Monday, 22 December 2014

Days of 49

It's called "49ing" or "bridging" (the former alludes to The 49th Street Bridge Song aka Feelin' Groovy) and it is, at least according to an article I read, the latest craze for music fans of a certain age - usually male. It's very simple, but has really taken hold now that just about everyone has a microphone of sorts connected to their PC for skyping etc.

The idea is that you improvise a deliberately portentous speech over the instrumental section of a favourite track, rather as the Ink Spots and some of their successors in the doo wop age did. But the trick is to produce something that the listener can - sort of - believe just might have been on the original recording, so some kind of digest of the sentiments of the song lyrics (allied to an ability to ape the spoken tones of the original vocalist) seems to work best.

Most of the efforts I've heard seem to work in one of two ways, though there is some overlap. On rare occasions the spoken bit really does seem to encapsulate the song, a bit like the old-fashioned introductory verses in those pre rock'n'roll songs. 

More usually, however, the effect is to point up the limitations of the original lyricists, so it can feel a bit smug and superior. At best, however, it's done with affection, and I have read comments on forums which suggest that the act of searching for appropriate songs has given some "49ers" fresh interest in their collections.

Not all songs lend themselves to this cheerful defacing. David Bowie's After All (from The Man Who Sold the World) seems to have become a bit of a favourite already, for some reason - maybe because the hint of Kurt Weill in the arrangement means that a spoken section feels a logical step. Anyway, here it is (sans speech if you don't count Bowie's vocal) if you want to have a try yourself.

Already I have seen suggestions on forums that it's all a bit Mojo Magazine-ish, a bit clever-clever by middle-aged males who have forgotten what it means to be moved by music. Maybe so, but anything that sends people back to their old records, searching for something in them they haven't heard before, seems like a good thing to me. 

And maybe it's good not to be too precious about one's music. The recordings are hardy enough to withstand a bit of sonic doodling - and if they're not, well, maybe it's good to recognise that too. 

The musical interlude on After All starts about 1' 56'' in: 


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