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I don't always agree with the Pub Curmudgeon. He does though live up to his strapline "A jaundiced view of life". Thus it was that I read and disagreed with his views expressed here about a pub re-opening in Stockport. Mudgie reckons local CAMRA members are showing how out of touch with real pub life by suggesting that the pub "leave one or two areas free of noise so that the serious real ale drinker can enjoy the beer without unnecessary distraction?". Now this is a little inelegantly put, but having read about Mudgie's example elsewhere, all that was being suggested (by one person, not a cabal of CAMRA nutters) was that they don't have so called background music at top volume everywhere in the pub. Not that unreasonable surely?
Now overbearing music, especially that with a repetitive bass beat driving through your skull is a pet peeve of mine (they seem very keen on that in London and I do mean you the Dispensary)) and one such incident - admittedly not involving repetitive bass - happened to me and E a couple of Saturdays ago, around tea time. We were in the City Arms in Manchester centre - a very traditional pub - and went in the back room. It was a mixed company from young to old, but you had to shout to make yourself heard above the piped music. We drank up and fled, not because we couldn't discuss the finer points of the ale, but because we couldn't talk without raising our voices. Pub music is always divisive and there isn't really a simple test for those inflicting it, though I think they should ask two basic questions. Firstly am I putting this on for me, or for my customers and secondly, is at a reasonable volume and appropriate to the recipients?
One of the best things in a pub is to hear that lively buzz of people enjoying themselves over a tipple or three. It isn't just CAMRA members that take pleasure in cheery conversation unhindered by inappropriate music, played at nearly full toss. Is it really so wrong just to want to chat or ponder quietly? While background music can and does enhance from time to time, if you have to shout above it, it ceases to be background.
This is where the good old juke box comes in. At least the customer gets some say in the matter.
I admit to having a curiously ambivalent view of pub background music. I can contradict myself on the subject.