Monday, 22 November 2010

Out Of The Blue - an Oxford dream in tatters



THE PRE-PREAMBLE

I know, I know. It's been sodding ages since you heard from me. You must be so angry (or, worse still, just disappointed).

I didn't write; I didn't call.

No. I was too busy blogging about bloody wine, wasn't I?

What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that I took you – my sweet, buttery readers – for granted.

OMG, I murmur to myself. OM sweet G. How could I be so callous?

And so it seems to me there's only one way I might possibly contrive to insinuate myself back into your pants (METAPHORICALLY. CALM DOWN, WILL YOU?): by telling you yet another episode of self-mutilatingly grievous embarrassment from my life.

So. It happened like this.


THE PREAMBLE

There's only one reason any boy wants to study at Oxford University. If you should chance upon some mendacious Oxonian adolescent who claims to be motivated by academic ambition, know this: he lies. There's only one thing he's really interested in.

Singing in an all-male vocal close harmony group.

I, dear reader, was one such entranced aspirant. The vocal ensemble of my choice? An outfit that called itself Out Of The Blue.

Now that's witty, you see, in the manner that only an Oxonian close harmony group can be. Because Blue, you see, also happens to refer to … oh, gosh, never mind. I'm not sure I can even explain wit of this subtlety. But trust me. It's very witty.

Anyhow. The thrust of my gist is this: I wanted to be in Out Of The Blue. Oh how I wanted!

What in fuck's name possessed me?


And it was this ardent desire that led me (like a lamb, my sweets, like a lamb) to the Out Of The Blue auditions.

[For the narration that follows, I urge you to visit the Out Of The Blue website and set some of their music playing in the background as you read. In a manner that's not at all gutwrenchingly annoying, the music starts playing automatically.]


THE AMBLE

There is no terror quite like the terror of walking into a small room to be met by one upright piano and three upright members of Out Of The Blue.

If you asked a member of Out Of The Blue to imagine what it might be like not to possess innate, inbred confidence, his brow would – for a mere second – compose itself into the tiniest frown of puzzled dismay. Imagine the expression that might swiftly pass across David Cameron's face, were he to enter an otherwise empty cabinet office only to witness Vince Cable engaged in a surreptitious fart. That's the expression they'd make.

They're confident chaps, in other words.

I, by contrast, was not.

Still, I managed to squeeze my larynx through a succession of range-testing vocal exercises without discrediting myself too hideously. Though already, only too aware of the mellifluousness of my testers' own tones, I was conscious of a growing sense of futility.

At length – my vocal range ascertained – the time came for performance. The part where they'd give me some music and I'd sing it. That's how it goes.

Right?

Let's listen to what happened next, shall we?


OOTB guy 1: 'Great, Tom, that's marvellous.'
OOTB guy 2: 'Yeah yeah yeah. Now we'd just like you to go ahead and sing us something.'

[Pause.]

Undergraduate Hooligan: 'Er … What do you want me to sing?'
OOTB guy 3: 'Oh, anything you like.'
OOTB guy 1: 'Take your pick.'
OOTB guy 2: 'Yeah yeah yeah.'

[Long, excruciating pause]

At this point, we dive into the internal dialogue that is raging within the Undergraduate Hooligan's mind, amidst that deceptive silence. On one side we have 'Undergraduate Hooligan's Terror Of Prolonged Silence'; on the other we have 'Undergraduate Hooligan's Doomed Sense of Dignity and Self-Respect'. Their exchange sounded something like this:

UH's Terror: 'Oh Jesus, fuck, Jesus. Fuck! They're all looking at us. I think one of them's even frowning a little bit.'
UH's Dignity: 'Calm down, man. Let's just think about thi—'
Terror (interrupting): 'NO TIME TO THINK! Can't you hear HOW QUIET IT IS? We HAVE to sing something!'
Dignity: 'Okay, well, we know lots of songs, so how hard can it—'
Terror: 'Argh! You're taking too long!'
Dignity: 'Christ, will you stop interrupt—'
Terror: 'BWARGH! It's been quiet for AGES NOW! They think we're a WEIRDO! We HAVE to sing something. NOW!'
Dignity: 'How about something classica—'
Terror: 'Think of something!'
Dignity: 'But you're not even giving me a chance to—'
Terror: 'WAIT!'
Dignity (uneasy): 'What is it?'
Terror: 'I KNOW WHAT WE CAN SING!'

[Pause]

Dignity: 'Oh no. No. No!'
Terror: 'It's not ideal, I know, but THEY'RE ALL LOOKING AT US!'
Dignity: 'No no no no. Oh Christ no.'
Terror: 'It's a song! We know it!'
Dignity: 'For the love of God, no. Anything but that.'
Terror: 'I think it's our only hope!'
Dignity: 'Please. Please. No.'
Terror: 'DO YOU HAVE A BETTER SUGGESTION?'
Dignity (sweating, frantic): 'Ah, ah, ah … how … um …'
Terror: 'HURRY UP!'
Dignity: 'Fuck, would you just let me thi—'
Terror: 'NO TIME! WE HAVE TO SING!'

***

What follows may only be endured in the third person. And so it is that we find ourselves floating remote, detached – observing the scene (if you will) through the eyes of one who, like the god of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.

Without emotion, then, we regard this small practice room, in this small College, in this small city, on this small island, on this small, small planet. Standing beside the piano, with the doomed pride of the man before the guillotine, the aching frailty of the slender reed before the broiling storm, is the tender figure of our Hooligan.

He sways a little; steadies himself. His expression grows distant.

And, at length, into the breathless hush, emerges a sound. Words. A melody.

The slowest, slowest, most achingly slow melody. A cappella on heroin.

The sound of death.


'A heart

That's

Full up

Like

A

Land

Fill

A job

That slowly

KILLS

You

Bruises

That

Won't

Heal.'



Never, friend – never – had Thom Yorke's lyrics been simultaneously more incongruous and more apt. For there are bruises on my soul. Bruises That Will Never Heal.

I didn't get into Out Of The Blue.

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