Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson is well-known for his forthright opinions. Indeed, some would say he is a bit of a loudmouth. And his co-presenters are not slow to pander to his loudmouthery.
The show is nominally about cars and motoring, but in reality it is about the presenters arsing about in banter and on film, punctuated by the occasional Stig doing a fast lap.
Clarkson's sense of humor is, how shall we say, not always entirely politically correct. Now let's be sure about the meaning of 'politically correct'. It doesn't mean 'correct'. 'Correct' means 'correct'. 'Politically correct' means 'pleasing most of the people most of the time and not getting me into trouble for what I say'. So 'politically correct' often means 'incorrect'. Something to think about, but let's move on…
In the news section of the show broadcast on January 30, Top Gear showed a shot of a new sports car from Mexico, the Mastretta. Actually it looked quite pretty in a firey shade of orange.
But the presenters didn't like it. Co-presenter Richard Hammond remarked that cars reflect national characteristics. He went on to say that if the car was like the Mexican people it would be, “…lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.” The item continued in the same vein with contributions from Clarkson and the other co-presenter James May.
This seems to have been upsetting for some Mexican people, including the Mexican ambassador to London, and also a jewelry design student living in London who is suing the BBC for Â£1,000,000, apparently. Gosh, I wish someone could upset me so much that I could make a million pounds from it.
Of course it is controversial to make fun of, or even comment on, national characteristics. In a totally politically correct world we wouldn't comment on positive national characteristics either. So we wouldn't say that the quality and reliability of German and Japanese cars reflected their respective national characteristics in any way.
Or perhaps we might compromise by only commenting on positive characteristics and not negative ones. But then if anyone came out with a neutral comment, that would presumably be offensive because not being effusively positive implies a negative.
So what has this got to do with guitars?
Well some time ago I was in the market for a bass guitar to replace the Rickenbacker that wasn't quite doing it for me anymore. I had determined that the Fender Precision bass was the one for me, and my ambition was to buy the best one that was available in London at that time. As you know, once guitars acquire any age they start sounding, handling and feeling different to each other, and to a certain extent that applies even fresh off the production line.
So I went round all the guitar shops in London. Yes, all of them within the perimeter of the North and South Circular Roads.
And the best one… Well it was definitely the best. Lovely to play, lovely sound. And a lovely shade of shocking pink. Not for me I'm afraid.
So I bought the second-best one, a rather battered sunburst model from a shop in Denmark Street.
But also in Denmark Street was the third-best Precision Bass in the whole of London. It was a Fender, but it wasn't from their premium-price US-built range. In fact, it was being sold at little more than than half of the price of the pink one (both were new).
And on the back of the headstock was a little sticker…
“Made in Mexico”
Lazy, feckless, flatulent and overweight it wasn't!