Big W

Art Rock, not to be confused with rock art, was born out of boredom, a lack of musical talent, and a desire to attract attention for all the wrong reasons.

The underlying philosophy in the creation of the movement was a belief that post modern art could be defined by anything in a frame. A frame did not have to be a physical border – it needed to be some form of recognition that here, within these set confines, lies art. This realisation, and the absence of accountability based on objective judgement in the postmodern movement led to a further theory that this art did not in fact need to be good or pleasing to the senses. This idea is nothing new. However, the nature of postmodernity also allows (sometimes) for blatant plagiarism of ideas and content in the quest for artistic self expression.

Art rock was born in the computer room of one Benjamin Troy Ives. Ben had purchased a brand new electric guitar and somewhat fortuitously also a new edition of the popular Monkey Island computer game series. Suitably distracted by the game Ben’s guitar fell into the hands of the slightly more nefarious writer of this blog (I thought about refering to myself directly in the third person then but refrained on the basis of good taste – I haven’t completely sold out to post modernism). Unfortunately during that day said “musician” had been listening to Triple J’s morning program with a segment featuring culture watcher Craig Schuftan. On this particular day “the Schuf” featured an artist straight from the streets of Chicago, a Mr Wesley Willis.

Standing at 6’6 and weighing way too much to be healthy, Wesley Willis recorded thousands of songs using only his Casio keyboard and, one can only assume, some sort of recording device. The diagnosed schizophrenic traditionally greeted fans with a headbutt to the forehead. (This habit gave him a permanent egg sized bruise on the centre of his head). His songs are amazing. And by amazing I mean in the apparently obsolete “able to bewilder; perplex” sense of the word. Using any objective standard based on a reasonable person’s intestinal fortitude they were terrible – a stream of nonsensical lyrics, followed by an even more irrelevant chorus, followed by the sign off line “Rock over London, rock on Chicago” and then a line straight from the latest advertising campaign – eg “Wheaties – the breakfast of champions”. I wouldn’t personally recommend listening to any Wesley Willis songs – unless I post a link to an inoffensive one here (which I plan to). I also wouldn’t read too much of his wikipedia article because being slightly crazy he often said very offensive things which are now quoted there. Wesley Willis died in 2003. His memory lives on in the hearts and minds of art rockers everywhere. His 3000 songs can also probably be found floating around the internet.

The “stream of consciousness” style lyrics in Wesley Willis songs were an inspiration to many (Justin Timberlake’s stupid lyrics are probably a representation of his stream of consciousness) but the more obtuse element had more appeal to me… and so, sitting on a spare bed in Ben’s computer room I began a downward spiral that would lead to moments like the one captured in my profile photo – where I, guitar in hand, would scream stupid lyrics at the top of my voice. My first steps into the realms of “art rock” involved simply counting in different musical styles over the top of an electric guitar played at obscenely high volumes – often the chord would be identified as a modified d7maj5. As both audience and musician grew increasingly frustrated with the stale formulaic rock these lyrics were changed to more complex, politically motivated, “angst ridden” power ballads (only without the power… or the structure of a ballad)… and 5’s was born. The lyrics are included below for your aesthetic pleasure. (feel free to cover this song at your next birthday party/social event)

Five
Ten
Fifteen
Twenty
Twenty Five
Thirty
Forty
Forty Five
Fifty

I SKIPPED THIRTY FIVE ON PURPOSE
I SKIPPED THIRTY FIVE ON PURPOSE
I SKIPPED THIRTY FIVE ON PURPOSE
I SKIPPED THIRTY FIVE ON PURPOSE
(repeated ad nauseum – which doesn’t take very long)

For a more abstract, and less true, history of Art Rock please read here (I promise that blog will be updated at some point in the future).

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

3 thoughts on “Big W”

  1. Didn’t you used to sing that song, only it was “1, 2, 3, 4, 6….
    I skipped 5 on purpose?” Or was I mistaken. Have you moved up in the world by counting in multiples of fives rather than ones? Good for you. You can move up to grade 3!! Jill would be proud

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