It’s five years ago now that I came across the worst busker in the world ever. I was making my way through town, making a half-hearted attempt at shopping, when my mission was interrupted by the unmistakable strains of a familiar song being totally destroyed by some bloke in a shop doorway with a guitar.
The guy in question was tall, thin, dishevelled and – more to the point – could neither play the guitar, nor could he sing. His repertoire was pretty diverse, but the one number that absolutely captivated me was one that, quite frankly, it should be impossible not to be able sing… However, the combination of his dire strumming and thin, reedy, classical-ish, tuneless, unsyncopated, toneless, and somewhat bizarre voice conspired to render ‘Anarchy in the UK’ almost unrecognisable. It’s fair to say that I was simultaneously appalled and spellbound, so bad was his performance.
And then he sang it all over again. Twice.
It was one of those priceless moments that cause you to stop whatever you’re doing; the rest of the world fades to grey, and you’re there, lost in a surreal moment when time and space cease to exist – there is only that moment in time, and it is utter perfection. There is something absurdly sublime about that which is dire – when something is so bad it is actually a triumph. I knew then I had to capture it and share it with you, but at the time the technology let me down and – perhaps in the best interests of humanity – the moment was completely lost to posterity.
I’ve hoped ever since that I would come across him again, but it seems that I’ve hoped in vain. Then today, I was walking through town, and there stood in the self-same doorway, was a bloke with a guitar. Sadly, it wasn’t the worst busker in the world ever, but he was trying his utmost to win that title – he was, indeed, truly awful. Each song would start with several failed attempts to find the right chord, if not quite the right fingering, then a few abortive attempts at hitting a sort of right note, until – throwing caution and sanity to the wind – off he’d go with a rendition of… Well, to be honest, I’m not sure! I didn’t recognise a single song and I can only assume they were either his own compositions – doubtful though, since he didn’t appear to be trying to sell any CDs or promote his website – or what he was singing was so badly mangled that it sounded like something completely different.
He was so bad that I found myself compelled to stop, sit and listen, and covertly attempt to record what my ears were telling me was quite definitely not music by any normal definition. Once again, I can only offer my apologies: Covert recording on a mobile phone is hardly of CIA quality, and the results aren’t worth posting… But, trust me, you’ve had a lucky escape!
It used to be the case, not so long ago, that there was a baseline of crapness above which it was not possible to progress. Certainly there were bad singers, musicians, artists and writers out there, but their unfortunate audiences were limited to immediate family and friends who wouldn’t protest too much. Today, with the internet open to anybody who fancies a pop, and a rash of ‘talent’ shows making up Saturday night television, the message seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you have any sort of talent or not, you owe it to the world to inflict your abilities upon them. So we end up with dumbed-down, electronically-enhanced, second-rate, poor quality rubbish – I like to think of it as Poundland talent – cheap, nasty, but for some reason we put up with it and make the excuse that it’s ‘value for money’.
Such things are not confined to the real world, we can see it in the virtual world too. The democratisation and accessibility of the creative process fostered by SL means a level playing field upon which genius and idiot alike share equal terms. Unfortunately, just as in the real world, it’s the idiot who thinks they have something of great value to give, and is utterly oblivious to the paucity of their offerings. For every brilliant mesh creator in SL, there are a hundred people who will place their badly-built, crappy-textured and poorly-designed creations on the Marketplace and expect people to pay for them. For every amazing inworld artist, there are a dozen wannabes who think that slapping any old screenshot on a prim, bunging it on a wall with half a dozen other poor quality screenshots and calling the result a gallery, is going to impress. And for every DJ who puts time, effort and knowledge into a set, who is friendly, welcoming and personable, there are many, many more who think that simply bunging their entire questionable music collection randomly over the stream and demanding tips in return is perfectly OK.
Maybe that’s why so many seem to spend a short while in SL then go away, never to return? Perhaps they’ve heard of this amazing, spellbinding place where there are things to be amazed at around every corner, yet when they log in they fail to find them as they trawl through the tacky freebie warehouses and cheap gogo bars that form the staple fare for the newbie to SL.
It’s a shame, but I guess that true genius will always be surrounded by more than its fair share of dross… That’s just the way of the world, whether real or virtual, when opportunity is the norm and everyone has a voice; yet, somehow – right though it is – it doesn’t really work.
Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
Rob Falsini – One