Instrumental May 9, 2008Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
No, not the snappy case in Slavonic languages. The version of songs. Without words. That establishments choose to play.
Does a restaurant need a licence to play music? If you’ve got a restaurant, say, with a CD player sitting nicely on a shelf somewhere, do you need to have permission, perhaps even from the artist themselves, if you want to stick on a CD of theirs? If, say, I had an Anglo-Russian restaurant, serving beans on buckwheat porridge – I’ve thought of a name and everything – and I wanted to pipe Madonna to the punters, would I actually have to write to Madge at her castle in whatever county it is and ask if she and her retinue would mind awfully if I numbed the punters’ senses with her choonz?
It’s a phenomenon I thought was over. It was all the rage in fast-food establishments in the UK in my youth. They’d pipe in pop music with the tongue-desensitisers, but it would always be an instrumental version, or a cover version sung by the members of staff. Close enough to the real thing but clearly not yer actual, say, Bucks Fizz (who are, obviously, inimitable).
The weather here is stunning at the moment. I have put my winter being into storage for the four tolerable months of the calendar and reminded myself not to think of September-April until August 31st at the earliest. Life is so easily good. The Russian and I have reduced our drop-dead! count to factor in daylight saving. Hell, the sun has even made me give up booze for a while and enjoy it. I feel healthy. I feel warm. And I’ve noticed a benevolent attitude to the world and all its imperfections. I smiled like Laura Bush at the tram drunk yesterday. This contentedness, I presume, can only mean that I am about to become a religious fanatic or have a nervous breakdown.
So the Russian and I trundle out of the house a bit more. Our imaginations don’t stretch beyond food and booze so dinner invariably features. Still no idea where might be a decent place to go but the weather allows for strolling indecisiveness. “As long as we don’t end up at Thai Cuisine on Oranienburger Straße, I don’t mind.”
About an hour later, we take up our places at Thai Cuisine on Oranienburger Straße, a restaurant we both actually hate. Its only customers are English pensioners, who, I presume, end up there because they’ve got a reduction with their Green Shield Stamps. This time, we had the exotic distraction of actual Germans. Pensioners, of course. Discussing their pensions and insurance. Their conversation was a combination of indignation (at everything) (especially prices) and fear (of everything) (especially prices). The food is shit. Shit. Worse than I’d make. I ordered a soup, convincing myself it would be delicious. Ooh. Coconutty, prawny soup. That’ll be good. Except it was, of course, a prawn in a heated can of coconut milk.
The Russian and I discuss which one of us is to blame – “You. It’s your fault. If you hadn’t grown up in the Soviet Union, we wouldn’t have to fucking live in fucking Berlin.” “No, you, you grow aap in dyekadyent Vyest and not appreciate naasink and deliberately choose shit restaurant out of spite. If you grow up in Kirov…” – and instantaneous divorce.
We specify the wine – before I’d gone puritanical – to the waitress at some length. “This bottle, please.” It has a number, like the dishes. Oddly, the waitress then leaves the restaurant. Reappears a few minutes later. Gives us the wrong bottle. Not even the right colour. We feel guilty for making her shop for the wrong wine. She looks crestfallen. We look sheepish and apologetic. And then discuss whose fault it is, recycling the same accusations, when she leaves the table.
But the music. I asked the waitress for some pen and paper so I could jot down the fucking awful songs in their fucking awful instrumental versions. As I waited for one execrable number to finish and another to start, I scrawled ‘shit’ with frantic, aggressive strokes of the pen. The Thai Cuisine instrumental compilation album, perhaps bought online for 1c, featured wordless versions of: I Just Called To Say I Love You and You Were Wonderful Tonight. All Out of Love – Air Supply! Cunting Air Supply! Without words! – and Crying in the Rain. Ferry Across the Mersey and Guantanamera. I waited with dread and noose at the ready for Rainy Night in Georgia. Or, oh god, no, with my finger poised for Dial-a-Firing-Squad, Hotel Fucking California. Or Whiter Shade of Pale.
We skipped dessert and trudged home in silence.