NP17
Piazza



May 74
Drawing ink on card
62cm (24") x 54cm (21")


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The
Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen
episode


It happened that the regulars in 512 were in the habit of bringing in LPs to play on the resident record player - me with my excellent choice (Cream, Mountain, Led Zeppelin, and lots of South American folk music), the others with all sorts of awful stuff. In the rare event of no LPs being available we could fall back on Dave (The Dwarf)'s collection of singles.

This system failed us one day (not 3rd May, above) - no one had any LPs, and Dave had taken his singles home the previous weekend (remarkably thoughtless on his part; it wasn't as if he'd asked the rest of us if he could!)

Some bright spark (it may have been me, but my usually excellent memory fails me on this point, so I think I'll point the finger at Colin as being the most likely culprit) suggested that there might be a record still on the deck. A consensus was quickly reached by the rest of us that the person nearest the record player should take a look.

(At this point it is necessary to draw a veil of secrecy over the identity of this individual, partly because it is perfectly possible that in the intervening years this individual may have come to regret their behaviour and to now feel genuine remorse, but mostly because revealing their name here may have a negative impact on any legal cases launched against them under Human Rights legislation.)

The person nearest the record player had a look and announced that a record had indeed been left on the deck. A chorus of approval from the rest of us greeted John's announcement, but he responded to our 'Good's and 'Greats' with "Not really; it's only Neil Sedaka's Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen."

Disappointed groans all round as the prospect of a day without music sank in, and then after a brief hiatus some bright spark (it may have been me, but my usually excellent memory fails me again on this point, anyway I'm certain it was Colin this time, and if not Colin then probably Nigel, or Paul, or Chris or Carol, or Sheena or Dave or Colin) suggested that we might as well listen to it anyway as Neil Sedaka's Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen was better than nothing ('Is Neil Sedaka's Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen better than nothing?' - discuss). A consensus was quickly reached by the rest of us that John - still the person nearest the record player - should put it on.

And so John turned on the record player and returned to his seat. What an innocent sounding sentence that was!

It has been many years since I read The Divine Comedy consequently I cannot recall which of the lower rings of Hell is specifically reserved for those who put a record on and forget to move the auto-change arm across AND THEN REFUSE POINT BLANK TO RECTIFY THEIR ERROR EVEN IN THE FACE OF A MULTITUDE OF REPEATED HEART RENDING ENTREATIES!

Fifty minutes of Neil Sedaka's Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen - talk about crimes against humanity. Never mind that ridiculous excuse for refusal "I'm busy, why don't one of you turn it off?"; as the rest of us pointed out so too were we busy, and WHO was nearest? And WHO put it on without the arm on, anyway?

Dinner time arrived and some kindly spirit ended our torment by turning the bloody thing off - not, I think, the perpetrator of the torture.

As was normal, all the others headed off for dinner break while I remained working. Except that this day I suddenly couldn't seem to get any work done. For around twenty minutes I made repeated unsuccessful efforts to get on with a drawing before the awful truth dawned; in that fifty minutes I had become so habituated to work and Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen going on together that the work couldn't happen now without the music.

I briefly toyed with the idea of putting the music back on, but it was easy to resist. Eventually I managed to restart work, but initially not as lucidly as before.

When the others returned I made no mention of this finding. After a very few minutes one of the others - Colin I think it was, said he was having trouble getting on with work. This was met with a chorus of agreement from the rest. For the one and only time in my life I pulled the I-know-something-you-don't trick; "I know why you can't work." I announced smugly.

All eyes in the room turned toward me, and I responded even more smugly to pleas for explanation with "I'm not going to tell you." Having had my fun I then offered the clue "What is different about this room now from how it was before lunch break?". Fairly quickly the puzzle was solved and a discussion ensued as to whether the record should or should not be put back on - NO,
NO, NO, NO!

I do believe that this was the last occasion when no one brought in LPs.


To hear an excerpt of
Neil Sedaka's Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen
(If you're tough enough!)
CLICK HERE



What was striking - and disturbing - about this episode was how quickly and how easily we were brainwashed. The next time you find yourself watching one of those quirky little adverts with a winsomely twee soundtrack and a winsomely inept singer designed to foster infantilism in the viewer just ponder this; big business does not spend a vast fortune on advertising because of a vague hope that it might work.



A little curiosity for those who are curious:- The three legged carrot.