Saturday, October 22, 2005

Memo to the Busker on the Corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street

Good afternoon, young man. Every day I catch the 109 tram from work to the city, then walk two blocks to Flinders Street station. As I reach Flinders Street, I am greeted with your dulcet tones wafting through the evening air.
Now, it is not that I am unimpressed with your enterprise or work ethic. Please understand that I have nothing against you personally, and that I'm sure you have a very nice family. However, I am not altogether sure that you have fully grasped the concept of 'Music', as it is commonly known.

Certainly, you have learned the dominant-tonic chord progression well, and play this chord progression on your guitar all the fucking time as frequently as possible. I am sorry to be the one to break this to you, young man, but being able to play this chord progression does not, per se, make you a musician. Why not throw in a subdominant chord every now and then? Or how about a diminished seventh? Go on, be a rebel.

Nor is that all, I am afraid. Dare I mention the singing? I'm afraid I'm going to have to. I am more than happy to appreciate the many and varied musical uses of the human voice, from the lusty roar of the heavy metal singer to the subdued and pious chanting of the Gregorian Monk.
However, I am afraid that your 'singing', as you might like to call it, just doesn't cut it. There exists a very clear distinction between 'singing' and 'shouting', and I am afraid your voice, very clearly, falls into the latter category.

Finally, I must take particular issue with the words of your song. I understand that you may have had a hard life, and that you have an angry social message to deliver to the masses. Perhaps you think you are delivering a powerful prophetic message against the cold, hard modern world of capitalism.
Nevertheless, I fear that the word 'Fuck' is sadly lacking in melodious qualities; and that repeated use of the aforementioned word does not add to your song in any way.
Perhaps you feel that singing,

All coppers are fucked,
Fuck, coppers, fuck ...

is a cathartic exercise. However, I do feel that if you wish to advance in the musical arts, and add something to the rich store of musical treasures which have been given to us by the likes of Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Stravinsky, and many, many others, then you must try to be a little less liberal with the swear words.

I am aware of a song by Frank Zappa which goes this way:

My guitar wants to kill your mama,
My guitar wants to kill your mama,
My guitar wants to burn your dad,
I get real mean when it makes me mad.

I must congratulate you, young man, for striving to live up to the words of past masters like Zappa in such a forthright and aggressive manner. Nevertheless, after being forced into your company for the past few months as part of my daily transport schedule, I must inform you that music may not be the career for you. Perhaps you should take up other, more innocent, pursuits common to those of your age, such as spray painting walls, or stealing trams and going for joy rides.
Actually, I am willing to pay you if you do not sing like you have in the past. Indeed, I am willing to pay anybody on the streets if they do not sing like you have in the past. Although I realise this may be a rather expensive exercise, I do feel that it may be necessary for the future of music as an art.
Also, I won't get so bloody annoyed every time I head home from work.

Looking forward to not hearing you in the future,


Darlene said...

Is that that guy who thinks he is a rapper and grabs his crotch a lot?

TimT said...

Nah, it's some kid who sits about on the street corner opposite the train station with his guitar. At first I thought he was shouting, then I realised he was actually trying to sing something, then I tried to work out what song it was, then when I heard the words, the full horror hit me.

Melbourne buskers are weird. When I first came to Melbourne, I walked down St. Kilda road and came across somebody in a horse suit playing an accordion; only, they weren't playing the according, so much as playing three notes over and over and over and over and over and over again.

And over and over and over and over and over and over and ...

Misha said...

This guy makes me want to come to Melbourne. I really, really want to see this performance. I would pay good money to see it. Hilarious.

TimT said...

Every week day in the afternoon, around 6.30 pm, he's there.

A girl I knew once did a hilarious cartoon of the Newcastle City Mall, with signs like 'Please Do Not Feed The Buskers' posted all around the place.

Rather appropriate, really, because the best buskers in Melbourne are a couple of blue heeler dogs. The owner walks around Collins and Swanston Street occasionally, with a guitar, singing 'how much is that doggy in the window'. At the end of every line, he looks down at the dog, and it barks twice (or three times, if it gets excited).

It's not every busker that will work, literally, for dog biscuits.

rachy said...

speaking of hilarious cartoons and signs I went to the march for Civil Liberties protest at Parliament house yesterday, and I have a sticker on the back of my wheelchair that NO-ONE picked up on: there was all of your no war, no blood for oil etc stickers and banners, as well as some drugged out hippie wearing a Nike backpack carrying a placard saying I'm Wearing a Backpack, DON'T shoot me... but no no no there was I with my trusty "United We Stand" United States flag sticker on the back of my wheelchair and I didn't get grief from no one, albeit a few crusty looks:(

It was fun and funny, I must post on it soon

rachy said...

oh and the most tragic thing, no one got the irony of my sticker:(

TimT said...

Sounds fun. I lived in Newcastle for four years, so I've got a soft spot for hippies and commies.

Maybe instead of that 'United We Stand Slogan', you should have gone with the P.J. O'Rourke motto: 'I think I WILL take this lying down.' The dole bludgers would have loved that one.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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