Friday, 16 January 2009

1,000 years of pop

Suppose you had to sum up 1,000 years of popular music in a couple of hours worth of songs. Which would you choose?

That’s the task Richard Thompson set himself when Playboy magazine asked various musicians to pick their top ten songs of the millennium in 1999. While most of those asked didn’t go back much further than their own lifetimes, Thompson decided he’d call Playboy’s bluff and do a real thousand-year selection. It wasn’t printed.

Thompson is currently touring the UK with his latest choice of songs, which range from medieval madrigals and ‘colloquial Renaissance Italian dance music’ (you can really dance to it, as it happens), via Richard the Lionheart, Henry Purcell and W D Yeats, to Gilbert and Sullivan and music hall – and all that before he even starts on the last hundred years.

In London last night, he had Stick (brother of Brownie) McGhee’s ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-Oh-Dee’ stand for the rock ‘n’ roll canon. The Kinks’ ‘See My Friends’ (reputedly the first piece of Indian-influenced western pop music after Ray Davies was inspired by fishermen chanting outside his hotel window on a trip to the east) represented the 1960s; Abba’s ‘Money, Money, Money’ the 1970s; the Korgis’ ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ the 1980s; and – here it gets a bit weird – Nelly Furtado’s ‘Maneater’, complete with medieval church Latin interlude, brought us up to the present.

Encoring with a medley that climaxed with ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ put the Beatles – justifiably, I think – at the top of Thompson’s charts. But if I had to pick one song that will still be featuring in selections in another 1,000 years, Cole Porter’s 1932 classic, ‘Night and Day’, which he once said had been inspired by a Moroccan call to prayer, and has been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to U2, would be a choice I could happily live with.

1 comment:

colin o'brien said...

Somewhere Over The Rainbow, every time