Merry Christmas from The Oyster’s Earrings

Run DMCRun-D.M.C. in the video for ‘Christmas in Hollis’ (1987). Image:

Dear all,

New Year will bring new posts. In the meantime, here are two gifts. The first is a playlist of the best things I’ve heard all year (just click the link and make sure you own Spotify). 2011 has been a good year for rudimentary crate-digging, hence the presence of Throwing Muses, The Pop Group, Jacques Brel and others, artists I’ve finally got around to ‘discovering’.

This playlist is, however, incomplete: if it weren’t for the limitations of Spotify’s library, I would certainly also have included this, taken from what could just be my album of the year:

The second is this absolute peach of an oddity from the 1994 edition of the Cambridge Encyclopedia, edited by one David Crystal. One can only imagine what was going through Crystal’s head when he green-lighted this entry on ‘rap music’:

A musical style which started in the streets of New York with inner-city high-school students chanting crude incantations over rock records customized by reversing the turntable and distorting the amplification. In 1983, ‘It’s Like That’ by Run-D.M.C., a trio of schoolmates from the borough of Queens, sold 500 000 copies, heralding the music conquest of the suburbs. Along with the standard electronic arsenal of rock music, rap music often mixes in wailing saxophones, but the main effect comes from a tortuous backbeat. The parlando lyrics went unnoticed until increasingly flagrant advocacy of drug use, promiscuity, authority-bashing and rioting led to bans and legal threats. The rappers seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would take their doggerel so seriously, and most of them retreated into innocuous banality. On Run-D.M.C.’s ‘Ooh, Watcha Gonna Do’ (1993), the lyrics say, in part ‘I’m a feasible fellow/teasable mellow/easily diesel/’cause it’s ego from the ghetto’. Really.

There are moments in an editorship when less is more. So with that, let me wish you all the merriest Christmas and the happiest New Year.

Yours faithfully,

Luke Healey


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