Sunday, 16 November 2008

Rock 'n' Roll (part 547)


Ha! I’ve just seen that Gary Glitter’s 70s hit ‘I’m The Leader of the Gang (I am)’ has been removed from the UK education’s GCSE Music syllabus where it was recommended ‘related listening’!

I’m not sure which amazes me most. The fact that it has taken all this time to remove the work of a convicted paedophile from our children’s learning curriculum, or the fact that pop music was in the curriculum in the first place. When I was slogging through ‘O’ Level Music (an earlier incarnation of GCSEs for younger readers) in the 70s, popular music just did not exist. It was never, ever mentioned by teaching staff whose world revolved around Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and other worthy works and if any student dared to utter words like ‘The Beatles’ it was met with the vacant stare of someone who found the concept of any artist/composer being alive and well to be utterly incomprehensible.

Thus my state-provided musical education centred on studying four classical pieces, the lives of various (dead) composers and trying to learn the Bassoon. Luckily much of the musical theory I picked up in this endeavour is directly transportable to the popular music world and having left school that is where it strayed...permanently. So quite why popular music has crept into state education is beyond me. Must be all those trendy new teaching methods.

But back to G Glitter or Paul Gadd as he is known in legal circles. I can say here and now, without fear of contradiction, that I never rated him - much to the derision of many of my mates who thought glam was a huge laugh and should lie at the centre of a good night out. To me, a dyed in the wool progger, the glam-rock of the mid 1970s was the wart on the face of a noble art and when The Sweet, The Rubettes, Mud, Alvin Stardust, Gary Glitter and all of their ghastly peers ruled the singles charts during that period I was in hiding making do with a meagre diet of Eagles, Steely Dan and even Supertramp until punk arrived and I could emerge, blinking into the daylight again. The only band I had a sneaking regard for was Slade (and T Rex at a stretch) but to admit to that was tantamount to accepting the whole ghastly glam-rock scene, so I kept quiet. But if I met Noddy Holder in the street today I wouldn’t shy away from a friendly handshake. Just don’t let me ever meet Les Gray...

So I have no time for Glitter and as far as I am concerned he is not only guilty of paedophilia, he should’ve asked for several other offences to have been taken into consideration including ‘Hello Hello I’m Back Again’ and the stomach-churning ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)’. Good riddance I say.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I did A Level english in 1977 and i can clearly remember one of the questions was related to Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and the track Come up and see me some time. You must have gone to an approved school!

musicobsessive said...

Ha ha! Sometimes it felt like an apporoved school! In fact it was a grammar with public school pretentions. When I joined in the late 1960s the original headmaster who opened the school in the 1930s was still in residence. Eek!

Perhaps English was more enlightened than Music in those days? I must say that the period between 1972 when I did my exam and 1977 was one of upheaval in the education system when the comprehensive system took hold and many old conventions were thrown out.

Rather than A levels 'Come up and see me' just reminds me of Uni discos!

Alan said...

It may be that you were unlucky in your music teacher but I think that the music syllabuses have evolved since our time, if only to ensure that it remains viable to keep employing music teachers.

My son's GCSE last summer included material on Britpop, reggae and Indian music. His AS course features vocal music by Taverner, Monteverdi, and Faure before moving on to "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison, "Se quema las chumbamba" by the Familia Valera Miranda from Cuba, and "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks - a favourite of yours judging by a past blog. The previous year's AS course featured tracks from Howlin' Wolf and Desmond Dekker.

I must confess that I struggle to see much, if any, musical merit in "I'm the Leader of the Gang" but perhaps the point of it being included in the syllabus was to show how bad a piece it was. Whether we should even be introducing younger generations to glam rock is an issue that should be debated at the highest levels.

musicobsessive said...

This is sooo frustrating. Why couldn't music syllabuses have been like that when I was young?

Mind you, the thought of studying anything from the glam era brings me out in a rash. Perhaps, Stravinsky wasn't so bad after all...in fact he wasn't.

Jennifer K said...

Would you please help out a Yank? What is the difference between O Levels and A Levels?

musicobsessive said...

Hi Jen. Here is a Yank's guide to the UK school examination system. In the good old days when I went to school, pupils took 'O' (Ordinary) level exams in single subjects, e.g. O level English, O level Chemistry etc (generally between two to eight subjects at once) at age 16 and then studied for a further two years to take 'A' (Advanced) level exams (usually in three chosen subjects) at age 18. 'A' levels were your passport to University. These days 'O' levels have been superceded by GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams but 'A' Levels still remain and are still a necessity for University entrance.

Hope that clears that up.

Adrian said...

This may not relate directly to the syllabi (?) of your O and A levels training, but, it does speak to my education here in Canada - and the omnipresent inclusion of pop and folk music in the curriculum. My elementary to high-school years were from about '65 to '75, and, I recall regularly being taught such songs of the time as Blowin' In the Wind, Peace Train, Morning Has Broken etc. In English class, as well as music, these sounds were commonplace. I managed to get through an entire year of English by
finding a way to make almost every project somehow involve Bob Dylan's music. Of course, I also remember one English teacher, who liked to be quite high, and a class may consist of all the students sitting down to their desks and finding a blank sheet of paper thereon - and on which was then placed a "cheesey". Not sure if you have the same word for these treats in the UK. We'd then be asked to describe the cheesey using as much imagination as we could muster. We were also allowed to eat it once we'd finished our writing assigment.

Les Gray said...

You're not likely to run into Les Gray of Mud since he died a few years back. You're not likely to run into me because I don't get out much. But should our paths cross, please remember I never foisted anything so heinous as glam rock on anyone and am quite nice in a slightly anti-social rather-not-be-meeting-anyone kind of way.

Les Gray said...

Don't forget that when we were at school doing 'O' levels there was an lower achievement alternative called the 'CSE'. The Certificate of Secondary Education. It's no wonder my entire generation thinks (I think the evidence supports this) that standards are going down when they appeared to replace the 'O' level and the CSE with one all-encompassing GCSE.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Adrian! Now that's what I call an education. I'm really beginning to feel that I missed out here. Clearly, I went to the wrong school which seemed to have its outlook stuck in a kind of post war scowl at anything to do teenage culture. The day that 'Time' from 'Dark side of the Moon' was played in assembly was a day when both pupils and staff were struck dumb with amazement and the world wobbled just a bit for a minute or two, but it soon shook it off!

Hi Les! Sad to hear about your namesake even though if I hear 'Tigerfeet' again I shall probably be committed. Don't worry, if I ever see you I'll cross to the other side of the street in the approved British fashion. And you're so right about dumbing down. These days I might even get a pass in latin!