Thursday 5 October 2017

The Whirligig of Time

I was half-listening to Radio 4 just now – David Cannadine talking about Prime Ministers' Props – when I caught a familiar sound pumping away under the words. Blow me down if it wasn't the Velvet Underground's White Light / White Heat! My mind looped back half a century...
  When I was first at university, I would occasionally inflict my presence on the 'college disco'. Of the stack of singles that made up the playlist, only one was deemed cool and transgressive enough for us poseurs to request – White Light / White Heat. Not that we intended to dance – dear me, no. The thing was to take a seat, assume a languid pose and make no response whatever – not so much as a tapping finger – to the juddering, amphetamine-fuelled beat of the music. This was not easy, but as a demonstration of the art of cool it seemed well worth the effort. The pose could be broken only to ask the DJ to turn up the volume (if it was possible by this stage to make yourself heard). Yes indeed – like the young Sam Johnson, I spent my university years in a condition best characterised as one of 'stark insensibility'.
  Why was White Light / White Heat being played under Prime Ministers' Props? It was triggered, alas, by Harold Wilson's talk of the 'white heat of the technological revolution' – what radio producer could resist such a cue? The principal subject of the programme, however, was Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who once said that if he wanted to work out an economic problem, he would do it with matchsticks. Guess which early Status Quo single was chosen to accompany every mention of matchsticks...?


  1. I fear you're confusing Status Quo with one-hit wonders Brian and Michael...

  2. Oh, heck, yes. I really don't know these Brit groups - I was brung up on The Shifty-eyed Mountain Ramblers and the Hoochy-Coochy Appalachian Bootleggers - great fun if you like screeching fiddles and voices like rusty sawmills, but sure leaves you out of the cultural mainstream. My apologies to you, sir.