(The Original)

Amateur Scribe


It started on the playground. I was ten years old and engaging with my peers in a fervent discussion about the relative merits of popular and classical music. Significantly outnumbered, I bravely and eloquently fought the classical corner amid shrieks and hoots of contemptuous laughter. “But at least it has a tune,” I sniffed defiantly, “all this modern rubbish is just loud banging drums and people shouting.”

Sadly my articulacy was to no avail. Pre-pubescent mobs tend not to heed impassioned, tearful eulogies from indignant swots with bouffant hair and rubbish side-burns. After meting out a few dead arms and Chinese burns, they dispersed, tossing insults over their shoulders – “Dick-splash”, “Spastic” and “Poofter”, among others. I was left, slightly red of face, reflecting where my shortcomings in popular culture had come from. After some deliberation, I decided to blame my parents. When I talked of pop being “loud” and “people shouting”, I was quoting my father verbatim – not a wise move in this cauldron of social moving and shaking.

From that moment, I resolved to be cooler: Forget having a controversial opinion or being interested politics – start listening to Iron Maiden and watching Eastenders instead of Panorama. I tried steadfastly to follow the crowd, but I was not a natural sheep and I lagged some distance behind. I was the last boy in my year to buy a Paisley shirt, and I made the fatal error of turning up to my first school disco in my England tracksuit.

Musically I was laughably out of touch. Not for me the burgeoning indie scene of the late Eighties, my first purchases were Belinda Carlisle’s “Circle in the Sand” and “10 Good Reasons” by Jason Donovan on cassette tape. While my classmates were bandying Public Enemy and NWA lyrics across the schoolyard, I was learning how to play “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on the piano and filling my head with impossibly romantic and convoluted scenarios of how I was going to use it woo the willowy, unattainable girls that haunted my dreams. Another terrible mistake – who plays the piano? Elton John? Freddie Mercury? Liberace? Spotted the connection yet, you moron?


Badly drawn? The Bizkit Boys

No, if you want to pull girls, then the guitar is the only way forward. It’s a joke – you don’t even need to be any good – simply sitting on the stairs at a party and casually strumming the first couple of bars from Extreme’s “More than Words” will automatically attract dozens of slavish, wide-eyed beauties like moths to a flame.

Because that is essentially what it came down to: Sex. Unfortunately, this was another area where my lack of expertise knew no bounds. While everybody else was down at the park with their skateboards, cigarettes and cans of cider, getting to third base with the aforementioned willowy lovelies, you could probably find me at home playing the violin or listening to Test Match Special.

And so, in rather long-winded fashion, we get round to Nu-Metal. For me nothing embodies those painful, lonely teenage years more than soundtracks to skateboarding videos. You just know that, back in the day, Fred Durst and his loathsome ilk epitomised the brash yobs that ruthlessly banished more sensitive kids like me to the social shadows. I simply couldn’t compete with the grungey cool kids and their long hair, piercings and baggy board shorts. What makes it worse is that these kids not only had a complete monopoly on the feistier end of the sexy schoolgirl market, but they went on make millions on the back of their ghastly hybrid grunge-metal crossover. Wearing your cap backwards and swearing at old ladies is all very well when you are fifteen, but to still be doing it in your thirties is beyond the pale. At least Extreme had the good grace to fade into obscurity without a fuss. Limp Bizkit and the like are STILL gurning, shouting and setting fire to their farts and STILL effortlessly attracting a new generation of sexy schoolgirls.

I think my ten year-old self had it about right: Vivaldi never peppered his symphonies with foul language and middle finger salutes but then he probably never pulled either.

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