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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On statistics, surveys and rock groups,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Hey Alice,

You seemed in combustible mood on Monday. What's up?

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Hel,

Well, let me put it this way: Should the Bureau of National Statistics send you a note about being selected randomly for the betterment of the United Kingdom, I would advise (and, after all, this is an advice column) that you say 'No, can't be fussed, I'm an anarchist, I have immigrated to Argentina, etc.

Instead of which, your public-spirited columnist rashly said, 'Okey dokey.'

She even said okey dokey when a (pleasant, middle-aged) chappie bearded her on her doorstep, moaning that she hadn't been in when he'd phoned six times. She thought: 'Bugger. Better get on with it, then.'

The amount of time said chappie mentioned for the survey-to-better-the-UK was 45 minutes. His idea of 45 minutes turned out to be an hour and a half. Were I not still in a pearly glow from England's winning the Ashes, I would've been dead annoyed. I mean, I'm all for the betterment of any country, God knows, but is it really necessary in order to achieve this exalted feat for the Bureau of National Statistics to know the exact number of hours my kid saw her friends last week? Or how many personal pensions I have? (Supposedly two, but the Standard Life one has absolutely gone down the Swanee along with Japanese stocks.) Let alone the exact state of all our rotten endowment policies -- not a clue -- or whether my house has metered water (Yep. Not a good plan with a massive tank full of fish.) Frankly, the way they tippy-toe around what they really want to know amounts to a disease.

This is all they really want to know:

  1. Your income (deeply moderate, especially in the current climate)
  2. Husband's income (no worries for some)
  3. How many children? (one)
  4. Whether or not you can make ends meet? (Yes. See answer 2, despite answer 1)

And what I want to know is, why can't they just get down to it and say so???!!!!! Five minutes, done and dusted!!!!!!

Yours irritated,

Ask Alice

? 'Dear Alice,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't I see you -- how can I put this politely -- at a rock concert??? At Chelsfield's Five Bells, recently awarded 'Pub of the Season' by the South East London Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale?


Ask Alice

Alice Hi J,

Yes, I cannot deny it, though my credibility as a classical musician will probably hit rock-bottom, and many punters click off in disgust.

In my defence, however, I should observe that the keyboardist of the band alluded to (the brilliant Dupe) is the husband of my best friend, and that she herself assisted with electric cello (with terrific flair) in several numbers. Also, it wasn't revolting rock: it was rock from the 60s and 70s: the Beatles, Queen, etc. (In addition, my husband assures me that the real ales were excellent, but as even unreal ales immediately give me headaches I can't speak from personal experience.)

But to the music. Yes, I was thrilled at just how powerful and passionate a set of performers Dupe is. What cracked me up most was the contrast, though. I mean, Dupe (leaving Helen aside) consists of four artists:

  1. the lead singer, Pete Cross, looks like an insurance actuary -- very much the kind of guy one could safely take home to Mother (although, in real life, he writes software for the Ministry of Defense). He sang with terrific style and skill and feeling, understatedly talented
  2. the guitarist, Brian Smith, a guy who resembles your secondary-school, youthfully-enthusiastic-yet-balding science teacher. Yet he seemed to be almost wrestling his guitar like a snake to the ground -- and ready almost to leap into the stratisphere so carried away was he by (a) the music and (b) his fantastic rapport with:
  3. the keyboard-player, Dave Griffiths, all lengthy hair and gutsy resonance and
  4. the drummer, Paul Smith (electrically sensitive, yet very laid-back, an amazing quality of sound without any apparent effort)

Of course, it was all too bloody loud. But subtlety of stylistic dynamics are, I realise, not quite the point in rock/pop music (Union Rule number 60078: no rock musician shall ever play lower than mezzo-forte, even by accident.) And it worked: the generous soloist and casual drummer: the electricity between the guitarist and keyboard-player. There was a terrific feel around the whole evening.

So, yeah, I was there. It was ace. Want to make something of it??

Yours pugilistically,

Copyright © 4 September 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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