Guruology

Wilson Pickett’s 634-5789 is, of course, a song about telephones. It swings like the saloon doors in a wild west film, and swaggers like a cowboy who just got paid. Pickett shows off his voice, his peerless backing band and his prowess. If there is a promise of tenderness in the slightly awkward, no more lonely nights, will you be alone, this is swept away by the middle eight’s proviso that he might be just a little bit late; presumably from an earlier assignment. By this point, the phone number is becoming secondary to that swagger; and my teenage self, from our topic the week before, is feeling a little envious of Mr Pickett. Maybe he can wait until we do RR Bragging Songs (now that would be a busy week)…

The Carter Family’s Hello Central, Give Me Heaven reminds me of Arthur C Clarke’s law, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. A bereavement psychologist would describe as “magical thinking”, how the young girl connects the stories she’s been told about heaven, with the unfathomable capabilities of the telephone. William Bell and Judy Clay’s Private Number, in the decades I’ve known the song, had never made me wonder what they did while he was away ? They clearly didn’t call each other or write, because he wouldn’t have come back to town unaware of her new number. So it’s really a song about not telephoning, suggesting that it’s such a frustrating way to keep in touch, it’s better just to wait.

Musing like this can keep me occupied for hours, in a place that MummyP calls “away in Readers Recommend-Land”, and is one of the two best things I found about being an RR guru. The other is the duty to listen to things I wouldn’t normally pick out of the blog. Six of the twelve A-listers were songs I hadn’t heard before. Of these, I might have listened to two in a normal week, a further two in a good week, and two more – plus several additional great tunes besides – I would’ve passed over.

The two worst things were, firstly, the brutal arithmetic that meant cutting songs off once I knew they weren’t going to make the list. I hate cutting a song short, but the equation says:
N (nominations) x D (song duration) >;>; T (available time)

Secondly, the lack of sleep. Even with two days of annual leave, and MummyP’s understanding and support, it was increasingly past my bedtime for 4 nights, until my e-mail to Adam with the article at 3.30am on the Tuesday. Family life with young children means that guruing might have to be just an annual treat for me. Next time, I might take more notice of Shane’s point that, if there’s nothing to grab you and suggest you’re going to like a song, there’s no obligation to listen.

Like Shane again, and Fuel, I drew on the compilation tapes of my youth (too long ago for me to have called them ‘Mixtapes’). There are many branches of the guruological art. My playlist could’ve been like a party tape or an impress-somebody tape, or just my twelve favourites without worrying about the playlist. The article could’ve had quotes from recommenders or a simple reason why I like each song. Each method would’ve produced a different A-list, and each one would’ve been just fine.

The Marconium is brilliant, definitely DO remember to use it – but I stopped checking every single song against it, because it seemed to interrupt the flow of listening. I waited until I had 30 or so “contenders” before checking.

Recommenders’ justifications and musings are your best friends ! They can be food for thought about the topic as a whole, as well as the particular song. Therefore, working via the blog is definitely best, in whatever order suits you, rather than listening in Spotify / ‘Box’ order, very handy though both places are.

I’d say do the first draft of your article and playlist fairly early on. I had the first version, with a few gaps, about halfway through my listening. There were plenty of changes, but it helped to have the shape of things; and it meant the B-list almost took care of itself. The second half of my listening became easier, a mini-tournament of new songs v the draft selections.

Don’t forget the ‘flow’ of a playlist. I thought I had a great list and decent article just after midnight on Tuesday, but I looked again and realised the pacing felt all wrong. Tough to make changes, especially when every rejig means a redraft.

I did regret at times, my comment that it was a week for ‘if in doubt, shout it out’. But I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on any songs because someone had hesitated over its sufficiency of telephones. I was grateful for all who wrote and justified, and for every little bit of information about what’s ‘zedded’, but shouting out songs is what we do best.

Here follows my A-list. I know that recommenders will have moved on to the new topic, but nevertheless I’ll rebuild my sandcastle here, mostly for myself, and in case it suits anyone to listen to with the Sunday ironing or washing-up.

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41 thoughts on “Guruology

  1. Fascinating stuff… I’m impressed by the sincere dedication with which you and your fellow Guest Gurus have approached the task. Long may that continue !

    • I guess the more you put in, the more you get out. I think writing a mini-essay made it more work, but I really wanted to try it. At work I write reports and briefing notes, so I know how to be concise, but it was great to have a go at something more creative.

  2. You really put a lot of work into your guruship! Starting to scare me now… will I sleep at all when my turn comes?

    • There are a lot of different ways of going about it, and if the weekend is yours alone, it’s less pressured. TFD had her article in by Monday before bedtime. I don’t mean to make it sound heavy weather. Anyway, a late night at my age is nowt to a youngster…

  3. Great work DP – and very interesting, I especially like the information on your disappearing into RRland – the Ms. now looks at me in the same way as when I start to discuss football … RR themes get a little longer than the 30 seconds she takes to glaze over with football… but the two are getting closer (it has been 7 years – she’s happy to let me disappear into that world – I just shouldn’t try chatting about it as if it was ‘important’ – heehee)

    Bit of a shame no one works at the paper any more to get the results up on time – and then a failing with the new themes kick off – knocked the stuffing out of results thread really … after so much work.. there should be a bit more time to take in each persons effort. Why a program to release it at 10 am sharp can’t be created is beyond me.

    Had a really good listen – a few out of my normal comfort zone – but all quality, with immense thought put in. Brilliantly done.

    • MummyP likes to think of a song or two, and I’m really lucky that she’s keen and knowledgeable on anything to do with sport. She’s a Yorkshire cricket member, very handy overarm bowling, Huddersfield Town fan (whenever Leeds and Town are in the same division, we can barely get a point off them and I’m dreading Jermaine Beckford coming back to Elland Rd in a Town shirt), well into Olympics and Paralympics this summer…

      I think you’ve spotted where my sandcastle metaphor came from, but the results thread was fine. It belongs to the community, and without the competitive edge and thrill of piling into the new topic, RR probably wouldn’t have thrived so well.

      Thanks for saying those nice things, and I’m looking forward to your week !

  4. Just listened to this whilst cutting knotted fur off the cat with a pair of nail scissors.
    Most enjoyable (the playlist) I hope posting in this format is a precedent that will be followed. Seriously – flowed really well.

    • Glad you liked it, and thanks for nominating Joan Armatrading. I hadn’t thought of that domestic task, I hope Screaming Jay Hawkins didn’t unsettle the cat too much.

  5. “the brutal arithmetic that meant cutting songs off once I knew they weren’t going to make the list”
    I’ve always assumed this is how the full time gurus worked anyway. I can’t seriously imagine they even clicked on every single link I posted week-in, week-out, let alone listened to the whole tracks. If so, I’m really sorry Paul Mac, Jon D, etc

    • Absolutely – it’s not surprising that you have to do it, I just didn’t like it much. I think Lambre got to The Nerves earlier than you, but definitely a case of great minds….

    • Thank you ! I found it enjoyable rather than tough, and it happened during the times away from the computer, while washing up, on the bus etc.. I had thought that the quantity of telephone-ness would help me do that paring-down, but it turned out that some of the A-list has quite passing reference really.

      • I have to confess I haven’t listened to the whole thing yet! I only get bits of time here and there at the moment and it’s been difficult this week to set aside the time, but I will get to it. Today hopefully.

      • Well, it’s not compulsory to listen, what with basslines, working on the Earworms, and as you say “interruptions” (by which I guess you mean actual life, work etc). No worry / hurry either way.

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  6. Is this the 1st hosting of an actual RR A-list on The ‘Spill?

    You will be remembered as the guru who killed my streak (a relief, actually).

    • It might be the first time – in the olden days, the new topic was announced with the A-list, and even now the gap is quite short. So not much time to get it coded and posted before the next cycle has begun. I suppose it could be done more often, I’d be happy to help when I could, but it would need dedication.

      Sorry to break your run of success. I did like the Gary Numan, but only went as far as the frustrated take on telephones, and stopped short of the alienated.

      • It’s nice to get a listing, however, I know my own tunes already & the same people getting listed each week is more a recipe for entropy than healthy diversity.

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    • Thanks magicman and good advice too.

      I’ll put my feet up just as soon as I’ve fixed the playlist here. I’ve done that old-fashioned DJ thing of playing the instrumental version (of AR Rehman); and there seems to be a glitch that’s stopping it getting to the Big Bopper. Grrr-u.

      • Monica, Jefferson was from Wonderland, which was a whole different world from FTL, and the curse affetced him differently than it did anyone else. He always remembered who he was. So maybe his daughter might not have been affetced in the same way everyone else was maybe she didn’t wake up when the curse was broken??The scene with Jefferson left a lot of unanswered questions. Why did his car turn over? Where was he going when he crashed? Why did he have the tea set and the stuffed bunny? Why did he run away from David? I’m leaning towards thinking that someone kidnapped Pinocchio while he was still immobilized though he may have turned all the way back into a man and walked out himself.Robin, I agree the episode was creepy, but I thought it was good kind of creepy. Tara and Princess Donna I’m going to agree more with Tara here. I think that David/Prince Charming is a relatively bland character. I think the evil characters Rumpel and Regina are the most vivid in the show, followed by the kick-ass Snow. I do find the new, feistier David more interesting than the pre-curse-breaking David the new David is not as swashbuckling as the FTL Prince and not as cowardly as the old David, but something of a combination of the two. I also like the way he’s become a reluctant leader which reminds me of some aspects of LOST (I may write more about that later). But even the new David is not as fascinating to me as Rumpel, Regina, and Snow and that may have something to do with the acting, I think Josh Dallas is doing a good job, but Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, and Ginnifer Goodwin take it to a whole other level.

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