Monday, July 13, 2009
Behind the Music #4: Del Amitri - "Nothing Ever Happens"
It's 1990, the dawning of the last decade of the second millennium. As humankind hurtles blissfully towards a future world of spacesuits and jetpacks, computerised collective consciousness and BSB squarials, music was splintering and expanding into ever more diverse, spaced-out diaspora.
From acid house to acid jazz, from gabba to Shabba and right back to Abba, 1990 was a time of dizzying variety and invention.
However, in Scotland they said "Fuck that shit, it's plodding guitar-based balladry or nothing for us, the noo!"
Nobody did plodding like Del Amitri. Del Amitri, real name Derek Amitri, is a Glasgow-born singer-songwriter who was born in 1964 at the age of 42, at which he has remained ever since. In 1990 our Derek was about to release his meisterwerk, his tour de force, his piece de ass. 1990 was the year that "Nothing Ever Happens" happened.
While we all know the song, we all love the song, it seems that relatively few of us bought the record. The single peaked in the UK charts at number 11, a disappointing placing for a song that all serious music historians classify as one of the most important "Dreary Scotch Rock Ballads of the Early 1990s".
The construction of the song is deceptively simple. Against an insistent, monotonous guitar line the singer recites a litany of dull events going on in the world, given added piquancy by the fact that they are delivered a boring balladeer voice, before delivering the killer-punch knockout blow of a chorus that tells us that "Nothing ever happens".
The juxtaposition of tedious content with a message that is at once hackneyed and tiresome is stunning in its effectiveness.
Take this little lyrical nugget, as our Decka casts a wistful eye over the humdrum lives of the Little People who aren't even in a band.
"Gentlemen time please, you know we can't serve anymore
Now the traffic lights change to stop, when there's nothing to go
And by five o'clock everything's dead
And every third car is a cab
And ignorant people sleep in their beds
Like the doped white mice in the college lab"
Ah, the poor, foolish wage slaves, going to work like brainwashed, unthinking zombies. If only they knew how to strum a guitar and churn out third-rate teenage poetry, they'd see what was REALLY going on in our world.
Later on our latter-day Woody Guthrie rails against those enemies of progress; Consumerism, Capitalism and, erm, people who write to "Points of View".
"Bill hoardings advertise products that nobody needs
While angry from Manchester writes to complain about
All the repeats on T.V.
And computer terminals report some gains
On the values of copper and tin
While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs
For the price of a hospital wing."
Oh, the humanity! Those American Businessmen, eh? Coming over here and buying up all the Van Goghs instead of funding the British national health service.
Hang your cigar-chomping heads in shame, the lot of you!
As a casual parting shot, the whole problem of bigotry and racial intolerance is summarily dealt with by laughing boy, who opines:
"Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
They'll burn down the synagogues at six o'clock
And we'll all go along like before."
Man alive, this hairy-faced cock-knocker has some brass neck, no? As if his lumbering little smugfest of a song wasn't far enough up itself, he's throwing in portentous allusions to the holocaust now, just to show what a deep-thinkin' man he is.
Fuck you, Derek, and fuck your song. Fuck it in the ass.
And that's swearing.