Saturday 26 October 2019

K-Pop and One Hit Wonders

This wretched cough is still draining my energy and fuzzing my brain – which might partly explain why last night I found myself slumped in front of the telly blearily watching the latter part of a long documentary about K-Pop. This is a musical genre I was wholly unaware of until I saw it listed among the choices of listening on a Cathay Pacific flight. I investigated no further at the time, and am little wiser after sampling last night's documentary. It seems an entirely baffling, but (it seems) world conquering phenomenon, a kind of anodyne pop performed very energetically by young men of androgynous appearance, keen on face make-up and hair dye. One K-Pop band, called BSE or something, sold out Wembley twice last year and, we were told, could have done it many times over. Their concerts look like about the least fun you could have at a 'gig' (as I believe the young people call them) – incredibly orderly affairs, with no one so much as rising from their seats, and enthusiasm expressed by the synchronised waving of lights. All very Korean, no doubt – and yet, apparently, with worldwide appeal. Perhaps this is the future. Not that I care terribly much.
 More entertaining was the programme that followed: a compilation of Top of the Pops performances by one-hit wonders. Always a pleasure to see the likes of Up Town Top Rankin' and Kung Fu Fighting again. Then I was brought up short by the sight of a grinning conductor flailing his baton around in front of a French-horn-and-bassoon-heavy orchestra of men in unpleasantly coloured polonecks. What on earth was this? Soon the familiar earworm of a tune became all too apparent – it was Eye Level by the Simon Park Orchestra, the tune that, although it was written for library music, became the theme music of Van Der Valk, the hugely popular Amsterdam-set TV detective series starring Barry Foster (who gave a memorably disturbing performance as the killer in Hitchcock's Frenzy).
 Eye Level was at number one in the UK charts for four long weeks. Those were strange times, when instrumentals were a big feature in the charts, some of them adapted from the classics. The opening bars of Eye Level are very distantly descended from No Piu Andrai, but one performer made a career out of turning Mozart's catchier numbers into jaunty orchestral pop – an Argentinian called Waldo do Los Rios, who had a big hit in 1971 with an easy-listening version of the Allegro from Symphony no 40, as well as providing the BBC with a couple of its more annoying theme tunes.
 Anyway, fatigue overcame me and I had to haul myself to bed before my one-hit favourite, Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face, came on. This was the single that kept Ultravox's Vienna off the number one spot in 1980. You've got to love it for that...


  1. oh the pop music... Last May I was in Canada and thought Drake was just a cheerleader of the Toronto Raptors...

  2. This summer near the White House I noticed the tee shirt a boy of about 12 was wearing. It read "Surely Not Everyone was Kung Fu Fighting." I lacked the nerve to ask where he got it.