The artist Robert Luxemburg, in the thought-provoking Steal this film II (freely available through bit-torrent – download it, watch it, pass it on), talks about the absolute fear that record companies and the film industry have that the average consumer will, with the aid of cheap technology, morph themselves into producers. With the aid of filesharing and sampling software, the idea goes, we’ll be able to see that the Emporors really have no clothes on.
Where does that fit in with this brilliant tune from a Dublin vanished-without-a-trace band called Moneypenny? Well, it’s a song that encapsulates that moment when admiration mutates into inspiration, when a band finds a voice of its own.
The local health authorities can attest to the fact that during the mid-late ’90s Dublin had the highest infestation level of singer-songwriters in the English singing world. Turn a corner in the Hibernian capital, and you were likely to run into an angst-ridden, seldom-washed troubadour busking their latest sparse offering claiming some direct connection with Rimbaud, or Van the Man at least.
Against this backdrop, a blues guitarist/singer Dave Murphy bravely held an open mic night in Dublin’s decidedly dingy International bar. The open mic (or lack of mic, in reality, as the venue was so small it needed no amplification) dragged both the best and the worst songwriters out of the woodwork, and every tuesday night you could hear the sublime (Mundy, at the start of his career), the ridiculous, and a collection of dirges that would have been better off remaining in the bedsit where they were composed. On various occasions, though, a truly special song would shine through, and become week in and week out an anthem. Moneypenny’s ‘hangin out with excellence‘ easily became one thanks to its immediate melody, its lightness of touch, and its limpet-like ability to stick in your mind.
“Hang out with Einstein, he knows it all
Hang out with Jesus, if your name is Paul
Hang out with God himself, he gets it right
Come to the International Bar, on a Tuesday night”
Self-referential without being arrogant or elitist (they cast themselves very much on the ‘hanging out with’ side of the equation); passionate without being earnest, and clever without being either calculating or slick, this is a perfect pop-song (it clocks in at just over 3minutes) which captures the uncertainty and longing of a band’s first faltering footsteps
One of the other reasons I love this song is because it has become that rare thing, a song that stands on its own, uncontaminated with images of the band that produced it. Ask me to tell you something about Moneypenny, aside from the fact that they crafted this genius of a song, and I’ll draw a blank. Blame it on the fact that there’s a richer American band of the same name, perhaps. Search for information on the band, and you’ll be dissapointed. I saw them, at most, two times, and yet the chorus of their song burned in the back of my mind, until, thanks to the charity of file-sharing, I stumbled upon the song and managed to get a copy. Now it’s a regular in any playlist – holding its own in the company of excellence