07 March 2010

Let’s do the time warp again

There’s nothing like watching a bit of cricket to evoke strong memories of New Zealand summers past.  I couldn’t get a ticket for the reduced-capacity Eden Park ODI versus Australia yesterday, but enjoyed watching the match on TV with friends in Grey Lynn.  The nostalgia value was fairly high from the outset, with the music played through the stadium wafting out through the TV’s speakers. 

This quickly reminded me that as far as the DJs who select the music for cricket matches in New Zealand are concerned, the 21st century is a foreign country.  Indeed, with a few exceptions it seems that their watches must’ve suffered major structural damage around the year 1990, because there’s next to no hints of contemporary music in the ultra-conservative playlist that’s dished up in grounds across the country.  This is a real pity, because in playing it safe by selecting only the most well-worn songs, the DJs are reinforcing foreigners’ views that New Zealand is culturally backward and out of step with the modern world.

It’s hard to argue when you start to keep a list of what’s being played.  (Yes, I did - I really am that boring).  Excluding signature songs played when batsmen emerge for their innings and thematic songs such as Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain used to illustrate a weather delay, here’s a sample of the fare played to the crowd (and, intermittently, to TV audiences in New Zealand, Australia and around the world) during the New Zealand innings:

AC/DC – Thunderstruck, Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer, Oasis – Wonderwall

Some ageing raspy-voiced late-80s Australian rock leads the way (Thunderstruck), and later on the mid-80s pomp rock of Bon Jovi ups the pop factor.  Harking back to the mid-90s, the sub-Beatle copyists Oasis offer the sound of the ‘60s re-filtered through the slightly whiffy fabric of a rather worn and beery Ben Sherman shirt.  A selection of music that averages 20 years old.

Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved, Buffalo Soldier

He died in 1981 so these can hardly be regarded as recent hits.  Mind you, given the choice between Marley and most contemporary reggae artists you’d probably opt for Marley every time, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Supertramp – The Logical Song

From 1979.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea that a band as terminally unfashionable as Supertramp can still get airtime in the 21st century.  But we are talking about largely inconsequential music that was released a third of a century ago.

The Champs – Tequila

From the ‘50s!  This 1958 song is still remembered today no doubt in part due to its starring role in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, it also helps that New Zealand cricket crowds love any reference to hard drinking and potential inebriation (see also Th’ Dudes – Bliss).

Split Enz – I See Red, Six Months In A Leaky Boat

Sure it’s good to hear New Zealand music being played, and Split Enz are of course local legends.  But these tracks are the best part of 30 years old – has nothing happened in the New Zealand music scene since 1980?  And couldn’t they pick slightly less obvious Enz tracks to play?  Not that I’m suggesting Maybe/Titus – that might be a step too far.

Netherworld Dancing Toys – For Today

Oh Jesus.  Do we have to hear this every single bloody game?  Just because it went to No. 1 and unleashed the vocal histrionics of Annie Crummer on an unsuspecting nation in the mid-‘80s, it doesn’t mean we have to flog it to death decades later. 

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I’m not criticising the quality of these individual songs (well, mostly) but rather the idea that this represents the listening habits of everyday New Zealanders when they gather together in large numbers in the presence of alcohol and sunshine.  I find it hard to believe that cricket crowds in New Zealand only enjoy ancient music, and it’s sad that in playing only the oldest possible material, cricket DJs are failing to reflect the fact that we now live in the second decade of the 21st century.  Surely a more up-to-date musical selection would help to entice a younger audience to the game, which is vital if the sport is to maintain its place as New Zealand’s predominant summer sport.

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