The vinyl countdown
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December 1, 2007
Shock jock … Fiona Scott-Norman celebrates musical kitsch.
Photo: Simon Schluter
WE ALL think we know what bad music is. It's anything played loudly by neighbours, parents or children which we consider, respectively, "bogan", "borrrring" or "doesn't have a tune and I can't understand the lyrics".
Then there's music that wasn't cool when we were at school, music that was cool when we were at school and any music that requires you to be on drugs to fully appreciate it (think Grateful Dead, Barry Manilow, deep house). Essentially, though, that's just personal taste, one man's Britney being another man's incentive to gargle Drano.
I prefer music that overshoots the personal taste bar by a margin so great you lose it in the sun and have based a one-woman show, The Needle And The Damage, on the stuff. I've been collecting hard-core musical kitsch for the past 20 years – Torvill and Dean, Bernard King, John Laws, David Hasselhoff, white supremacists, deluded AFL football players and enough Young Talent Time to re-tile the Opera House, to name but the tip of a very large and destructive iceberg.
The most important aspect of truly bad music is scale. There are landfill loads of mediocre music out there (hello Human Nature) and I'm not sure why I've always been a moth drawn to the bad music flame.
The first record I ever bought, as a pale and sensitive streak of teen misery, was Billy Connolly's country satire D.I.V.O.R.C.E. The first record I shoplifted was Rolf Harris's The Court Of King Caractacus but mostly I blame being brought up in England during the 1970s: Dick Emery, Benny Hill and Carry On films. I was raised on lard and double entendres.
The Needle And The Damage Done grew out of dinner parties and my habit of serving dessert with an accompaniment of something racist, sexist or simply abominable and ill-advised (Barbara Cartland, bless her heart, should have stayed well away from the recording studio). There's nothing quite like the thrill that comes from making an entire room of people gasp in shock. The show is like a night at my place, with me shoving records in your hand and forcing you to listen to music that has the potential, if not carefully administered, to hurt.
Consider this a challenge, Sydney. Do your worst. Has Cardinal Pell recorded an album?
The Needle And The Damage Done opens at the Opera House Studio on Wednesday.