Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No! No! No!

Part of the reason why I decided to write a pop music blog is because of the countless moments in my life in which pop music has inspired me to learn. For me, music isn't just about the feeling and emotion it evokes - it's also about the subject matter of the song. Electronic music from the '80s is very appealing to me because the songs are not often about typical pop music subjects like love, sex and loss. Instead, you had people like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark taking a different, and in my opinion, more intelligent approach to song writing. They wrote songs about Joan of Arc, Submarines and Sealand. They pioneered musical special effects with computers and keyboards but managed to make their music accessible by always being mindful of melody, rhythm and harmony.

I didn't always understand the subject matter of songs I was listening to when I was younger, but that's what made them so brilliant to me. One such song, Tesla Girls, was a huge favorite of mine when I was younger. 'What was a Tesla Girl?' I wondered. Were Tesla Girls simply groupies of the hideous American band, Tesla? Surely OMD were too classy to write about band groupies.

(above: 12" single sleeve for Tesla Girls)

So, with a little effort I plunged head first into this mystery - who were these Tesla Girls, and why were they testing out things? To my delight, I discovered that Tesla Girls is actually about the famous scientist Nikola Tesla. I learned all about his discoveries in mechanical engineering and robotics, physics, as well as the invention of the radio. I learned about his tragic fall from grace, to being labeled a 'Mad Scientist' , to dying penniless in a New York hotel. The story of Tesla is a fascinating one, and one that I would like to examine further. However, the point is that my science classes in school didn't teach me these things about Telsa - OMD taught me these things - and, they did it all with a pulsing electro beat, a soaring chorus and lots of voices singing 'No! No! No!'.

(Left: Nikola Tesla)

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