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Elizabeth Kinder
Photo: Sophie Ziegler

The Elusive Ethnomusicologist

Elizabeth Kinder’s monthly column

Following the words “Lizzie, take Clarkey to get something to eat and make sure he gets to the gig on time,” I found myself in the French Pub on Dean Street with John Cooper Clarke. Me and the man who wrote the immortal I Married A Monster From Outer Space! (An extract):

But when we went walking tentacle in hand / You could sense that the earthlings would not understand / They’d go nudge nudge when we got on the bus / Saying ‘It’s extra-terrestial, not like us: / And it’s bad enough with another race, / But fuck me… a monster! From outer space?’

‘Clarkey’ was brilliant company. Astute, modest and as charming, interesting and funny as the words he writes. It must be disheartening to meet people whose work you love and find that their work is the most interesting thing about them.

I’ve met loads of people I admire in the line of duty for fRoots and never found a disconnect between their world-view and what they do. No-one’s ever been unthinking or had their head up their arse. It’s because of the kind of music they make, which is always folk music of some kind, deeply rooted in ages-old tradition from somewhere. This gives people a healthy dollop of perspective – an humility about what they do.

The music tends to be acoustic, and egalitarian; everyone recognises the importance of everyone else in the mix. In some notable cases (I’m not allowed to mention Show Of Hands) this includes the importance of the audience too. It’s about creativity, equality and interconnection. There’s a lack of leather-trousered crotch grabbing that says “It’s all about ‘me’!”

And how much better for us all if society was structured to reflect this kind of music rather than say mainstream music that lionises the lead singer or the lead guitarist, or the hierarchy of a classical orchestra.

Even the orange twitter twat made that analogy, albeit for a microcosm of society, before he moved from his Tower into social housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, “Running a business is like being an orchestra conductor… direction flows from the top and you’re the maestro… The maestro maintains the tempo… When a business doesn’t follow a steady tempo it can create chaos.”

Seems to me there’s a tempo problem at his current address. Because the orange one is not a conductor. Conductors have to know the score. They have to see the big picture. And then get people to play together to realise it. He’s not interested in that. He’s ‘solo trumpet’. Blowing his own horn, unless like Weinstein he gets someone else to do it for him. His is not a trumpet (unlike Joshua’s) to bring walls down.

It’s been rumoured that Trump is “F*** me… A monster from outer space!” Pull the mask off and there’s something slimy underneath. Not a Monster you’d want to marry. As the t-shirts say, “blink twice if you need help, Melania”. I mean, who would really like to walk with him tentacle in hand?

Folk music (and fabulous punk poets!) have never been so necessary. We need reminding it doesn’t have to be like this. There are other ways.

Elizabeth Kinder


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