Angelina Jolie recently said that it would be nice for her children to watch Mr & Mrs Smith and see their mother and father falling in love. Perhaps in the future my children will access some currently-undreamt-of digital storage device, read this and feel part of the moment that their mother fell in love with Randy Newman. Not that I anticipate marrying Randy Newman, although I understand he is on the market.
Of course I'm coming late to Randy's party. That, however, is showbusiness. It's one of the dispiriting, intimidating but totally thrilling things about popular culture. You think you've not just dipped your toe in the water, but have actually been having a really lovely swim for ages –no armbands, no touching the bottom – until someone points out a better pool that's been there all the time which you had no idea about, even though it was never very far away. This is a metaphor. I can't swim. But what I mean is, you can be going on about how much you love The XYZs, and then someone will say with maddeningly nonchalant authority, 'Oh, The XYZs? Well, then you must love The UVWs. What about that third album? Incredible.' And you have to confess that you've never heard of The UVWs, much less know how album three relates to albums two and one, although you could probably guess it's better than two, not as good as one, as that's the normal pattern. And you walk home studying your shoes wondering how such a band could possibly have passed you by. People often look at me aghast when I confess I have empty chairs in my musical parlour where, say, Led Zeppelin, Sonic Youth, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie should be sitting. I'm starting to know a little of Bob Dylan, and am now embracing the wonder of Neil Young, with the encouragement of my hairdresser.
Still, with music, if you limit yourself to pop, you're only limping along trying to catch up on the last 50 years or so. When it comes to books, of course, you're on to a loser from the start. I'm an English graduate, raised by a good university, yet I have never read a whole book by Charles Dickens, Henry James, Virgina Woolf and hundreds of others.
But back to Randy Newman. Tch, you don't know Randy Newman? God! In seaching for a clip to post, I was bewildered by choice. I have no idea yet if this is the dumbest, most obvious example to present to you, as if I was to one day discover Nirvana and then type here, 'And they've got this song called Smells Like Teen Spirit and it's going to BLOW YOUR MINDS.' But maybe you'll forgive me because in this case – as Amy Gardner once said to Josh Lyman over a matter of balloon animals – I'm a beginner.