Jul 012008

There’s always a part of me that’s glad I don’t always understand what E. Pluribus is saying, but this time, I started wondering if there was something that Gergley “gets” that I don’t, namely: *animality.*

I mean, what the heck is it? Let me ask some tough questions:

1. Do the Stones have it?

2. Did the Beatles? If they only had animality part of the time, what was it about their non-animality-infused music that made it good anyway?

3. Is it something Black artists seem to have more of? (I say seem. This is an important choice of words!)

4. Is there more animality in music made before 1970, and, if so, why?

4. Is the lack of animality “gay,” in the playground insult kind of way?

5. So, come on: who’s got the animality?

Just wondering,



  28 Responses to “Who’s Got the Animality?”

  1. These are all important questions, and I will spend the next few hours considering them. However, for now I’d like to put forth that E. Pluribus has perhaps unwittingly coined the most compelling RTH term since “procotmusicology” and “Oliver.” More soon.

  2. Judging by the questions and the word itself, I think I’m understanding what “animality” is.

    Just for clarification, perhaps, let me see if I got it:

    The Cyrkle has zero animality.

    The Yardbirds has plenty of animality.

    Simon and Garfunkel have zero animality.

    Joe Tex has animality.

    Elvis Presley has some animality (when he wants it).

    Jerry Lee Lewis has some animality.

    Do I understand?


  3. 1. Yes.

    2. McCartney lacked animality somewhat, although not totally. But he has it mainly at the top of his game. Lennon and Ringo bring the animality in the band and McCartney helps it be more constructed. George adds an ethereal quality. One could also make a distinction between “craft” and “edge.” Edge has the animality, but it often lacks the craft. The Beatles’ greatness is due in part to their having a strong balance between these tendencies. The greatest basketball teams also balance these characteristics.

    3. I don’t think so. Generally speaking though, the more earthy and minimal the genre, the more animality. But there are complicated exceptions; consider Coltrane’s combination of animality and complexity.

    4. Maybe, but I’d associate the lack of it more with soulessness or missing physical passion.

    5. Answering that question would take a long time. But let’s say that since The Animals named it, they certainly stand as an example of one band who has a lot of it. And without that much craft to go along with it, the band’s effectiveness is real but limited, which gives one indication that animality alone isn’t always enough.

  4. JVB,

    You missed a critical question. Do Herman’s Hermits have “animality”?

  5. the prophet

    I don’t really know much ’bout no stuff you askin’. But I do know this, nothing gets the prophet going like a girl with the animality. Uh huh. Janis Joplin, now she got the animality.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    1. The Stones had it in spades, no offense, in the way Keef would freely use that term, meant.

    2. The Beatles had plenty of animality. Animality doesn’t have to be ugly and distasteful, you know, but they had some of the ugly stuff too. People may jump and say, “But McCartney didn’t have animality!” I say, listen to his bass playing. The man’s bass playing was thoroughly animalistic.

    3. African Americans may be more apt to express their animality. I won’t generalize about blacks from other countries. African American churches actually encourage animality dressed up as spiritualism.

    4. Animality was more prevalent prior to 1981. Why try to limit it to an earlier time, like 1970? As for why, I’d say because the norm required musicians to actually make music together with the hope of succeeding on a giagantic level. That combination makes for the release of much animalistic behavior. Beginning in the ’80s, music was more often created in a lab and geared toward a ghetto.

    4. The lack of animality in music is not necessariy “gay,” in the playground insult kind of way, but liking music devoid of animality made by artists who were once heavily animalistic may be perceived that way.

    5. Many of the greats. I’d even argue that Paul Simon’s got the animality. Behind all those fancy words and his old combover was a man bursting with animality.

    Remember, E. Pluribus doesn’t argue that animality is the be all and end all, only that it’s necessary.

    I’m truly shocked that veterans of the Halls of Rock were shocked by his use of that term today. I’ve heard him use this term to great effect for years. I was sincere in expressing the fact that I missed discussions of animality on RTH. I hope that the man gets over his sense of persecution by all “11” of us and thrills us with his Don Rickles-like insults. You’ve got to admit, Hrrundi, that you had it coming to you as much as he had it coming to him.

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    Geo raises an interesting question, which I’ll expand on thusly:

    What did Herman’s Hermits have that the Style Council didn’t?

    This is a question I truly wish Gergles would answer.


  8. Mr. Moderator

    For starters, Herman’s Hermits play their handful of good songs with joie de vivre. It’s not some “phase” they’re going through. It’s all those losers are possibly capable of pulling off that’s even slightly worthwhile for the duration of their coming days on earth. THAT’S animality!

  9. BigSteve

    I didn’t think the Hermits even played the instruments on their records.

    And you can have joie de vivre without animality.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    Sure you can, BigSteve, but that wasn’t the question.

    You know, it’s fun and easy to jump on this animality issue, but in HVB’s full “Style Council made great singles” thread I laid out very strong reasons why HVB should NOT like the Style Council. Where’s the support for that argument? Don’t skirt the real issue: every time Weller and Talbot had a good idea in Style Council they shat upon it with their lack of self-restraint and taste.

  11. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod says:

    Don’t skirt the real issue: every time Weller and Talbot had a good idea in Style Council they shat upon it with their lack of self-restraint and taste.

    I respond:

    Huh? I suppose this is one of those “Oh, well, I guess you just don’t like them” moments. But, for pete’s sake, their whole schtick was based on an *obsession* with restraint and taste.

    I suspect what you mean when you say things like this is that you’re geezingly horrified that — gasp! — they used synthesizers and drum machines alongside their more “tasteful” instrumental appointments.

    Similarly, their metrosexual approach to style and fashion probably counts as “unrestrained” to you. Funny how folks on this list can (for example) get all misty-eyed about mods and scooters without recognizing that folks in that movement would probably be considered assholish dandies according to the RTH Chuck Taylor fashion criteria. The Style Council were a logical evolution of that approach to Look, and I’m sure that seems like a betrayal to some. All I know is that Weller’s always been desired by the ladies (and the men, I suppose) — and unless you’re Amish, that’s pretty much why you wear clothes.

    This jag into the world of style and fashion may seem like a curveball, but I ask you to look into your heart; ask yourself honestly how much of your hatin’ springs from your fears and misapprehensions about cardigan sweaters tied loosely around men’s necks.

  12. Mr. Moderator

    No, Hrrundi, I mean where’s the restraint when they bring in the woman to sing the after-school special quality response line about 50 seconds into that “…Happiness” song? Where’s the restraint when they proceed to run through every cheesy ’60s pop device in the book in the next minute of the song? Don’t get me wrong, I love cheesy ’60s pop devices as much as anyone, but they pour them on without trust for the song itself.

    Sure, the synth thing sucks. Those instruments sound terrible. If you can live with it, more power to you.

    I’d have much less a beef with the style thing if their music didn’t tend to blow. I never wax nostalgic about Mods. I didn’t care much for The Jam’s Look. Weller’s got a God-given good Look, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I loved a good deal of The Jam’s music. I like my share of Weller solo albums too. That’s the only reason I care so much about why the Style Council fails to impress me. I was thinking about it, Weller’s a bit like Lou Reed: tons of confidence and bravado, the misguided belief that he’s actually mutating when he’s really writing the same couple of songs over and over, lack of humor, wild swings between great and bad music with substantial and maybe most-informative mediocre music…

    As for your sweaters question, I LOVE sweaters. I LOVE cardigan sweaters. Who wrote the couplet “A different crowd feels more at ease with a light sweater on”? I’ll tell you who did: I DID! And I’m not ashamed to say that my song with that line – the song itself, not any particular performance, which I don’t know that we ever quite nailed as a band – does a better job than the entire catalog of the Style Council at representing a pro-sweater/anti-leather vision of rock.

  13. And who among us in Rock Town Hall didn’t think of Lou Reed when we read this yesterday:

    ”After As Is Now I thought the time was right to make the sort of record I wanted to make,” says Paul Weller of the creative process which led to his striking ninth solo album 22 Dreams.

  14. hrrundivbakshi

    Sorry, Mod, I’m not buyin’ what you’re sellin’. Saying that the Style Council wrote the same 60s cliche-fest soul stompers over and over again is like saying that the Velvet Underground kept writing the same “noise rock” or “art rock” or “drug rock” or whatever, repeatedly. It just ain’t so!

    Was it all in the “soul” mold? Well, not really, but for the most part, I suppose. But that’s a mighty big bin to catch all those songs in. Do you dislike the Rolling Stones because they went to that fucking country/blues rock well over and over again? No — you can’t get enough of it!

    Just ‘fess up, buddy. You don’t like 1970s-era soul music enough to listen to a band that models much of their music after it. I really think it’s that simple. Just take off that lab coat you’ve been hiding behind, look into the camera and say, “I guess I just don’t like soul music made after 1970 enough.”

  15. Latelydavidband,

    You’ve pretty much got it. It’s that primitive thing in your head and heart that makes you wanna scream good and loud, stomp on small milk cartons in a high school cafeteria to create boom-like sounds, piss in a sink, etc. Feel free to chime in with any act that’s juvenile, has nothing to do with a logical thought process, and is sure to be offensive to someone.

    All the great rock and roll weirdos had it as well: Lennon, Dylan, Syd Barrett. . . .as a matter of fact, the best pop records, in my opinion, were made by those mega intelligent psychotics who used pop forms to express their visions and animality in some sort of controlled atmosphere. As I’ve stated many times in the past, Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” is the best example I can serve up as an illustration of the process at its best.

    Of all the nuts on this site that actually make music, Slocum could probably best pull something like the above off, but he’s so spent so much time obssessed with atttempts at Zappa like cleverness (snoooooooooz) that he’s forgotten the therapeutic benefits of something simple like kicking a hole in a wall with at least a hint of wild abandon. Because he’s lost the ability to do that, he will, most probably have great difficulty making any kind of art that doesn’t sound like it’s been made by someone wearing a lab coat.

    You seem to be a decent guy. It’s good to finally have someone new up here who’s not a peckerhead.

    E. Pluribus

  16. Mr. Moderator

    Hrrundi, you’re so far from getting at what I’ve tried to say about Style Council that this effort may be futile. That’s cool. I still think you’re aces. If those Prince outtakes ever make their way out of your system we can try again.

  17. BigSteve


    Grow up.

    Your friend,


  18. Hey Steve,

    Not in a million years.

    Your friend,
    E. Pluribus

  19. And who among us in Rock Town Hall didn’t think of Lou Reed when we read this yesterday:

    ”After As Is Now I thought the time was right to make the sort of record I wanted to make,” says Paul Weller of the creative process which led to his striking ninth solo album 22 Dreams.

    Yes, Al, I too suspected that this new album would be Paul Weller… As His Music Was Meant to Sound.

  20. 1. Yes

    2. Yes. They all looked good in leather jackets. That’s enough, isn’t it.

    3. No!

    4. Surely, the existence of GG Allin proves animality lived on way beyond 1970. (Nice to see Mr. Mod trot out 1981 again!)

    4. Not “gay” in the playground sense so much as “girly” in the same sense.

    5. If you gotta debate about it, you ain’t got it!

  21. BigSteve

    Suddenly I feel like I don’t understand animality. I thought we were talking about physicality and earthiness, but now it seems like the definition has shifted to simple juvenility.

  22. Mr. Moderator

    Mr. Mod’s people are trying to line up a tour of college campuses at which I’ll lecture on the 1981 issue as well as my belief that “Kokomo” is among the top 5 post-Pet Sounds songs by The Beach Boys.

  23. general slocum

    Yes, Gergles, I am a sad old man. And I (snooooooz…) can hardly stay awake long enough to go get my micrometer and my compass to assure precision in my post-juvenile kickings of holes in walls, it’s true. But the next day I go on my blog and ask whether anybody has any input on pre- and post- asbestos wall materials, in terms of kicking, and wonder whether that’s “gay” or not. (But only in a pre-Nelson Eddy sense.)

    Cher. I almost wanted to ask who your sister and her boyfriend were, since that sounded so familiar! But then I realized that whole profile was ubiquitous in the west Philly of the “Wooden Shoe” era. Don’t tell me he also shoplifted at the “Theft Way” at 43d and Walnut, or I’ll know we’re actually related.

  24. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Mod:

    In seeking out some tracks and an entire album by Jefferson Airplane last night, I came across an album by another SF band I’d always heard about but never heard, Sons of Champlin. The album I stumbled across is called Follow Your Heart. After checking it out last night, I’m tempted to say that I’ve finally found a SF band I can sink my teeth into: really soulful singing, nice ensemble playing, little of the melodrama that has always bogged me down with Jefferson Airplane. Along with the title track, I was impressed by “Children Know”, “Before You Right Now”, “Hey Children”, and “Child Continued”.

  25. Steve, I think it’s about physicality and earthiness, and I think the most of the rest of us do too. HVB, Gergs and Mod have to go through this routine every now and again though, although the fact of doing it over a band as stunningly inconsequential as The Style Council is surely a sight to behold.

  26. trolleyvox

    Weller’s a bit like Lou Reed: tons of confidence and bravado, the misguided belief that he’s actually mutating when he’s really writing the same couple of songs over and over, lack of humor, wild swings between great and bad music with substantial and maybe most-informative mediocre music…

    At first I was going to write this:

    Does this mean that we are going to start seeing “Paul Weller as his music was meant to sound” posts?

    But then Oats beat me to the punch.

  27. Hey,

    I’ll take Culture Club over Style Council any day of the week. Both suck, but at least Culture Club turned in a memorable song or two.

    I’m with my man Wallace. All this over Style Council? At least take it up a notch to say an Ultravox or Aztec Camera level!
    E. Pluribus

  28. I know you guys have moved on but I’m still trying to wrap my head around this Animality thing. Check my math for me: Sh Boom by the chords has Animality a plenty, Sh Boom by the Crew Cuts is utterly devoid of Animality.

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