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One Direction... a duffer's guide to pop sensations

Ever get the feeling everyone else is going in the opposite direction? David Whetstone tries to patch up gaps in his knowledge ahead of one of the year’s biggest gigs

Mark Runnacles/PA Wire One Direction performing on stage during Radio1's Big Weekend at Glasgow Green in Glasgow
One Direction performing on stage during Radio1's Big Weekend at Glasgow Green in Glasgow

OK, it’s confession time. At this precise moment, even if my life, the lives of my nearest and dearest and indeed the future of the planet depended on it, I could not hum a single song by One Direction.

And I don’t mean that I know the songs but am simply a bad hummer (my music teacher at school once accused me of having “cloth ears” so this is probably true).

No, I really do mean that I don’t know any melody made famous by one of the most popular musical groups on the very planet that I could well be so ill-equipped to save.

I realise this is a terrible admission. For someone who is supposed to have a finger not a million miles away from the cultural pulse, then this could be a sacking offence. I might not be around tomorrow.

But on the day of a gig at the Stadium of Light which, to the fans, probably equates to all their Christmases and birthdays rolled into one, I have been forced to confront a glaring gap in my knowledge.

There are, I would claim in a pop court of law, mitigating circumstances.

Most One Direction fans’ Christmases and birthdays rolled into one would probably amount to a ping pong ball compared to the giant inflatable beachball of my advancing years. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich were in the charts when I was at primary school. Need I say more?

I used to keep up with the Simon Cowell roadshow and its various talent vehicles. Some series I saw, some I missed. Often it depended what the kids were in to at the time.

For a few weeks I could have written expertly on Take Me Out, the ITV dating show which has turned 21st Century sexism into Saturday night light entertainment. I felt confident about interviewing Nadine Dorries MP because I’d seen her ejected from the jungle.

I have even dipped into The X Factor in a patchy fashion, meaning that I feel hugely qualified to interview contestants from one edition of the show (me and Rhydian Roberts, second in 2007, were thick as thieves when I chatted to him ahead of a North East performance) but others are equivalent to a black hole in outer space.

Into this celestial void you can put One Direction.

It is possible that I have heard their music on my occasional forays into the trendier boutiques (bet they don’t call them that any more) of Eldon Square and the Metrocentre when accompanying – well, following at respectful distance – a daughter indulging in retail therapy with the aid of dad’s comfortingly accessible wallet.

This was where I first encountered Wanna Be a Billionaire, admiring its rhythms while wondering about the sentiments it was dropping into impressionable ears... and gripping my wallet a little tighter.

Yes, you can hear some decent pop songs in clothes shops even if they do pale a bit after the 28th play. I have wondered if this accounts for the vacant stares on some of the young staff.

Mostly, I have to say, I have been able to get away with a slightly lackadaisical (or ‘laxadaisical’ if you listen to the football pundits on BBC Radio 5 Live) approach to pop.

One reason is that you can usually rely on emerging young bands to do the decent thing and combust after a couple of arena tours and the odd tabloid exposé. Artistic differences will be cited with the result that they split, amoeba-like, into various solo acts, bringing further headaches down the line for those who are supposed to keep track of these things.

But that’s enough confessing. My ignorance helps nobody. So here are the fruits of my quest to get to know One Direction... a few slightly fascinating facts, if you like.

* The X-Factor

One Direction didn’t win ITV talent show The X Factor in 2010. Not winning a Simon Cowell talent contest is not a bad way to hit the big time, as Susan Boyle discovered when she didn’t win Britain’s Got Talent the previous year.

For the record, the winner in 2010 was Matt Cardle so it was his record that was rushed out. One Direction’s song, Forever Young, was leaked on to the internet (how rascally is that!) and Cowell, not a man to let a fortune go begging, signed them anyway.

* The Boys

They are a boy band so it seems right to call them boys even if they are not boys any more. There are five of them and they are Niall Horan (20), Zayn Malik (21), Liam Payne (20), Harry Styles (20) and Louis Tomlinson (22).

If I had known this a week ago I wouldn’t have got excited at the “media opportunity” at the Stadium of Light which included a chance to interview Paul Weir and Gary Hutchinson. They are not in One Direction. Paul is head of safety for Sunderland Association Football Club and Gary is commercial director of the same. If they are in a boy band, even at weekends, they’re keeping quiet about it.

* The Music

One Direction are a pop band so they do pop music.

Among their musical influences they have cited, variously, Dean Martin (Horan), Justin Timberlake (Payne), Kings of Leon, who play at St James’ Park at the weekend (Styles), and Robbie Williams.

It is unlikely that hordes of youngsters would be flocking to Sunderland to hear Dean Martin or even Kings of Leon so possibly we are talking here about a subtle synthesis of musical styles.

One Direction’s three albums are Up All Night, Take Me Home and Midnight Memories.

It is safe to assume that none of these is a concept album like Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans or Argus by Wishbone Ash.

* The Gossip

Lots of it, as befits any pop group with stadium-conquering aspirations.

“Harry Styles Pulls Down Piers Morgan’s Pants At Soccer Game” pops up in the Internet’s digital wonderland along with “Louis Tomlinson’s Wild Night Out For Stepfather-to-be’s Bachelor Bash”.

To list all the girls they have been associated with, in reality or in the fanciful imagination of those who dog their every move, is beyond the scope of this article.

They’d better enjoy it while they can. Pulling down Piers Morgan’s pants would not be as funny coming from a grisly member of Status Quo or even Oasis.

* The Gig

It’s a biggie. Tonight’s appearance at the Stadium of Light kicks off the Where We Are Tour 2014 which is likely to turn very quickly into the Where Are We Tour if the euphoria generated by thousands of young fans goes to the heads of the lads on stage.

Stadium gates open at 5pm, 5 Seconds of Summer (who they?) are on stage at 6.50pm and the boys are due to follow at 8.15pm, at which point I will open the sitting room window and cock one ear in the direction of Sunderland in the hope of catching a tantalising snatch of the latest next big thing.

* The Next Next Big Thing?

Word reaches me of a new boy band who “are really picking up steam in the music industry at the moment”.

They play the Dog & Parrot, Newcastle, on June 2. OK, it’s not the Stadium of Light but everyone’s got to start somewhere.

What do they sound like? Haven’t a clue.

What are they called? Girl Band.

Isn’t life in the music world confusing?

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