I was channel hopping the other day and found a programme on The Biography Channel about Guns N’ Roses, so settled down for a bit of late 80s nostalgia with a can of Tab Clear and a packet of Pacers. The narrator sets the scene, we get a few interviews, there’s some generic heavy metal guitar noodling in the background, we reach 1987 and the release of Appetite for Destruction and… more generic heavy metal guitar noodling. Not a single note of an actual Guns N’ Roses song (well, I say “not a single note”, there might’ve been plenty of notes from their songs, just not necessarily in the same order, as I believe Oscar Wilde might have said. If he was paraphrasing Eric Morecambe.) Guess they didn’t want to pay the royalties or were caught up in hilarious legal wranglings or something. It was all interesting enough in a drink-and-drugs-and-rehab-and-riots way, but if talking about music is like dancing about architecture (as either Elvis Costello or a whole bunch of other people (but apparently not Oscar Wilde) said) then a documentary about a band not featuring their actual music is like dancing about architecture and holding up rather poor quality pictures of buildings, only not the actual buildings you’re dancing about (then taking an otter to an ice cream factory).
It reminded me how great the Classic Albums series was, granted working on the slightly smaller scale of a single album compared to an entire career, but the few I saw were superb, particularly The Dark Side of the Moon. That was like the World Architecture Interpretive Dance Champion performing alongside a renowned professor of architecture giving a particularly fascinating presentation about architecture. Then taking an otter to an ice cream factory.
[The whole otter/ice cream factory business stems from the typical problem of using analogies in a message board discussion, where the analogy become ever more elaborate and eventually everyone’s just arguing about that instead of the original subject. One particular discussion a few years back about writing web pages in a WYSIWYG HTML editor vs a text editor developed into an ever more elaborate scenario where the former was like riding a bicycle compared to the latter being walking, and then different journey lengths over various types of terrain were introduced to represent different styles of web pages, and content management systems were possibly trains while emacs and vi were tanks that could easily cross any terrain but were too busy shooting at each other to do so… it was all a bit weird. Anyway, Melmoth then chipped in with “Using an HTML editor is like taking an otter to the ice cream factory, wrapping it in carpet and using it as a kite.”, variants of which are now deployed as standard whenever analogies start getting too elaborate.]