanswerable questions posed in pop songs, as if they were exam questions?  This naturally led to a meditation on the assertion of reggae-lite master Johnny Nash that "There are more questions than answers".  Is that true?  I wondered.

On the face of it, it seems illogical.  Every question has an answer, even if it's unhelpful or negative, like "Not tonight, Josephine", or "42".  Though I suppose Nash probably intends "answer" in the sense of "solution" rather than "response".  Looked at that way, the logic might support Nash.  The number "3" is the answer to any number of questions:  "What is 5 minus 2?", "What is 9 divided by 3?", "How many steps are there to heaven?", "How often are you a lady?", etc.  But does that mean that the vast number of questions that have the answer "three" all have a single answer, or that there is an equally vast number of answers to those questions, all of which happen to be "three"?  And what about incorrect answers?  Or multiple correct and incorrect answers to ambiguous questions like "Do you know the way to San Jose?" (one of my all-time favourite songs, by the way).

It's a tricky one.  But then I always preferred Nash's more perspicacious song, "I Can See Clearly Now".

But in investigating this business of pop questions I came across a minor genre of humour, which might be called "serious answers to silly questions in songs".  Once you've got the idea, you'll be able to keep yourself entertained for hours, so here's a few to get you started.

"Why don't we do it in the road?"  : Hard to know where to start.  A lot depends on what "it" is.  If "it" is a three-point turn, then "in the road" seems an obvious place to do it.  But if "it" is, as I suspect, "to have sex", then some serious objections arise.  One appreciates the spirit of the question ("Why are we so hung up on having sex in comfortable, private places, when we could be freely doing it in public on challenging surfaces like this here gravelled, oil-stained tarmac?") but sometimes practicality does have to win out over rhetoric.  However, Sir Paul, if I can go on top and wear knee pads I'll certainly give it my consideration, for a suitable fee.

"Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?" : No, sorry.  Try next door.

"Have I the right to hold you?" : I had to run this one past my legal adviser.  Apparently and surprisingly, no, you don't have that right, under any legislation, national or international, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  So back off, creep, and keep your hands to yourself.

"Why does it always rain on me?" : Well, a cheap answer to this one would be because you're living in Scotland, fool, but I sense something a little more existential behind your question.  I take it you don't literally believe this, but harbour some deep sense of cosmic injustice, for which "rain" is a metaphor?  Were you brought up in a religious context?  I'm thinking of Matthew 5:45, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust".  Or maybe Feste's song in Twelfth Night ("For the rain it raineth every day")?  Or -- now here's a random thought, just humour me -- did you by any chance lie when you were seventeen?

"Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?" : What??


Martin said...

In response to the second in your list, "Hello, is it me you're looking for?"

Mike C. said...

Ha! I called her back, and asked for more details, and she said "He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good die young. I just looked around and he'd gone..." I think she's probably barking, but I'll send her round just in case...


Martyn Cornell said...

I always want to put a comma in "Do you know the way to san, Jose?"

Mike C. said...


Ah, yes, I remember "Do The San", by the Sandellas. Tricky footwork.

Of course, in Japan it's "Do you know The Way, Jose-san?"


Tony_C said...

Hi Mike, seem to have missed a whole swathe of posts, including this one, whilst barred. You may recall that brevity is the soul of wit. That is why this is not such a good game (unless it's e.g., Ian Cropton's Who Knows Where the Time Goes, the short answer to which is apparent not by interpreting these marks on your VDU, but in the fact of their being there. Actually a much better game is "Pop Updates", which I got off the Radcliffe & Maconi Show: e.g. (my featured contribution): The Zombies - Oh, hang about, isn't that her over there by the bar? Or Dusty Springfield - If anything, these days, I'm even more fond of the preacher's daughter; and of course the untoppable: Gil Scott-Heron - It will be on a multi-media platform. Tony