The Freak Show #154 – Happy Songs

So for my most recent show, I simply chose a list of “happy” songs.  They are all songs that make me smile or laugh or feel all warm and fuzzy.  One of the songs you’ll hear is the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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Thinking back as far as I can remember, The Rocky Horror Picture Show always seemed to be on our television.  It’s mum’s favourite movie and she introduced me to the film when I was really little.  Of course at the time, I had no idea what the movie was really about.  There was just lots of singing and dancing and cool costumes and weird stuff, so from the very beginning, I became addicted.  I began watching it more often and as I got a little older, I slowly started to realise that this movie wasn’t just about a whole heap of nerdy-looking people dressing up and dancing and having a good time.  And that’s when I really started to appreciate everything about this incredible movie released 40 years ago.

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So let’s go back for a little bit of history…

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman. The screenplay was written by Sharman and Richard O’Brien based on the 1973 musical stage production, The Rocky Horror Show, music, book and lyrics by O’Brien. The show is a satirical tribute to science fiction/horror movies of the 1930s through early 1970’s, most obviously those created by Hammer Film Productions – a company who specialised in creating awesome horror movies during these decades.  A number of props and set pieces were used from the Hammer horror films in the production of the RHPS, which just makes it all even more awesome!

Anyway, the story is about a young couple, newly engaged and quite innocent and conservative, and what happens after their car breaks down in the rain in the middle of nowhere.  They have to visit a nearby castle to ask for help and everything that happens from that point on is just insane and fabulous and wicked and ridiculous and everything else you can think of.  It involves a mad alien transvestite scientist, a Frankenstein-ish perfect man-toy creation, out-of-control servants, a murdered ex-lover, a very informative criminologist, the mass loss of virtue, lots of corsetry and of course – a massive amount of brilliant music and dancing and seriously, it’s a 100-minute explosion of pure awesomeness!

Ok. So at the time of the film’s release, it wasn’t considered to be anything special and it actually received some pretty ordinary reviews – however soon after, the film was given the midnight run in theatres and that’s when it’s popularity grew.  It developed an enormous cult following and this still exists today – 40 years on.  The film is famous for its audience participation with people attending in costume, re-enacting the scenes, throwing things up in the air and calling out responses to the characters throughout the movie.  Four decades after its release, the RHPS has the longest-running theatrical release in film history.

Now I’m not going to talk anymore about what happens in the movie because dammit – you should already know and if you don’t, you should sort that out pretty quick.  What I am going to do is tell you a couple of reasons why I love it so much.

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As I said, I’ve known this movie as long as I can remember.  I know every line, every lyric and every moment like the back of my hand.  And in all honesty, this movie has some pretty awesome childhood memories attached to it.  I love the fact that whenever mum watches it, she sings and carries on at the top of her lungs.  It’s so bad but so completely cool at the same time.  She loves when all of us kids sing along with her and she gets this absolute look of pride and satisfaction when we sing or quote lines from the movie out of nowhere.

I remember one night in particular.  My dad had taken a few of my siblings up to the river for the night and it was only me, mum and my youngest sister left at home.  I think Mabel was about five years old and mum and I had planned to watch the RHPS after she went to bed.  She just wouldn’t go to sleep so mum decided that it was time for her to see the movie for the first time.  She stayed awake for the entire movie and was so fascinated and into it, sitting bolt-upright and constantly asking us questions like “is that a boy or a girl?” and “why are the boys wearing girl’s undies?”  Of course, she was already well and truly familiar with the music, so it was just a matter of her learning that there was a story and characters attached to that music.  She still has no idea what the movie is really about, but she loves watching it as often as possible – just like I did at that age.  It’s pretty cute.

Another reason I love this movie is because it’s brilliant.  Not brilliant because I love it – brilliant because it’s clever, funny, bizarre and just managed to create this amazing cultural phenomenon that could live forever.  I believe film to be a little bit different to music in that respect.  If you don’t get to see a musician or band perform live before they retire or die, you’ve missed out on that experience altogether.  You can watch live footage and listen to the songs and still love every minute of it, but you can’t see them in their essence, doing what they did best.  Movies like the RHPS don’t have this problem.  You can still see it at a theatre and I’m going to make the call right now that I don’t think that will ever change.  I believe there will always be a theatre somewhere in the world that will screen the Rocky Horror Picture Show until the end of time!

For me, I also love the sense of community this movie creates.  It’s a little bit like the Comic Con thing.  You know you can dress up and geek out over all sorts of insanely cool stuff and nobody is there to judge you – in fact, they’re there for the exact same reason.  It’s the same with the RHPS.  Everyone is there for the same experience and to appreciate the same things.  Upon it’s release, this movie appealed to the outcasts, the nerds, the film and music enthusiasts and the weirdos and it still does, although it has become a little more mainstream.  You know you’re a genuine RHPS freak when you dress up as Columbia whenever you can and you sit there watching and studying the movie, learning all the spots to call out inappropriate comments, just so when the day finally comes when you’re able to attend the real thing – you’re ready.  It’s a serious thing.

So The Rocky Horror Picture Show makes me happy.  It always has and it always will.  That’s why the Time Warp featured on this show.

Go and have a listen x

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The Freak Show #153 – 15th October 2015 – Teen Angst

Ok, so this post is a little bit overdue but I’m still getting used to the idea of writing ABOUT my shows – instead of simply writing them to present on air.  And this piece has probably been the trickiest thing I’ve ever attempted to write.  Instead of trying to answer everything myself, I’ve asked a lot of questions.  Firstly, to try and explain what I’m thinking and also, to encourage your own thoughts on it all.

A couple of weeks ago, I presented a “teen angst” show and it was a really silly thing that prompted it.  I made a comment to a friend, who is my age, about only listening to Nirvana because it was the done thing for angsty teens and it really got me thinking.

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Smells Like Teen Spirit, released by Nirvana in 1991, is absolutely considered one of the greatest “teen angst” anthems of all time.  Many statements have been thrown around: “an anthem for the apathetic kids of Generation X”, “an anthem for (or is it against?) the ‘Why Ask Why?’ generation” and a “teen revolution anthem”.

On researching the song, the lyrics and reading hundreds of different interpretations and articles, I can’t help but to question how my generation still identifies with this song over 20 years later.  I’m not one to judge anyone’s reasons for listening to a certain style, artist or song but I do have this curiosity about what other young people enjoy about Nirvana and I thought I’d write about my own observations.  And as I do so, I seriously don’t mean to offend anyone or change anyone’s personal opinion – they’re just my own observations.

Nobody can argue the fact that Nirvana were “game-changers”.  They were extremely successful and influential in ways that could never have been predicted.  They gave a face to the Seattle grunge movement, which had been largely underground and unrecognised in the mainstream music industry, and this enabled other acts to emerge and other styles to gain recognition.  Nirvana were huge and Kurt Cobain become an unofficial spokesperson for an entire generation.  And that’s putting it all very simply.

But my generation, we weren’t even around then.  The cultural, social and emotional effects of Nirvana will never be felt directly by any of us.  We didn’t see them perform, we didn’t hang for every new song or album to be released and we didn’t know life any differently to what we know now.  So out of hundreds of artists and songs throughout music history – why Nirvana and why Smells Like Teen Spirit?

A common answer I’ve found is that young people feel they get the lyrics, and I understand that because it’s a huge reason I like many songs.  But in my opinion, a lot of the lyrics made no sense. They were all over the place and showed no recognisable sentiment for anything in particular.  There was little consistency, little fluency and at times, they literally meant nothing at all – and this was confirmed by Kurt Cobain himself.  He was constantly frustrated by the fact that fans and music commentators would try to dissect and interpret his lyrics, when he had literally written them in five minutes or he just thought they sounded good and worked.  This has even been talked about by band member Dave Grohl, who witnessed Cobain literally throwing words together in minutes.

And when the lyrics did mean something to Cobain, they drew on some pretty dark themes and interesting concepts and I know that young people experience some crap times and some ordinary life circumstances, but the thing is Kurt Cobain hated his life and he became a drug addict and he killed himself.  He hated the fame, he hated the attention and he hated the fact that the public constantly studied his every move and every word he spoke, believing they knew how he was feeling and what he was going through, when for the most part – he tried hard to disguise all of that stuff.

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So it just confuses me a little bit that young people today seem to think of Kurt Cobain as some sort of hero or God.  Is he worshipped because young people truly appreciate the impact Cobain and Nirvana had on music?  Is he worshipped because he was a dark soul with obvious demons he struggled with?  Is he worshipped because he died?  And if Kurt was still alive today, would people still worship him?

Consider this:

In a June 2014 interview, singer Lana Del Ray expressed admiration for several artists who died young, including Kurt Cobain, and added, “I wish I was dead already… I do. I don’t want to have to keep doing this“.

Frances Cobain (daughter of Kurt Cobain) responded on her Twitter account: “I’ll never know my father because he died young and it becomes a desirable feat because people like you think it’s ‘cool’… Well, it’s fucking not. Embrace life, because you only get one life. The people you mentioned wasted that life. Don’t be one of those people“.

Del Rey subsequently stated that her words were taken out of context.

Another other interesting thing relevant to young people today is that when you listen to Nirvana, most of the time, you can’t actually understand the lyrics, which means you need to look them up on google to really know what Cobain was saying.  And when you do look them up, most of the time you find that they aren’t really straight-forward at all, so you try to interpret what they mean.  And when you can’t interpret what they mean, you read other people’s interpretations and you choose to go with what you like and what best represents your own personal needs and the cycle begins all over again.

There’s nothing wrong with finding your own place within a song and the lyrics meaning something to you personally – I do it all the time! But if you’ve been grasping at the fact that you can identify with Kurt Cobain and the ups and downs of his life or of being a teenager because of a song he wrote – you might need to think again because that was a huge factor contributing to Kurt’s displeasure and dissatisfaction in performing and fame.  He never wanted to be the spokesperson the fans forced him to be.  He just wanted to make his music.

Ok, so I’ve actually stopped myself here and I’ve deleted a lot of writing because as I said to a friend of mine – I don’t want to sound douchey.  I definitely don’t want it to sound like I’m not a Nirvana fan because I am.  I have an enormous appreciation for what they achieved and for the role they played in music history and for everything that took place from that point on.  I enjoy listening to Nirvana.

So I’m going to finish up with one more question:  What do you think today’s equivalent to Smells Like Teen Spirit is?

I have my moments of being an angsty teen, so have a listen to the songs I chose to prove my point.

Audrey x

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