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Publicans: Pipe Down

February 21, 2011

I’m no youngster, but I will concede that I am curmudgeonly beyond my years. Thus, I have always been annoyed by overly loud music in bars and restaurants. I like a relatively calm, relatively quiet place to enjoy my libations, and feel no need for ear-splitting pounding tunes, whether it be techno or some annoying asshole pounding away on a piano. A little background jazz or rock, a quality jukebox calibrated to a proper level, a hot chick on an upright bass — I love it. Thumping nonsense, I’m moving on.

This is all brought to mind by the fact that Saturday night I happened to be wandering around a nearby shore town made (more) famous by a bar rocker, trying to find a pleasant place for a nightcap with some friends. Every goddamn place had pounding music. Now, mind you, this is a frigid Saturday in February on the Jersey Shore. It’s not like we were popping into Karma on July 4th. And yet.

For the coda on this thought, I’m going to turn it over to the great Kingsley Amis who, in his classic On Drink (of which you will no doubt read more here at THEG), expressed the following after broadly complaining about the state of pubs (please note that this was 1972):

But all this could be put up with cheerfully enough if it were not for the bloody music — or that kind of uproar having certain connections with a primitive style of music and known as pop. It is not really the pop as such that I object to, even though pop is very much the sort of thing that I, in common with most of the thirty- or thirty-five-plus age-group, would have expected to go to the pub to get away from. For partly different reasons, I should also object to having Beethoven’s Choral Symphony blaring away while I tried to enjoy a quiet pint with friends. If you dislike what is being played, you use up energy and patience in the attempt to ignore it; if you like it, you will want to listen to it and not to talk or be talked to, not to do what you came to the pub largely to do.

I have always understood that pop and popular music came to pubs because the brewers hoped thereby to reverse the falling-off of the recruitment of younger patrons noticeable in the post-war period. If I am right in that assumption, then they were wrong in theirs. Pop not only tends to drive the older customer out; it fails to attract, and even keeps away, large sections of the young, including some who welcome pop on its own ground.  (I wonder very much what would be the effect on the trade of a publican who put up a notice at his door saying ‘No Music Inside’.  Will someone try it?)  Anyway, we pay the pipers; we ought to be able to call the absence of tunes.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jco permalink
    February 22, 2011 10:51 am

    Hear, hear. As it were. Someone sent me a link a few months back to an article that claimed that people drink more, and faster, when the music is so loud that they cannot speak to each other. Apparently earsplitting music makes folks anxious, and having to scream incentivizes them to focus on their beer. Altogether depressing.

  2. February 22, 2011 1:27 pm

    I’ve heard the same theory that jco wrote about. I’m deaf in one ear and there was nothing worse when I was doing my bar crawl than being in a joint with ear-splitting music and people screaming over the top of it. Ugh!

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