The Onion AV Club Questionnaire and The Girl in the Dirty Shirt

One of my favorite running features in the Onion A.V. Club is what they call AVQ&A, where each of the regular staffers answer some pop-culture related question. Being professional pop culture writers they answer at length and go off on amusing tangents with each weekly question.

There is a new one each Friday, and while enjoying today’s (What’s your favorite deep album cut?) I thought, this would be an interesting thing to answer myself. So I copy-and-pasted each of the questions into a document and came up with…The Onion A.V. Club Questionnaire.

Some of the questions were time-specific, so I did some tweaking to make them more evergreen. I will answer some of these from time to time, but with 71 questions, unless I did it rapid fire style, I can’t do them all in one blast. So please, feel free to comment with your own responses, or just go off and think of them on your own.

To the AV Club themselves, please consider this an homage to your brilliant forum and witty writing. In other words, I hope you don’t sue or cry plagiarism. Pretty please…

And here it is…

Wait, one quick note: I answer #21 at length after the list.

1. What movie have you spent the most time arguing about?

2. What would you name your imaginary band?

3. What was the first album you bought with your own money?

4. What was your most embarrassing early celebrity crush?

5. What’s your most-rewatched movie?

6. What album have you spent the most time arguing about?

7. What one book would you most like to make the rest of the world read?

8. What canceled-before-its-time TV show do you miss the most?

9. What is the best live music show you’ve ever been to?

10. What was your most memorable Halloween costume?

11. Do you have a well-known film/album/show that you’ve specifically resisted from viewing, etc. for whatever reason?

12. What was your most disappointing concert experience?

13. What are your pop-culture “sacred cows”? What entertainment opinions do you consider so inarguable that attempts to argue the subject provoke instant rage or frustration?

14. What is the worst movie-watching experience you’ve had in another person’s company (be it a date, your parents, classmates, etc.)?

15. What piece of pop culture do you most fondly remember looking forward to at the time?

16. What band, currently broken up but still alive, would you do anything to see play one last live show?

17. What are your pop-culture guilty pleasures? Nothing that you’re proud to be different about—nothing based out of nostalgia, irony, or a love of kitsch or camp.

18. If you could make a single book, film, or album required material to graduate from high school, what would it be?

19. What handful of songs would you put on a mix-tape for someone you love or are trying to woo?

20.What’s your most treasured pop-cultural possession?

21. Are there “deep cuts” you wish artists had released as singles so the rest of the world knew how great those album songs were?

22. Maybe you never understood why critics go apeshit for The Velvet Underground and Nico. Or maybe you didn’t think that No Country For Old Men was that great. Whatever it is, everyone has at least one work of art that they just don’t understand the hype about. What are yours?

23. Who is your all-time favorite bad-ass from television or film?

24. Are there any actors, directors, etc. who you now consider blacklisted because of a particular work or group of works? Is there anyone you will take a lifetime pass on?

25. What songs/bands that you used to like can you not listen to anymore because of the memories you associate with them? I’m thinking along the lines of the favorite band of an ex that broke your heart, a dead friend’s favorite song, and/or the song that was playing when you got some particularly bad news.

26. Which artist gets a lifetime pass from you, whatever else he/she may do?

27. Which works of fiction create a world (or a version of reality) that you’d consider most enjoyable to live in?

28.What’s your favorite album of 2010 so far?

29. Looking ahead to July 4th: “What part of pop-culture makes you proudest to be an American?”

30.Who would you say represents us as “our Beatles,” or the Great American Rock Band?

31. What pieces of entertainment have authentically frightened you?

32. When did you each first individually realize that you were pop-culture geeks?” Which is to say, the first time we realized we cared about some facet of the entertainment world maybe a little more than our friends, or a little more than was necessarily appropriate as far as those around us were concerned.

33. What are your best pop-culture-related memories of the past decade?

34. What’s your personal pop-culture cause, the thing people always scoff at you for liking and that you always try to convince naysayers to give a first (or second or third) chance to anyway?

35. Have you made any pop-culture pilgrimages?

36. What’s your favorite song? No hedging with three or four. What’s your favorite song? You are allowed to say, “It changes all the time.” But I’m asking you right now.

37. Is there a piece of pop culture that absolutely, 100 percent never fails to make you laugh? (Or at least smile?)

38.What movie/TV show/album/whatever would you like to be able to see/hear again for the first time?

39. What age-inappropriate (or not) movie did you see as a child that scared the shit out of you at the time, but now seems ridiculous?

40.Here’s a Q&A suggestion in two parts—what piece of pop culture will you insist on sharing with your children, and what piece of pop culture was passed down to you from your parents?

41. Which films make you cry?

42. I’m curious about art you didn’t like the first time you consumed it (despite the fact that you felt you “should” like it), but then upon returning to said art after some period of time, something clicked and you just “got it.”

43. What bit of pop-cultural ephemera still sticks in your own personal quote machine that few people get?

44. What are your favorite local advertisements, the ones you and your friends/family remember for years after they aired?

45. What is the one song/band that is summer to you?

46. Did you ever see a video or TV performance from a band that made you fall instantly in love with them?

47. What do you think about when you think about Michael Jackson??

48.What was your first job, and what film/book/song/etc. do you most associate with it?

49. What pieces of pop culture would you like to have displayed at your own wedding? If already married, what music or literature did you have at your wedding?

50. So if someone asked you to recommend a first comic or graphic novel, what would you recommend?

51. What are the websites do you visit when they’re looking to get their procrastination on?

52. What celebrity do you think would make a good best friend?

53. What covers do you dream of hearing? Which filmmaker should adapt what book or short story? What are your ideal artistic collaborations that don’t yet exist?

54. What popular / acclaimed art did you come to too late in life to really enjoy?

55. If you could permanently wipe one cliché—character, plot, anything—from the future of culture, what would it be?

56. What story clichés do you actively enjoy, or at least usually find effective?

57. Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met face to face?

58. was wondering what blind spots you had growing up that an older you wishes you knew about. Is there anything you guys missed out on?

59. Do you guys have any incredibly specific micro-genres that you feel you might be the only fan in the world of?

60.What music do you like to work out to?

61. What entertainment do you specifically seek out when you’re sick and miserable?

62. What’s your “drop everything” movie? The movie that whenever it comes on or you happen across, you have to stop whatever you’re doing and watch it through to the end.

63. Do you have any CDs/films/books that are linked to anything for you personally, and that you try to experience as part of a tradition? For example, a holiday movie you always have to watch around the date.

64. What kind of music/movies/podcasts/TV shows you listen to while working?

65. Do you have any pop-culture resolutions? Is there a genre you finally intend to get into, an artist you want to explore, a book you haven’t read yet but plan to, a movie or filmmaker or movement you’re overdue to experience?

66. What did you feel obligated to watch/read because you didn’t want to miss out on some big cultural thing, even though you knew you’d hate it?

67. What are you a pop-culture completist about? (You own every album and all B-sides, or complete filmography, or bibliography, etc.)

68.Has there ever been something in pop culture you’ve fallen hard out of love with?

69. If you had to choose one Onion article that defined who you are, that you identify with so much that it actually makes you a bit uneasy, which would it be?

70. What are your pop-culture rules? That is, the up-front guidelines that will prevent you from seeing/reading/listening to something, or that will guarantee that you’ll see/read/listen to it even if reviews or word of mouth or past experience with the creators have been negative?

71. Do you ever crave certain foods after watching a particular movie or television show?

Appropriately I will answer today’s question which sparked this idea.

21. Are there “deep cuts” you wish artists had released as singles so the rest of the world knew how great those album songs were?

Oasis – “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt”

Track number six on their infamous 1997 album Be Here Now, this is one of the band’s greatest, most underrated songs. The story goes that chief Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher walked into a room where his then-wife had recently spilled something on her shirt. She was mortified and embarrassed, but Noel laughed and said something to the effect of “I love you, why would I care if your shirt was dirty?” The proverbial light bulb went off over his head, and a new song from his prolific, possibly-substance-fueled mind was born.

With a stuttering intro and a 12-bar blues beat, vaguely recalling their own “Shakermaker”, at first things seems like it will go into middling mid tempo rock territory. But then a light-heared, easygoing keyboard pops up and we segue nicely into Liam Gallagher’s unmistakable voice:

If I may be so bold that I just say something
Come and make me my day
The clouds around your soul
Don’t gather there for nothing

Suddenly it becomes clear what this song is. It is a courtship; an old-fashioned word but it fits splendidly. A guy likes a girl and knows her life is stressed, and he wants nothing more than to cheer her up, make her feel loved, to experience joy. However, in the following lines that working class, how shall we say, directness, comes into the equation, not to mention sense of humor.

Why d’you need a reason for to feel happy
Or shining for the rest of the world
Give me just a smile and would you make it snappy
Get your shit together girl

Perhaps that s-bomb would have made it problematic as a single but it seems very quickly after this time that profanity became the norm in pop music. Just quietly dropped from the radio edits of countless hit singles.

Next we go into the bridge, where our hero continues to prod the apple of his eye to find out what is bothering her. The piano happily chugs along with a jangly vaguely Bryds-ian guitar line, and Noel throws in a gentle, questioning guitar chord, almost as if asking “What’s wrong?” We build (something Oasis are bloody masters at) and build then we get to the glorious, happy-go-lucky infectious chorus:

Is would you maybe, come dancing with me
Cos to me it doesn’t matter
If your hopes and dreams are shattered
When you say something you make me believe
In the girl who wears a dirty shirt

It gets me every time, that simple romantic optimism. “Maybe…she’ll come dancing with me.” That’s all, nothing more. Let’s have a little fun, let’s go out, let’s be with friends. Who cares if you’re not at your best, life is for living. As someone who has experienced and continues to fight depression, I can testify that simply leaving the house is often the hardest part. But once you are out, you’re out, and things usually get better. And if that’s in the company of someone you fancy, well, all the better! Musically, Noel’s sliding guitar chord flips around to become a warm, welcoming arm around the shoulder.We happily waltz along and back into a second verse:

If you ever find yourself inside a bubble
You’ve gotta make your own way home
You can call me anytime you’re seeing double
Now you know you’re not alone

When I go through my depressive spells, pretty much the last thing I want to do is talk to someone. But here is someone saying, ‘I know it’s hard but you can call me anytime. I’m always there for you. My love and attention are unconditional.’ That is something to be treasured. The titular girl should be cheered up at least by the fact of that warm embrace. From here we go into the same bridge, and back into the wonderful, swinging chorus. No time for a guitar solo, we carry on straight into the coda; a good-times 1 and a half minute jam. When I hear this part I always picture a nice pub or party where people are hanging around having a good time; smiles and flirts are exchanged, happiness is in the air. It reminds me of this painting Le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir:

This is 1876 Paris, but that same vibe is palpable. Any gathering of friends where happiness, joy, and love are the order of the day. Renoir and Oasis may seem unlikely bedfellows, but they share some striking similarities. Both were very successful in their time, commericially and, somewhat grudgingly, critically. They remain popular enough today but are often dismissed as intellectually lightweight by critics (i.e. joyless snobs.) ‘Chocolate box art’ is the usual insult hurled at Renoir; ‘pub rock bollocks’ for Oasis (actually Noel said that himself about this album, which he annoyingly believes his critics on and often derides in hindsight.)

The monograph I have of Renoir is subtitled The Painter of Happiness. “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt” has made me happy for 12, coming up on 13, years. What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding? (another bloody brilliant song while we’re at it) Must everything be miserable? Renoir was asked why he painted such light-hearted subjects. I’m paraphrasing here but he replied: “There are enough ugly things in the world, I do not wish to add to their numbers.” He lived from 1841 to 1919; that is quite a chunk of history. He saw his country invaded on more than one occasion, not to mention numerous bloody revolutions.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt”. Would it have worked as a single and been a hit? Maybe. But it would have shown the world a more playful, less bombastic, less macho side of the band. Instead, the band released the by-the-numbers ballad “Don’t Go Away” (but still affecting), and the flag-waving 9 minute epic “All Around the World” and critics wrote them off as bloated has-beens who missed their shot at glory. I don’t care about that. I love Oasis. I love Be Here Now. And I love “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt.”

p.s. – the song is so buried in their catalogue that it was performed in public exactly once. In Dublin in 1997 on a night when Liam couldn’t be bothered to sing, and Noel dutifully took over. ‘This one’s for the missus…” is what he says at the beginning.


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