Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Uh oh...brain itch!

Not to be confused with a brain fart...

Anyway, this has been on my mind for since...well...forever!

Why is it that the vast majority of pop music comes only from the U.S. and the U.K.?

Think about it. True, Spain and Latin America have their own brand of salsa, etc. but that's not mainstream pop. Of course Latin American performers cross over quite often too.

Japan, the Netherlands, Germany--a few. Feh.

France? Yeah, right.

But after all these decades, it still seems that the US and the UK produce the vast majority of the world's pop. Yes, they borrow from international sources, but you know what I'm sayin', right?

So why is that, anyway?


At 8:56 PM, Blogger The Blind-Winger Jones said...

Dominance of the English language I reckon.

Speaking of which, check out Yorkshire's very own Arctic Monkeys, who are about to be huge over here with the release of their debut album next week...they are being spoken of in the same hushed tones as the Beatles no less (bit early for that, but they are good and very young )

I like 'em because they sound like me !

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Walker said...

I think it comes down to language.
What we see in North America and the UK is huge when it comes to English pop music but if we were to go to Indian and China we may find out that there are more people listening to their kind of pop music rather than ours.
I have heard some great songs in other languages that get no air time on english speaking stations and are probably better.
It's all about money.
What sells here sells and what sells there sells there but you know what is the same?
The producers like Sony.
They have figured out that they could make just as much money selling other language music in countries that understand it as they do in the western market and thats why they have Sony India and Sony China.

At 9:59 PM, Blogger dan said...

Other countries produce it... just not so well, or in such great quantity...

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Justine said...

Apparently you aren't a devotee of The EuroVision Song Contest!

At 11:35 PM, Blogger digibrill said...

I agree with martyn. English is like Greek or Latin in the early centuries. It's a lingua franca.

At 4:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you can trace it to its roots. There is not doubt that in terms of popular culture, the US has been, and is, the most influential country in the world. This will have defined the 'language of pop'.

As a youngster, I used to wonder why Brit pop artists always sang with American accents. Even the Beatles were massively influenced, which is apparent from their song titles, 'I wanna hold your hand', and 'she loves you yeah, yeah yeah'. Also check out Abba, "Gimme, gimme, gimme (a man after midnight)". English, especially American English rules.

There is also a question of the musicality of language. The German translation of 'She loves you', "Sie liebt Sie ja ja ja" (online translation) does not have the same flow or impact.

I doubt very much if it's prevalence can be explained purely in commercial terms. The vendors only meet the punters expectations. If any of you saw Paul Maccartney's Moscow concert in which he effectively performed the Beatles greatest hits, the audience, of which few I doubt were English speakers, sang along vociferously. This is what they want. This is what they expect. For a long time to come, for most of the world, pop and rock music will be synonomous with the English language. Groovy baby!

Afterthought: there is a move at the moment in Britain for artists, bands usually, to retain their regional accents, but this is only a fraction of the whole business.


Don Swift

At 4:58 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


I'll check 'em out, but I must put in a pluggie for my beloved XTC, who have been around since the late 70s (last CD, however, around '98). They have a lot of pomo influences, but the Beatles are definitely at the top of the list. They sound more Beatleesque than the Beatles at times.

Which reminds me: supposely Woody Guthrie, after hearing/meeting Dylan (who idolized Guthrie) remarked: "He sounds more like me than I do!"

To me, this is the essence of pomo-pop.

At 5:02 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


I guess perhaps my observation does apply more to Western countries. Someone may be able to tell me how far the influence of Elvis or the Beatles were felt in non-Western regions, cuz I'm not sure.

I know there's pop being produced elsewhere, but as far as I know a lot of it is kind of crossover (as far as what finally reaches the West). Big-name performers may work with non-Western musicians (the most obvious example being Ravi Shankar and the Beatles/George Harrison). The sitar was thus used in 60s pop--even before the Beatles made it so well known, I think.

Since to me music is the "universal language," I kind of figured that the language employed was not the chief issue. You can hear an opera or other types of music in a language you don't understand and still be moved by it, y'know?

At 5:04 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Rah Rah! But I guess my question is: why do we (meaning us in the US) virtually never hear of a big breakout pop group in France, for example, which is a modern, industrialized Western nation? Is it something about the way they try to protect their language and culture from outside influences?

At 5:05 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Tell me more--I don't think that's available here. Is it like Top of the Pops, or some sort of Euro version of "American Idol" (not that I watch that either?

At 5:10 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Yes, I guess, but if I'm not mistaken our TV programs and movies are seen by people all over the world. Don't know if that supports my arguement, but in many countries, English is learned and spoken along with the native tongue, I guess because the US is one of the larger financial/economic centers in the world, etc.

Some bands, like Abba, do break out here (even if it sounds like they're singing phonetically without understanding their own words--lol).

PS to Justine: I know the Aussies have been a very big force in pop--didn't mean to leave them out of the mix!

Note to Walker: Split Enz, from New Zealand--big in the eighties everywhere.

At 5:17 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Why anon Don?

Great points. As far as the accent thing, I think this has changed quite a bit, maybe esp (Martyn) as far as Northern Brit pop. The Beatles had a Liverpool accent, which was not, say, Queen's English but also not cockney. I can always always tell a British singer even if they are not letting their accent come through.

I also think that in enunciating lyrics as opposed to convo, a lot of the regional dialects become more blurred somehow, even inadvertently.

As far as rock and roll, yes, I guess Americans were probably first, but actually it is African Americans who should get the real credit for engendering this, as well as jazz, blues (the cradle of rock), hip hop etc.

I love what the Brits do with it however. A sort of je ne sais quoi that is irresistible to me. I think as far as actual pop per say, the Brits have it. Plus they're much more eclectic in their tastes, I think, than Americans as far as music and "hits."

At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Elvira, can't you sleep? I didn't expect a reply for some hours yet.

You're absolutely right about the African Americans being the founders of rock and roll, or perhaps pop music in general. But that's not to demean what the white guys did with it. I'm thinking of Elvis Presley in particular. I've no doubt you're familiar with his early Sun recordings, like 'That's alright mama'. This stuff was very influential over here. And I have to say, fucking hell, It sure does it for me! Sadly though, I think he lost it after those early recordings.

As for us Brits, well, never mind the musicians, we're a pretty damn funky, cool and personable lot as a whole **grin**.

My blog? I junked it again. maybe I'll drop you an email and explain. I'm too shy to air it publicly.

At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case you didn't know, the previous, anonymous comment is I, Don.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


I'd know you

Yes, Elvis of course influenced the Beatles etc etc.

But, I still say that we white folk got all the roots from our African American bretheren. Kind of an appropriate theme for Martin Luther King day, now that I think of it.

You may recall? that Pat Boone had a huge hit with Fat's Domino"s (? or someone's) Ain't That a Shame. Shame, indeed. Talk about a whitewash.

But the thing that fascinates me is how the whole thing evolves around itself, so to speak. Each influence begets others exponentially.

It was many years before I realized just how heavily influenced various Brit groups (Led Zep, Fleetwood Mac, the Stones, etc ad infinitum) were influenced by the blues. The reason I didn't realize it? They took the blues and transformed it into something else--call it Brit blues, or rock/blues, or whatever.

Yes, Don, I am keeping bizarre hours--though I didn't know if you'd notice due to the time difference. Busted!

By all means, do e-mail if you've a mind to.

At 7:55 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


I meant to add that I know I haven't done my meme yet, but I will.

PS: So, you play?

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The influence on the Brits is best exemplified by taking a look at the first Stones album, and the early Spencer Davis Group featuring Steve Winwood. Especially the latter, who sang predominantly classic blues songs. I'm thinking of stuff like 'Dimples'and 'Georgia on my mind'.


At 5:24 PM, Blogger !ce said...

Emmylou Harris is from Birmingham and Linda Ronstadt is from Tucson. My friend and I have been analyzing Linda's "Long, Long Time" over the last few days, and I would like your thoughts on the song.

At 1:11 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Yes, heavy blues influences. Can't get much more influenced when you cover old standards etc.

Speaking of Steve Winwood: when Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die came out, and my dad heard it, he virtually refused to believe that white men were involved (though as I recall, Traffic did have at leaast one black member). He was from the South, and did like the folk/blues of Leadbelly and Odetta and such--he just couldn't perceive of a white person being able to do pull this off. Funny, huh?

At 1:15 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Linda Rondstadt's song "long Long time" is pretty enough, I suppose, but rather sad. And aside from anything else, at this point in my life, and being bipolar, I can't afford to indulge in anything that will deliberately induce sadness in me. Life is too short, as one finds out at this age.

But it's not really too depressing compared to stuff by Leonard Cohan, early Dylan, and Tom Waits. When I hear these guys, I almost consider jumping out the nearest window.

There's a post by someone at Blogcritics doing an analysis of Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time," another sad song. Though I don't think there's much to analyze there, if you want the link I will provide it for you. At the very least, she's another Cyndi fan.

At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember as a young man, going to see the Spencer Davis Group at Smethwick Baths. This venue, as it's name implies, was a small swimming baths, situated on the periphery of the City of Birmingham (Winwood by the way was a contemporary of mine and a native of Birmingham). The swimming pool area was boarded over for the performance and hundreds of fans squeezed themselves into every nook and cranny. The group were late, but we were compensated by getting two solid hours or more of vintage stuff. Steve Winwood is a phenomenal musician and vocalist.



At 7:52 AM, Blogger Lord Boinkingham said...

Depends on what the listener does and what they're exposed to. My Spanish ex-ladyfriend intro'd me to some great booty-shakin pop Indian music, compiled on the soundtrack to a movie neither of us have ever seen called Kaante. Also, some of my friends are very big on videogames, Japanese culture, and the import scene, and have scores of MP3s on their computers straight from the realm called J-Pop. You can tell it's "pop" music cuz of its similar overall sound and structure, but the content and feel is unique to each culture's tastes. It's out there, just depends on where ya look. :)

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Brink Craven said...

HI E!!!!

yeah--there are plenty of pop records being made in those other countries--we just never hear them or about them. who listens to the lyrics of pop music anyway? when I do, it usually is a damn dissapointment. hey wait a minute--I dont listen to pop music. what am I talkin shit about?

I have discovered some Mexican pop/alternative ( i dont know which) that really rocks my sox off--Cafe Tacuba. check em out! (oh and try Control Machete for a little more of a mexican hard rock/metal sound..they are da bomba!!)

Keep on truckin, Elvira!


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