The Third Leader: Cheap cheeps

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The Independent Online

Strange, as Coward famously had it, how potent cheap music is. The heady moment, summoned by simple, beguiling sounds that urge abandon before dull second thought snatches it away. How many hearts have been lost to Holly, Presley, Lennon, McCartney, Stock, Aitken, Waterman, Williams and Westlife? There must be those, too, whose stirrings were prompted by the Crazy Frog, although that will be a challenge for the band at the golden wedding celebrations.

But it's possible, I've noticed, to have too much even of a cheap thing; times when the potency can ricochet; trouble, often between neighbours, caused by repetition. I myself can recall having too much of "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" by Middle of the Road.

And now comes news from Australia, where a 35-year-old man celebrating Elvis's 71st "birthday" by playing his 1972 hit "Burning Love" again and again, has been attacked with a pair of scissors by his girlfriend. This prompts several thoughts, most importantly that such violence can never be right, but also that any music lovers within earshot were extremely lucky it wasn't "In The Ghetto".

The more civilised, though, will hold to Sir Thomas Browne's view that even "cheap and vulgar tavern music" has some divinity in it. We less so will reflect that there are other ways of expressing displeasure. The Italians, for example, boo. The Irish join in. My favourite, though, remains the concert-goer at the Carnegie Hall in 1922 who, during George Antheil's Ballet Mecanique, scored for car horns and airplane propellers, tied his white handkerchief to his walking stick and raised it.

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