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Thursday, 6 March 2014

This is a job for … Synth-Rock Pedantic Man!

After many years of living a double life, I have decided that it is time for me to reveal my secret identity as one of the lesser-known super heroes. Just as Batman is obliged to respond whenever the authorities beam that big bat-sign up into the night skies of Gotham City, so it is my sacred duty as Synth-Rock Pedantic Man to respond whenever someone exhibits a sloppy recollection of pop trivia. For years I have watched over the planet, correcting minor factual errors whenever a friend, acquaintance or passing stranger has carelessly demonstrated a less-than-encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music.
In my relentless battle against the forces of inexactitude, I have lost count of the number of times that I have tackled misconceptions, slapdash inaccuracies, oversights and false assertions about which year such-and-such a song was a hit for so-and-so.

Let me explain how it works.

Whenever someone says something ridiculous like: "My favourite 80s track is 'Our friend’s electric' by Gary Newman", I am instantly transformed into Synth-Rock Pedantic Man and will fearlessly point out that:

"Actually, that track was released under the band name 'Tubeway Army'. And the title of the song is a question -the question being Are ‘friends’ electric?- because he’s singing about having a relationship with an artificial human. That’s why ‘friends’ is in inverted commas. And it's Gary 'Numan', not 'Newman'. And it’s not from the 1980s; the track actually came out in 1979."

The role of Synth-Rock Pedantic Man demands eternal vigilance because, in my world, danger is ever-present. You may find this hard to believe, but there are people who literally don’t know the difference between Depeche Mode and the Human League, or who are unaware that Ultravox -before Midge Ure joined the band- had released three excellent albums, the first two of which were credited to Ultravox! That exclamation mark, incidentally, was said to be a tribute to the German band Neu! It wasn’t that common at the time, but many other bands since then have used the exclamation mark in their name: Wham! The Go! Team and Panic! At the Disco, to name but three.

I will admit to having had some scary moments. I’ve lost count, for instance, of the number of times I’ve tangled with folk who didn’t know that Duran Duran were named after a character in a science-fiction film. I’ll wager that some among you couldn’t even name that film. It was, of course, ‘Barbarella’, the French-Italian kitsch classic from 1968, starring Jane Fonda and directed by her husband of the time, Roger Vadim. Although, strictly speaking, Duran Duran only based their name on the character; he was actually called ‘Durand Durand’ (and was played by the Irish actor Milo O’Shea).

It is impossible to predict when my super-powers might be called for. Only the other day, I over-heard this remark during a conversation between two ruffians on the train: "I quite like Craft Work. What was that one they sang about supermodels? And that other one … 'Here comes the rain again' … that was them wasn't it?"

My relentless pursuit of veracity trumps any trivial concerns I might have about my personal safety, so I leaned across the isle and said, calmly:

“I think you’ll find that ‘Here comes the rain again’ was by Eurythmics (often mistakenly called The Eurythmics, but the definite article doesn’t actually appear in their name). And it’s not Craft Work, but Kraftwerk, which is German for ‘power plant’ or ‘power station’. And the song in question was called ‘The Model’, which, curiously enough, was not actually a hit when the ‘Man Machine’ album (from which it came) was released in 1978. It was included as the b-side of the ‘Computer Love’ single in 1981, but it got so much radio play that the record company re-released it –against the wishes of the band- and it got to number one early in 1982, nearly four years after it first appeared on an album.”

I will not repeat the torrent of foul language I had to endure at that point; I’m not looking for your sympathy. As one of the lesser-known super-heroes, I have had to develop a flinty immunity to public scorn. It is enough for me to know, dear reader, that my work gets done and that the planet is safe from sloppiness, hazy recollection and terminological inexactitude. At least until the next time.

But alas, this unstinting devotion to duty comes at a heavy personal cost. Not only have I never been thanked for my work; I have not been invited to a social gathering of any kind since 1997. Nevertheless, I am resolved to carry on with my selfless task. Only when the curse of sloppiness of recollection has finally been eliminated will I have cause to celebrate.

And ‘Celebrate’, funnily enough, was a single released by the Simple Minds in 1980. The band got their name from a line in the David Bowie song ‘The Jean Genie’ (the title of which was said to have been a punning nod to the controversial French writer and political activist Jean Genet). In their early days, Simple Minds were known as Johnny and the Self-abusers.

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