A Manilow Blow to the Nether Regions of Humanity

Woah!  For the love of all that is holy, take it easy!  No matter the circumstances, some lines should never be crossed.  Regardless of the depth of provocation, there are simply some places one should not go.  Not all depths need to be plumbed.  It’s true, I feel, that some actions are so profoundly shocking that they sail past a point of no return at a rate of knots on their way to hell.  Even as I write this, it’s difficult to keep my jaw above my knees; such is the weight of shock that’s now upon me.  Life, as we knew it, will never be the same.  I speak, of course, of New Zealand.

Don’t get me wrong – I love New Zealand.  It’s a wonderful country with a warm and generous people.  It’s because of my deep affection for our Kiwi neighbours that I was so shocked and disturbed beyond the point of recovery once I heard the news.  Such cruelty. Such malice.  Such indifference for musical taste.

There were protesters. They were, apparently, blocking the streets of Wellington and making a nuisance of themselves around Parliament. Naturally, they had a name for their movement which made it abundantly clear that they saw themselves differently to, say, the way everyone else saw them.  They had described themselves as a ‘Convoy of Freedom’. Perhaps the title ‘Angry Mob’ was already taken and subject to copyright restrictions.  

I presume that the ‘Convoy of Freedom’ was a musical nod to the seventies classic by CW McCall involving a bunch of disgruntled truck drivers clogging up the freeway to protest against hook turns and that George Michael song.  Ostensibly the ‘Convoy of Freedom’ was in protest at various things related to Covid and the news reported that they had gathered in their ‘hundreds’.  

I’m not sure you can really be called a ‘protest’ if there are people gathered in their ‘hundreds’. For me, that’s more like the queue at the supermarket on Saturday mornings.  The meagre numbers makes the response even more bewildering.

Although I profoundly disagree with those protestors and think they’re wrong about everything, I’m not sure they deserved what happened next.  Keen to disperse the protestors, the authorities hit them with a blast of Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits.  Oh the humanity.  Music is often described as the food of love.  This, however, was a sandwich with an extremely unpalatable filling.

News reports made breathless mention of songs like ‘Mandy’ and ‘It Could Be Magic’ but were conspicuously quiet on the matter of ‘Copacabana’.  Probably because ‘Copacabana’ is not so much likely to disperse a motley group of protestors as it is to inspire a revolution.  It’s a little known fact that during the 1917 Russian Revolution, the mob that swarmed through Petrograd were singing about Tony, Lola and the hottest spot north of Havana.

The songs were being played on a fifteen-minute loop. To rub salt into the wound, they also played the ‘Macarena’.  This, I believe, may well constitute a breach of the Geneva Convention.  The protestors didn’t stand a chance. They were totally Manilowed to kingdom come.  Barried out of existence.

I’m sure the authorities were pleased with themselves. But they’re failing to see the bigger, noisier picture.  By reaching for Barry Manilow, New Zealand has inadvertently set off a musical arms race.  One side begins with ‘The Macarena’ and, before you know it, someone retaliates with ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song)’ by Rupert Holmes.  Soon, the Copacabana is renovated and becomes a bar called ‘O’Malleys’ where an aged Rico sits slumped in the corner, talking to himself. 

Things will only get worse from there.  Before long, parking for ten minutes in a five minute loading zone will earn you not only a parking ticket but a blast of ‘Popcorn’ for your troubles.  The drop off bay at the airport will now be reinforced by Celine Dion’s ‘All By Myself’.  People who fail to accelerate appropriately when the lights turn green may well find themselves staring down the barrel of ‘Baby Shark’ or, God forbid, ‘Aga Do’ by Black Lace. The people making these decisions not only have cold, dark hearts but, presumably, ears made of cloth.    

Now’s my chance.  Since things have taken a decidedly nasty turn, conditions are now perfect for my music.  My songs have a proven track record in clearing dance floors right across the Mornington Peninsula.  They are, in actual fact, so effective, that they’ve been locked away for thirty years on occupational health and safety grounds.  New Zealand – they’re yours if you want them for a modest fee….

As it turns out, New Zealand doesn’t need my music. They don’t even need Barry Manilow or the aural obscenity that is ‘The Macarena’.  They were polite about it, though.  They politely informed me that the role of crowd disperser had been filled by some guy called ‘Scott’ who specializes in playing ‘April Sun in Cuba’, which didn’t sound too bad until they mentioned he’d be performing it solo on the ukulele.  The horror, the horror.