Friday, July 04, 2008

Mirth and Woe: (C)Rap

Mirth and Woe: (C)Rap

Tuesday afternoons.

Maths, then double Music.

Double Music, as if single Music wasn't bad enough.

The entire experience was made a complete joy by the two teachers (names changed in case they are of a vengeful bent): Mrs Clarkson, a joyless harpy who taught us to sing by shouting at us a lot; and Mr Willis, six feet of beanpole in a three-piece suit toped with an afro.

We weren't sure exactly what his role was in the entire set-up, but he forced us to listen to classical records and stuck little labels on the piano keys to help the musically challenged.

The musically challenged being, of course, the entire class.

If you were incredibly lucky, you might be allowed to get your hands on some sort of percussion instrument, and soon the air would be rent with the sound of triangles, bongos, and solid wood against skull.

Foolishly, I showed interest in a musical instrument, and spent the next two years trying to stop having violin lessons, where my ability in the musical arts rose only very slightly from "sound of a cat being sawn in half" to "complete mong".

Making music paid a very minor part of double Music. In retrospect, it seemed more of a ploy to corral the entire year group in one corner of the school whilst random searches took place and the rest of the faculty took a well deserved smoke break.

Damage limitation was the key, with pupils either sitting in complete boredom in front of Haydn's Trumpet Concerto or engaged in reckless, life-endangering percussion.

Only once were we allowed to do something interesting.

We were, as some sort of citizenship campaign swept the school, allowed to write a pop song. A pop song on the evils of dropping litter.

It's the kind of thing that bored local news programmes will resort to when there's nothing else to screen: "A group of local kids are so angry at litter in their local park, they've written a rap"

We wrote a rap.

A rap using those well known rap instruments: the triangle, the maracas and a swannee whistle, the only instruments left after the mad dash for something – ANYTHING – to play.

Fortune smiled on us, however, as we were promised use of the upright piano and as many sticky labels on the keys as we needed come the time we had to perform our masterpiece.

And came the time. Six white boys, some of us sporting military-style short back-and-sides and wearing school blazers ready to enter the badass world of Old Skool Gangta Rap with a dreadful little number called "Don't be a clown"

I clutched my solitary maraca and counted us in.


"Keep Berkshire tidy, y'hear!"

"Wiggida wiggida wiggida"

"Don't be a clown – don' drop litter on tha groun'"

And 'ting' went James's triangle, keeping time as Geoff hunt-and-pecked out notes on the piano.

I dare say that if the term "Fo'snizzle" had been invented back then, we would have used it, even though we were the whitest dudes this side of Compton. Wherever Compton is. Hampshire, I gather.

Unfortunately, our lack of any musical talent whatsoever was masked by a certain exuberance in the performance, as we strutted our stuff in a desperate attempt to impress any young ladies (or, as I am led to believe by people in the know of rap slang "Hoes", though I'm hard pushed to see what garden tools have to do with the female gender).

Ju-Vid was taking it all too seriously, strutting around with the other maraca, thrusting his pelvis in the face of an all-hoe front row, shouting "Yo!", "Don't be a clown" and "A wank a wank a wank" in a brazen attempt to include swears in front the grown-ups and get a way with it.

Alas, Ju-Vid had a big finish he hadn't told anyone about.

As we droned, tinged and plonked our way through a turgid third verse to the oh-so-funny pay-off line "Keep Berkshire tidy – dump all your rubbish in Hampshire", Ju took a run-up and vaulted onto the top of the piano, presumably to gyrate his pelvis even more and shout "A wank a wank a wank", even though it was clearly not in any lyrics we had scribbled in Geoff's rough book in a red-hot jammin's session the replaced the regular wanking club meeting of which I was never a member.

One second Ju was there, vaulting on top of the piano in a way he had never managed in several years of PE lessons, the next he had gone.

And so, frankly had the piano.

Up he went, and the whole lot came down again with a mighty C-L-A-A-A-N-N-N-G-G-G!!!! much like a gamelan orchestra getting run down by a dustcart.

Clarkson, as you'd expect, went utterly ballistic, and the dust had barely settled on the carnage before he was led away, in the grip of a classic 'Small Boy Side Hair Tweak' to the Department of Ironic Punishments that was the headmaster's office.

The blind fella was called in to retune the piano – at the Vid family's expense, and the local media were never invited to hear the disaffected youth of the Thames Valley rapping on the evils of litter.

We could have been up there with poor, dead MC Hammer, poor, dead LL Cool J and poor, dead Vanilla Ice but for The Man's ruthless stamping out of Posh Skool Rap. And society is all theworse for this omission.

All together now: "A wank a wank a wank, don't be a clown"

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