Thursday, March 03, 2011

By Jingo

Recent SIBA convert Hardknott Dave invites us to critique the "Proud of British Beer" vid, with the condition that we should, in that case, explain why we haven't made our own far superior advert for British Beer. Now much as I'd love to have a go at the film, I won't do that - although I will come back to the choice of music later. No, what concerns me here is the "if you think you can do better..." argument.

When most of us criticise a beer or a top footie team ("it/they was/were shite"), We're not normally required to point to our premiership football sucesses, or to our award winning beverages. We can say such-and-such a popular music artist is rubbish, and come up with a list of objections to the material, performance and person, without having to "top" the "charts" ourselves. We're entitled to our opinions, we're entitled to hold forth on them, and you're entitled to ignore us utterly.

That geezer Voltaire once wrote "The best is the enemy of the good." - OK, he wrote "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." , but it wasn't his fault that he was French, so we won't hold that against him. And of course if we're waiting for the perfect promotional short for British Beer to be made, we'll wait for ever. As to whether someone else could or should have made something better - that would depend to a large part on having the budget (which I guess was quite small), and the time, as well as having the inclination.

And here we are, the bit where I carp at the choice of music. Now, I know that cost and rights constraints have to be really important in a job like this. But, really, that selection out of Holst? I actually like this bit of music, but it's terminally besmirched by being the basis of the tune "Thaxted", to which "I Vow to Thee, My Country" was often sung. Let's all refresh our memories with the words of the first verse:
I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

Of course, this was written in 1908, when nationalistic fervour, and for that matter, senseless sacrifice and unquestioning obedience, was suitable matter for popular song. Ten years later, Owen wrote:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Fifty years after that, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote (and Edwin Starr made famous):
War (Huh) What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. (Good God, Y'all).
Here, if you're interested.


Cooking Lager said...

Indeed and one also has to ask who the audience for this film is. It's too long for TV or cinema adverts. Who is going to watch it? Beer geeks I guess.

StringersBeer said...

The suggestion is that we invite our M.P.s to have a gander. What with the duty rise looming, and all that.

Helen said...

Totally agree about the music. The whole concept is terribly old fashioned and uninspiring. I didn't even watch the whole thing - I thought there was a good chance I'd die of boredom. Here's how it's done: Chrysler's Superbowl ad "Imported from Detroit."

Ed said...

Excellent post here:

"I’m just thankful that the budget didn’t allow them to shoe horn a couple of Spitfires in for good measure."

StringersBeer said...

Spitfires? Oh god, don't give them ideas. Pub Diaries says what needs to be said.

Anonymous said...

Glad someone got the point I was making. Spitfires wouldn't be available anyway as I believe Cameron has them on standby.

Posted a comment on the Pete Brown post to the effect that this could be the start of a number of video posts. So I think I may do just that. I feel a new post brewing if you forgive the pun.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder how I think these things are a good idea... it's usually something to do with beer..

StringersBeer said...

Incidentally, and for anyone who thinks that it's ironic that the music chosen was by "some bloke with the very British name of Gustav" (a comment on PBs blog) it's worth remembering that Holst was born in Cheltenham, his grandfather was an immigrant (from Latvia). And you don't get any more British than that. Pack of mongrels that we are.

dredpenguin said...

I see your point to some extent but not sure it is fair to tarnish the tune with the lyrics sometimes sung to it. Even you admit you like the tune.

I think it may have been a better video if they had thrown more money at at but these things have budgets and time-scales and I think they did a decent job.

StringersBeer said...

People don't just choose music for a piece like this because it's a nice tune. Or at least they shouldn't. The kind of people who would choose this "because they like the tune" are the kind of uncultured dimwit who should stick to organising rugby club fundraisers. No, I'm sure this piece was chosen because it reeks of "patriotism", "heritage". The full orchestration shrieks "class" in the most unsubtle way. It's so f-ing obvious.

The "I Am A Craft Brewer" piece that this - how shall we put it - owes a lot to, uses music that's noticably different - it's modern, it's not even American and it doesn't come with all the baggage. It's a much more confident, forward-looking thing altogether. Which didn't stop the film getting parodied rather well elsewhere - significantly, sometime before SIBA/we made theirs/ours.

If you havent seen the craft brewer thing you should

The music is Sigur Ros doing Hoppípolla

Curmudgeon said...

But the second verse of "I Vow to Thee My Country" goes:

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago—
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

So it is misleading to dismiss it as jingoistic tub-thumping purely on the basis of the first verse, as it is basically saying that Christian faith comes ahead of patriotic allegiance.

dredpenguin said...

Perhaps I'm that uncultured dimwit ;-) to me it is just a piece of stirring classical music.

But then again I'm not a lobbyist and have no pretence to be one.

StringersBeer said...

No, Mr. Curmudgeon, you've quoted the third verse rather than the second. The second isn't sung so much:

"I heard my country calling away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

Now, granted, after two verses of sickening "jingoistic tub-thumping", the lyric concludes with the image of a heavenly kingdom. This (pretty much) blasphemous conceit, equating national pride with the christian ideal, doesn't really makes things better, does it?

StringersBeer said...

dredpenguin - you're right of course - it's a piece of "stirring classical" music. But why this piece? Why classical? Why any particular piece of music?