Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Last Great Australian Band

Well, I’m sick of Rudy v. Wade, can’t jump on the Law-and-Order Fred bandwagon, think that McCain is both too self-induglently moralistic and too old, only have a glimmer of hope that Romney can establish authenticity and/or stature, and don’t heart Huckabee. So now it’s time to turn to the tough question of why BeeGees night on American Idol was a disaster. One explanation concerns the BeeGees’ singular pop greatness: Their beautifully melodic songs (which would have been at home in the tuneful 1930s) are deceptively hard for ordinary and unimaginative talents to sing.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Hey, Peter, there are still a couple of very pregnant "chimp" threads open, and we still don't know where you stand on the whole "ghost in the machine" question. And, honestly, I'm out of college...I don't do homework anymore. So just say what you think, please.

Roughly and quickly: When you try to explain the human being "mechaniclly," then you don't get him all. The leftover is the "ghost" or "history," what eludes natural explanation. But if you don't think that by nature we're basically mechanisms, that as the beings hardwired, so to speak, for language or speech we're qualitatively different BY NATURE from the other species, then you explanatory power is much more comprehensive and you're not stuck with the absurdity of a ghostly leftover. There's a natural explanation for the BEE GEES.

Well, that's fine, but a bit abstruse. If you are saying that more brain matter and the ability to craft sounds that signify abstract concepts makes us different, sure...who would disagree with that? On the other hand, unless you've got some metaphysics in there somewhere, I don't see how your viewpoint creates any kind of high wall between us and the's a matter of degree and a single special ability (language). Seems to me that sociobiology and evolutionary psychology (in particular) remain quite valuable given what you've said here.

Oh, and I always hated the BeeGees. Not very manly men, now were they? Damned annoying, in fact. I once heard a anti-disco DJ sing a parody of one of their songs: "You can tell by the way I use my wok, I'm a Chinese cook." Catchy.

Surely we can all agree that AC/DC were the best Australian band, whatever our petty differences on this inconsequential issue of the nature of humanity.

On language, it could be that the single special ability opens us to the trubh about being etc., although sociobiology does still remain valuable for various incomplete explanations.
I don't think the BeeGees are all that lacking in manliness, but my own opinion is that their songs can be fun but are too quirky and inconsequential to be sung seriously in some big-time competition. The wok joke is funny. AC/DC may be good by Autstralian standards, for all I know.

OK, Peter, I'll stop pushing you on this question. I do understand "where you're at" -- I was there myself for the longest time.

The BeeGees, the disco ball, the platform shoes, and cocaine...ah, those were the days. I'm so glad they are over. And Whit Stillman's view of disco as pro-social notwithstanding, I'll take good ol' rock-and-roll any day.

Dain, perhaps you're alluding to this (#7), but Peter has written on Whit Stillman and the last days of disco. He finds a Jane Austen-loving (and JA-like) conservative (maybe even open-to-grace) social commentatory and comedy of manners writer in Stillman.

I was referring to an interview with Stillman I read a few years back. He was saying, essentially, that disco wasn't so bad because it was the "last gasp" of social dancing (as opposed to raving, I guess). I was aware of Stillman's (deeply) embedded playfulness, but he genuinely seemed to respect the disco "movement." I disagree with him, of course.

Politics be darned, I still have a soft spot in my heart for Midnight Oil.

I encourage you all to read my more complete analysis of Stillman's playfulness in his movie and novel LAST DAYS OF DISCO in my forthcoming very soon HOMELESS AND AT HOME AT AMERICA. I manfully strive to avoid the elitism that would cause me to disparage disco music, and I also attempt to find goodness and nobility in AMERICAN IDOL. Stillman's praise of the "Disco Movement" is given by a character on mood-enhancing drugs, but he really does like some of the music. I join dain in thinking that the height of American popular music in my lifetime was the rock that flourished right before the polyester, platform-shoes decadence that really was 90% of disco. I'm touched, by the way, by Paul and dain on Stillman and social dancing and the Jane Austen moments at the Club, and I really do prefer conversational movies. For the record, I could add that SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is also a pretty decent movie with serious efforts at working-class disco dialectic. The best AMERICAN IDOL moments always come on "classic standards" and "country" nights, with rock coming a close third. For anyone in the Princeton area, the big conference starts at 10. Greetings from the Nassau hotel that charges $5.95 just to use a very inferior computer. I'm waiting for Ashbrook to buy me a laptop...

Someday the world will recognize the genius of Men At Work.

I concur with those singing the praises of AC/DC and Midnight Oil (almost forgot about them!) and I must say that I loathe the BeeGees. Pop songs sung in falsetto are akin to fingernails on a chalkboard to me. And Justin Timberlake has been reinforcing that opinion of late.

Also, whichever Gibb it was on Idol last week (Barry?) was, to use a favorite phrase of Simon, simply dreadful. I realize that he must be getting up in years and his voice is likely not what it once was, but he should also know his limitations. And singing on live TV would seem to be beyond him now...

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