Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Trench Lyrical

Archaeologists, as I'm sure I've already noted, are at their most dangerous when bored. Evidently, in this current economic climate, there's a lot of boredom around, as can be seen in normally vibrant email discussion groups, now packed to beyond bursting point with the collected wifflings of minds caught in vegetative limbo (and, yes, I realise that I'm sailing perilously close to the classic 'pot-kettle-sooty-bottom' interface scenario here). To give you one example, a recent discussion thread generated considerable (and rather heated) debate, not because it dared to consider whether archaeology had a future, or whether too many museums were closing, whether there was a 'decline' in ethical standards, whether loss of funding for projects would harm the historic resource, the nature of mass unemployment, the destruction of cultural treasures or any other of a million pressing pressing current concerns. 


The furore developed from the fundamental lack of agreement over which pop song contained the best archaeological-related lyric. 

I suspect that my annoyance came not from the trivial nature of the discussion (let's face it most web-based content (and I do include myself here) is a thinly-disguised form of angst-removal-therapy), but from the fact that the songs chosen for consideration were all trippy-hippy-lovey-wovey 70s uber-guff of the most annoying "give petits pois a chance" variety. Surely, I thought as I felt myself being inexorably dragged into the debate, there must be something better; something that more succinctly sums up the glorious futility of archaeological excavation against the odds; something more stridently "Archaeo-anarchy in the UK !" than "(I can't get no) Stratification"; something more "Smack my Ditch up" than "The Paviland Lady in Red".

Then it came to me. 

The (criminally) overlooked JG Thirlwell

(a.k.a. 'Scraping Foetus off the Wheel') on his 1985 album NAIL, had a rather wonderfully morbid ditty entitled 'Descent into the inferno' within which the following gem may be found:

"Don't excavate if you ain't diggin for gold
Cos it's a long way up when you're SIX FEET UNDER
Under a pile of HUMAN DEBRIS
A life fulla LIES and S*** and RUBBLE
You wanna save yourself the trouble"

Hearing Mr Thirlwell again, I'm suddenly back in a world of watching briefs in freezing hail bucketing ice from machine-dug trenches cut down through layer upon layer of Victorian housing debris and the accumulated bottle-glass detritus of urban life....

....happy days.

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