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Rat Packery in Pop

March 19th, 2010 13 comments

On a regional audition round for the South African version of Idols, a hopeful entrant introduced his chosen song as “Ain”t That A Kick In The Head by”¦Michael Bubl锝. As one would expect, the contestant”s performance was thoroughly mediocre.

The real ring-a-ding-ding thing: Today any crumb wants to be a Rat Packer.

I have no particular beef with Michael Bublé “” except that he personifies the banalisation of the rich legacy of what Rod Stewart (of late another offender) calls “The Great American Songbook”. Bublé compensates for his lack of personality with some talent. His swinging version of George Michael”s Kissing A Fool was quite excellent. But Bublé and singers of his ilk have created an impression that anybody can and should sing the standards.

His is not a solitary presence in that accusation, of course. Many more talented artists have travelled the retro route and some have even found their way. Natalie Cole, when not singing ghoulish duets with her father, is a wonderful interpreter of the standards. Even Phil Collins delivered a good performance with Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me on Quincy Jones” Q”s Jook Joint album (he undid all the goodwill he might have merited for that by producing a thoroughly ghastly album of his songs in Big Band style).

But blame for the banalisation of the big band must be appointed. Frank Albert Sinatra (his birth certificate said Frank; Francis was a later affectation. It also erroneously called him Sinestro) has to shoulder some of it for allowing himself to be recorded duetting with a bunch of chancers, among a few genuinely talented artists. It communicated a most vile message: if Bono can sing poorly with the self-styled Chairman of the Board (and, my goodness, how embarrassing are his vocals in contrast to even a half-assed Sinatra), then so can any old joker. Like Robbie Williams.

Robbie Williams sees himself as a latter-day one-man Rat Pack, and so he did what comes naturally to latter-day one-man Rat Packs: record an album of songs that may evoke the Rat Pack (the Sinatra-led version, not Bogart”s original gang). So it is not a surprise when on the terrible version of Me And My Shadow “” a Rat Pack anthem “” the word “pally” is self-consciously used to describe a friend. And, of course, there is the obligatory duet with Sinatra-from-beyond-the-grave. In fairness, Williams did not do an entirely bad job on his Swing When You”re Winning album of 2001. But more than reflecting well on Williams, it really proved that with a good arrangement, any old karaoke singer can sound good. The song selection was astute, lacing the eye-bleedingly obvious with a few less remembered numbers. The cover art was good as well, a successful pastiche of a late “50s Capitol record (even if much of the material post-dates that era).

The filmed concert at London”s Royal Albert Hall “” incredibly not renamed the Francis Albert Hall for the occasion “” is entertaining, because Robbie Williams certainly can entertain you, with a little help from his talented friends. Williams doesn”t take himself too seriously, he mugs with a bizarre combination of self-deprecation, modesty and smugness. All that. And yet: on what basis does Robbie Williams presume to measure himself against Sinatra, Sammy Davis or Nat King Cole? And if his intention is not to measure himself against the legends, what is he doing covering them (other than to make money)?

The most cringe-inducing portion of Williams” show is also the most telling. The singer who so craves to shiver in reflected Rat Pack Cool tells the audience how much he loves his mummy. Which is nice; a good boy should love his mummy. It is a sweet moment, if one can stomach maudlin moments of sentimentality. But what would Sinatra do? Most likely he”d have said something like: “Ladies and gentleman, my mother. She”s one classy broad.” And then perhaps threaten Dino with violence for making eyes at his Ma before returning to racially abusing his close pally Sammy. In contrast, Robbie Williams is a real Harvey.

Williams” success-in-a-tux set the scene for the advent of all manner of fake rat-packery. Canadian Bublé and the insufferable Jamie Cullum soon had the housewives lusting. Then Westlife, the blandest, most characterless pop band ever, got in on the act. Dressed like “” and you would not guess it “” a Rat Pack living it up at The Sands (the Scunthorpe version rather than the mafia palacio in Vegas, presumably), they issued a batch of standards selected not for their suitability but instant recognisability. And then they titled their karaoke collection, with putrid punnery, Allow Us To Be Frank. I wouldn”t allow you to be Daisy, never mind Frank. Did the world of music absolutely need Westlife”s interpretations?

At around the same time our old friend Michael Fucking Bolton (as his mother calls him) “” having had his vicious way with soul and opera “” molested the Sinatra canon and Rod Stewart began his American Songbook series. The first of these Songbook albums was quite good, as far as pastiche goes, if somewhat redundant (did we really need Rod singing standards?). But one album of that was quite enough. When the concept turned into a franchise, Stewart ended up performing songs that have no claim for inclusion in any great Songbook.

Here”s the rub with revival of ratpackery. You don”t go around impersonating Jesus just because you think the Gospel According Matthew is brilliant. You have to earn to earn it first, baby. Likewise, you don”t just decide to do Sinatra because your Mum had the Strangers In The Night single and you think you look great with brylcreemed hair. You have to earn it first. Which means you don”t just sing the ring-a-ding-ding showstoppers, but learn to do the quiet stuff. Don”t ask me to fly with you unless you first have mastered the lonely introspection brought on by being caught in the wee small hours of the morning. And, for fuck”s sake, know that Ain”t That A Kick In The Head is a Dean Martin song.

Here then, for the benefit of those who think that Straighten Up And Fly Right is a Robbie Williams original, are the songs he covered on the Swing While Your Winning in more glorious recordings, in the sequence of the Williams album “” plus Anita O”Day”s fine version of It”s De-Lovely, which Williams covered (rather well) on the biopic about Cole Porter, De-Lovely.

1. Anita O’Day – It’s De-Lovely (1959)
2. Ella Fitzgerald – Mack The Knife (live, 1960)
3. Carson & Gaile – Something Stupid (1967)
4. Billie Holiday – Do Nothing ‘Till You Hear From Me (1946)
5. Kingston Trio – It Was A Very Good Year (1961)
6. King Cole Trio – Straighten Up And Fly Right (1942)
7. Bing Crosby & Frank Sinatra – Well Did You Evah (1956)
8. Nina Simone – Mr Bojangles (1971)
9. Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie Orchestra – One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) (live, 1966)
10. Nancy Sinatra & Dean Martin – Things (1966)
11. Dean Martin – Ain’t That A Kick In The Head (1960)
12. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – They Can’t Take That Away From Me (1957)
13. Frank Sinatra – Have You Met Miss Jones (1961)
14. Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr. – Me And My Shadow (1963)
15. Bobby Darin – Beyond The Sea (live, 1971)

GET IT!
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Twattery in Pop: Bono again

January 8th, 2010 16 comments

We should have seen it coming when this occasional series started: that megalomaniac twat Bono will do all he can to monopolise it. I have resisted taking the bait, but the man known to the Irish tax authorities as Loopholin” Paul Hewson and to his immediate family as That Fecking Prat would not let up. And here the man called Bono Vox (which surely is an unprintable Gaelic insult) features for the second time on Twattery in Pop. Read more…

Twattery in Pop: Rush Limbaugh

July 3rd, 2009 6 comments

What, you may demand imploringly, connects sweaty, saliva-dispersing self-parodist Rush Limbaugh with the world of pop (of course there is no question as to what connects the putrescent pusbucket to twattery)? Has Rush recorded an album of his favourite Motown songs, adding his own twist to the lyrics; perhaps adapting Smokey Robinson & the Miracle”s hit named after Mickey Stephenson autobiographically to read Cheney”s Monkey? Has Limbaugh praised the humanitarian work of Bono, or the operatic stylings of Michael Fucking Bolton, or the art of Yoko Ono (well, obviously not, though he seems psychotic enough to own the complete canon of MFB”s artistry)? Was Rush perhaps ghastly to some of my favourite artists, such as the Weepies or the Carpenters?

Rush Limbaugh

No, on Wednesday Rush Limbaugh contrived to wind his fusilli mind into a palomar knot by virtually blaming Barack Obama for the death of Michael Jackson. Spunk-silo”s take on MJ”s death: “Jackson”s success, if you stop and think of it [amusingly Limbaugh listeners are being asked to THINK!] and this is going to really irritate some people, which I will enjoy doing “” Jackson”s success paralleled the rebound of the United States under Ronaldus Magnus [that would be Ronald Reagan whose decomposed salad Sweat-wit is tossing]. Michael Jackson”s biggest successes, and as it turns out his final successes, real successes took place in the eighties. That was Billie Jean, Thriller and all this. I mean he was as weird as he could be [says Rush fucking Limbaugh!] but he was profoundly, because of his weirdness, an individual. He wasn”t a group member [except when he was, of course. Rush evidently couldn”t feel it]. He reached a level of success that may never be equalled. He flourished under Reagan [but his best record, the wildly successful Off The Wall, was a hit under Carter, pop fans]; he languished under Clinton-Bush; and died under Obama. Let”s hope the parallel does not continue.” (Full story here)

I actually don”t think that Limbaugh is as stupid as to believe the ignorant, noxious shit he is disgorging upon the public. His “hilarious” shtick is to try and wind up liberals with such associations. If it wasn”t a sideshow, there”d be no reason why he has not been committed to a caring institution for lobotomised patients. In fairness, he signals his pitiful intent when he says: “this is going to really irritate some people, which I will enjoy doing”. It isn”t really what Limbaugh is saying that is irritating “Them Liberals”; it”s the idea that there are some very dull-witted people who take him and his likes seriously.

I must concede though that the clammy wankmonster “” who in older times would have made an accomplished ass-raping bishop of Bath and Wells “” might be on to something. Think about all the great celebrity icons who have died. Almost all of them kicked the bucket on the watch of a Democratic president. Jimmy Carter”s reign was particularly grim: Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin”¦ Bill Clinton has Frank Sinatra, Princess in the Wind and, er, Kurt Cobain to answer for. JFK died during the JFK presidency, as did Marilyn Monroe and Patsy Cline, while Jim Reeves crashed under LBJ. Lately only Johnny Cash, being Johnny Cash, bucked the trend. And there Madonna was happy that Obama was elected.

But Limbaugh”s theory of Democratic culpability in celebrity mortality does fall flat. Consider the victims of the Nixon presidency: Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Parsons and Elliott. Of those, only Cass died a natural death (and even that is disputed by ham sandwich conspiracists). Makes you think, no?

In the case of Michael Jackson, however, I am disinclined to indict Obama. More likely, on the morning of Thursday, 25 June, MJ found his transistor radio had been mistuned. As he surfed the dial he stumbled upon the depraved sound of Rush Limbaugh vomiting his bigotry all over the airwaves, and decided that he could no longer live in a world where that anal itch on humanity “” and his idiot listeners “” are allowed to exist. And here”s the kicker: my theory makes a zillion times more sense than any of Limbaugh”s deranged splutterings.

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And to celebrate dead celebs:

Frank Sinatra – High Hopes With John Kennedy (1960).mp3
Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday, Mr President (1962).mp3
Patsy Cline – I Fall To Pieces (1961).mp3
Michael Jackson – Ain”t No Sunshine (1972).mp3
Cass Elliott – I’m Coming To The Best Part Of My Life (1973).mp3
Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (Alternate Take 5) (1956).mp3
Jimi Hendrix – Star Sprangled Banner (1969).mp3
Gram Parsons – Big Mouth Blues (1973).mp3

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Twattery in Pop: Yoko Ono and Mojo

June 17th, 2009 20 comments

yoko onoI like Mojo magazine a lot. But I like it just a little less now that it has awarded Yoko Ono a fucking Lifetime Achievement award.

Let me set the record straight even before it bends. As a Beatles fan, I don”t blame Yoko for breaking up the band. In my fairly extensive reading of Beatles history, I have found little that portrays Yoko as an active agent in the Fabs” demise. The conventional wisdom that Yoko was to blame has its roots not in her conduct, but in an unpleasant combination of xenophobia, misogyny and perhaps societies” obsession with beauty. No, Yoko didn”t break up the Beatles; growing up did.

I find no cause to object on principle to Yoko Ono on grounds of her idiosyncratic style of singing. God knows, pop has awarded stardom to some gravely untalented charlatans whose baneful carolling nevertheless penetrated the airwaves (Michael Fucking Bolton, for one). Yoko”s atonal primal screams have rarely troubled radio playlists, so the adroit listener has always enjoyed the privilege of avoiding exposure to her stylings.

Likewise, I have no problem with Yoko”s brand of art (if art indeed it is). Apparently she had always relied on the patronage of older men in publicising her art. One artwork succeeded in landing her a younger, glamorous and talented man who loved her, and she him. It”s a fairytale that ended too soon. It is immaterial that the artwork which a possibly drug-addled John Lennon found so appealing involved a ladder and a card that said “yes”. Some people see art in images of the Virgin Mary created from elephant dung, some climb letters and find reward in monosyllabic non-sequiturs. That”s why art is subjective. I don”t need to understand it to be indifferent to it.

season_of_glassAnd yet, Yoko joins the league of extraordinary twattery in pop. Even so, I induct her reluctantly. I don”t want to be the guy to beat up on a grieving widow, even as she has built an industry on that grief. Her professional widowhood opens doors that would otherwise remain shut. The cover picture of her Season Of Glass LP, released with undue haste in June 1981, was troubling not for the image of Lennon”s blood-stained glasses, but for the intrinsic crass, morbid sensationalism in depicting them. One may be inclined to defend it as an artwork that speaks of the horror she had experienced. To me, it marked Yoko”s public transition from genuinely grieving wife to attention-seeking widow. By presenting us with the grisly image, she made her grief public and, alas, commercial.

Even after 28 years, her husband”s murder must be a horrible pain to bear, but Yoko Ono is marketing “” exploiting “” her widowhood a little too publicly and cynically, exemplified by that “John would say”¦” shtick, as if Lennon was a sage-like Confucius rather than a complex man with some serious limitations. No matter how swell Yoko thought her husband was, it is nauseating. It perpetuates the false notion that Lennon had special insights into the human condition. Like, he invented peace, brother man! One might expect evangelical Lennonians to sport wristbands enquiring WWJS (What Would John Say). The canonisation of John Lennon is a lie. The man was a fine pop musician, one of the greatest. But he was not a man to emulate. He was naïve to the point of fatuity, and he was a hypocrite. Imagine no possession ““ except a white Rolls Royce, a rural mansion with a white grand piano”¦you get the picture. Woman is the “nigger” of the world? Er, no, the “niggers” of the world would be the people you refer to as “niggers”, John. You are the walrus, googoogoojoo? Yup, that”s your level right there, Lennon. Even the serial perpetrator of Twattery in Film, Richard Gere, worked that one out when he quoted that line as representative of Lennon in the 1990 Grammy Awards (a rich source of future Twats in Pop).

Of course, the benefit of doubt must go to the idea that Gere is just a very stupid man who thinks that “googoogoojoo” represents a some kind of profundity that might make us all better people. If so “” and, oh, let”s stop fooling around and acknowledge that it indeed is so “”then the blame must be directed in large part at Yoko Ono”s myth-building. “As John would say”¦” We ought not give a fuck what John would say, whether through the medium of Yoko Ono or that of Linda Polley, a nasal right-wingnut with a toy keyboard who channels inarticulate reactionary messages from the beyond by Lennon and commits them to record.

mojomokoBut Mojo did not award Yoko Ono for her connection to Lennon, but for her indelible influence on music (even if without that relationship, very few would have been at threat of Yoko”s influence). Backed by the apparently deranged twosome of Mark Ronson and Johnny Marr, Mojo editor Phil Alexander gushed: “She may have been married to one of the most famous men in the world, but she also helped change music as we know it in her own right. First, by introducing avant-garde sensibilities to her husband but, just as significantly, by continuing to push the boundaries of what was deemed the norm way after that.” Fuck, I missed that. I thought Yoko”s musical style was portrayed with much accuracy in the classic “Beat Alls” episode of The Powerpuff Girls. It may well be that Ono has influenced some musicians, including her husband (whose successful songs were largely untainted by Yoko”s avant-garde); but even then, that influence has not been pervasive. Had there been no Yoko Ono, music would not be different.

Truth is, Marr, Ronson and Mojo have elevated a mediocre musical artist not on merit, but because of a revisionist “cool”. The elevation of Yoko Ono”s supposed musical genius is as pretentious as her art. By Mojo“s logic, Hazel O”Connor should feel aggrieved should the magazine fail to honour her, who has been more influential than Yoko “” and actually had at least two good songs (Yoko”s one really good song, Walking On Thin Ice, is marred by some frightening simian shrieking).

And then there is the saga of Yoko Ono”s dispute with Paul McCartney over the order of songwriting credits on Beatles records, an episode that did not reflect well on either. The billing dispute hit overdrive in the late “90s, when McCartney sought to reverse the traditional Lennon/McCartney on songs which he wrote by himself, but it first surfaced as early as 1976. When the credit for five Beatles songs on the Wings Over America live album was reversed, Yoko publicly objected. All five were written with no or very little input from Lennon. Yoko would have known, first-hand, that John had nothing to do with The Long And Winding Road, and even hated the song.

More than two decades later, Paul wanted the reverse credit for Yesterday “” a song John was not involved in writing or recording. Yoko feigned outrage at the supposed desecration of St John”s memory. When Paul released another live album in 2002 on which the credits were reversed, Yoko was considering legal action, with her camp saying that McCartney was trying “to rewrite history”. In a way McCartney was trying to do just that: to clarify the true authorship of songs Lennon had no involvement in. The associated ego-trippery is irrelevant; he had a point. In the event, Yoko did not sue, and in 2005 McCartney let the matter drop, declaring it unimportant. Nonetheless, it does rankle that she insisted, with a singular lack of spirit of magnanimity, that “a deal is a deal” “” even though that deal was verbal, struck long before she met John, involving songs she had nothing to do with. No matter how difficult her historic relationship with Paul, that is robust twattery. What would John say?

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Barenaked Ladies – Be My Yoko Ono (1992).mp3
Dar Williams – I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono (2000).mp3
John Lennon (via Linda Polley) ““ Hussein”s Butt Song.mp3
John Lennon (via Linda Polley) ““ Vote Republican.mp3

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Twattery in Pop: Michael F. Bolton

June 9th, 2009 20 comments

You are right: Michael Fucking Bolton (as his mother doubtless calls him) is far too easy a target. But that doesn”t mean he shouldn”t be marked out for rank twattery in pop.

For all I know, Bolton is a very nice man. After all, he has given the proceeds of some recording to a children”s charity in Britain. He probably is no Dick Cheney, no matter what his mother calls him (actually, she”d probably call him by his real name, Michael Fucking Bolotin). So I could forgive the chap many things.

And that was a GOOD hair day

And that was a good hair day

I could forgive him his hit How Am I Supposed To Love Without You. It”s not a bad song (not very good either, but not hatefully bad), and his vocal performance on it is not infinitely objectionable, if one is willing to pardon the “soulful” overemoting which comes naturally if one has been exposed to the oeuvre of Patti LaBelle (he once sang with her about the absence of sex in their lives). I can forgive Bolton his mediocre voice, and indeed hold in some regard many singers who have overcome the handicap of even more revolting voices (hello there, Mr Dylan; good morning Mr Waits). Perhaps there is a legitimate market for singers who can successfully emulate the pained groans that emerge from many a toilet occupied by wailing men afflicted with painful constipation.

I could forgive Bolton for working with Kenny G; Mr G seems a perfectly pleasant man who makes music so bland, it would be admirable only as a novelty if he actually were a poodle. I could forgive Bolton for allegedly plagiarising the Isley Brothers” Love Is a Wonderful Thing (unlike the judge in the court case, Tim English in his fine book Sounds Like Teen Spirit reluctantly lets Bolton off the hook). I could even forgive Bolton for that hair, because it happily never gained fashionable ubiquity outside parts of central Europe (and, frankly, to hate somebody on hairstyling grounds alone is just stupid).

What I cannot forgive Michael Fucking Bolton for is his serial rape of other people”s music. I”m down with white MOR artists trying their hand at a little soul music. I won”t necessarily listen to it, but, hey, if you need to do that to express yourself artistically, rock on. But, for the sake of all that is good and holy, don”t fucking release your cut-rate karaoke ejaculations as singles designed for radio airplay! And don”t make albums consisting of sodomised versions of such classics as Reach Out I”ll Be There and Georgia On My Mind, cleverly issued to coincide with the revival of “60s soul two decades ago.

For some impenetrable reason, many people seemed to think that Michael Fucking Bolton had soul, man. That would be true only if one were to rank the jazz stylings of Kenny G on a level with Joe Sample or Joe Zawinul. A studied groan and a calculated scream do not make a soul singer. The obvious question I would pose to those who spend money, time and precious electricity on listening to Bolton”s soul renderings ““ and any album of soul covers ““ is this: why should one listen to pantomine renditions of Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay when Otis Reddings” original is so easily obtainable? The success of Bolton”s soul covers has had a deplorable effect: it lowered the expectation of what soul should sound like “” even among singers who came through the soul tradition. For that you may thank the idiots who awarded Bolton a Grammy for his stool-wrenching cover of When A Man Loves A Woman.

Having stained soul music with his vocal spunk, Bolton turned his malfeasant application to opera. Really. Bolton”s talents may be charitably described as being open to dispute, but nobody can disclaim his cunning knack for spotting a bandwagon. So it was at the height of the Pavarotti and Three Tenors hype that Michael Fucking Bolton recorded an album of opera tunes, with Nessun Dorma as the showpiece, naturally. Because the world would rather have pavarotten Bolton sing Nessun Dorma than Pavarotti. How much more can an ego be inflated before it bursts, pouring forth an erupting volcano”s worth of self-regarding miasma?

opera_singing_twatTouchingly, Bolton gushed about his epic opus: “I hope you will feel the rapture of this classic, timeless music created for all of us to enjoy [even when you sing it, fuckface?]. And I hope you will join me in sharing what has become “” and remained until now “” my secret love, my secret passion.” I share his now no longer concealed passion, but that does not incite me to broadcast to the world my aggressively tuneless bathroom antics involving the subject matter of Spanish hairdressers and weeping clowns.

More recently, Bolton decided that the world does not really need Frank Sinatra when it can have Michael Fucking Bolton. So he recorded an album of standards which Sinatra once sang. And he called it Bolton Swings Sinatra. If I had the fortitude to listen to it, I might propose that it be retitled Bolton Swings A Dead Horse. Or Bolton Swings From A Ceiling Fan As He Lubelessly Defiles Sinatra. There are 200,000 people in the United States who bought that album. If after the electoral triumph of George W Bush in 2004 and the grotesquery of Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin in 2008 there still exists any doubt about the compulsory disenfranchisement of stupid people, Michael Fucking Bolton has provided us with a most persuasive argument. And for that service to mankind, we ought to thank him.

Some songs raped by Michael Fucking Bolton:
Bill Withers – Lean On Me (live).mp3*
Dobie Gray – Drift Away.mp3
Ann Peebles – I Can”t Stand The Rain.mp3
Al Green – Let’s Stay Together.mp3
Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun Dorma.mp3

* From the great Save The Children concert recorded in 1972. Hear how Withers mis-hits the first note!

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Twattery in Pop: Bono

March 29th, 2009 18 comments

It appears that there still are some U2 fans out there ““ including the reviews staff of the increasingly irrelevant Rolling Stone which saw fit to praise an album which even die-hard U2istas have virtually disowned. Hell, I bet even Johnny Drama hates it. Mr Agreeable certainly did. But my objection to U2 resides not with the music, shocking though the new single is. Even in the more recent U2 catalogue, there are some songs which I like, such as City Of Blinding Lights or Vertigo. No, my particular problem with U2, apart from their tax-dodging, is that Bono is  intolerable.

I once was a devoted U2 fan. In the summer of 1985, I saw them live three times on three successive weekends in three countries. My bedroom was plastered with huge promotional posters for U2 records and gigs. I had all their singles in their original sleeves, in various editions. I bought the Under A Blood Red Sky Bono jacket with the sleeves cut off (I was too embarrassed to wear it in public though). But even then I knew that Bono was a bit of a prat, though the full extent of his twattery would reveal itself only later. We did get a clue of it when U2 cheerfully broke municipal law by playing an inner city rooftop concert “” the first time ever an act had done that, probably! “” for the Where The Streets Have No Name video, with no regard to the traffic chaos they were causing (anyone who knows the frustration of being stuick in a traffic jam you can’t get out of will empathise with the poor motorists affected by U2’s arrogance). Confronted by law enforcement officials, Bono played the martyr. The chaotic defiance we witnessed in the video was all smart editing, of course. Bono and his chums obediently packed up the moment the LAPD told them to.

Bono in Twatland, 1987

Bono in Twatland, 1987

Once Bono had come to rule the world”s stadia (on the back of the rather overrated Joshua Tree album), and his group traded earnesty for what they mistook for “irony”, he became even more insufferable. And we slowly got to know the real character of the salad tosser so admired by TIME magazine and their ilk, and so despised by many right-thinking people. Most disagreeable was Bono”s duet with Frank Sinatra on the latter”s final cash-in outing. In I”ve Got You Under My Skin, the simpering fuckwit changes the lyrics in an embarrassing show of star-struck insinuation, crooning: “Don”t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win.” You see, Bono is on intimate terms with the legendary Sinatra (himself a price goon), so much so that he feels entitled to address him intimately by “¦ his media nickname. You just know, beyond a doubt know, that at some point the fawning fuck did that I”m-not-worthy bowing routine to Sinatra (who doubtless thought: “You got that right, Jack”). How do we know? Because Bono does that crap to any overhyped media sensation that comes his way.

Blair and Geldof come to blows over Africa.

Blair and Geldof come to blows over Africa.

At the best of times, all that “” the coloured shades, the embarrassing posturing and the smug, fake self-deprecation “” would be very annoying but borderline tolerable. It”s Bono’s pompous delusion that he, and the other greasy Irishman, are doing any good in their caped crusades in the diplomatic milieu. Their fancy is not only inappropriate but also deleterious. The objection resides not in the notion that Bono and the ghoulish Bob Geldof administer diplomatic fellatio to the likes of George W Bush, who grant them an audience only because they think they”re down with the kids when being seen with superannuated rock stars. It is the notion that Bono and Geldof believe they are being taken seriously as they are doing so, cheered on by a toadying press. Of course they are not being taken seriously. Would you buy a used peace from Bono the Clown? In his orange shades? Would you agree in principle on any proposal peddled by somebody looking (and sounding, when he manages to extricate Dubya”s testicles from his big gob) like Bob Geldof? Let me put it closer to home: would you want your child to be taught by people like Bono or Geldof? Would you let your conscience be formed by a pair of obsolete classclowns? If not, why should The Man?

The caption competition is now open.

The caption competition is now open.

But if they were teachers, at least they”d act with a mandate. When they represent Africa, they act without a mandate. I cannot think of any African leader who appreciates the lobbying these bozos are presently doing on the continent”s behalf. Except maybe by Mandela, in exchange for a generous donation to his mammoth charity which believes that people like Annie Lennox are still relevant. But, just to be clear, Bono and Geldof do not represent Africa. In no way, in no form. If anything, their self-congratulatory hobby of hobnobbing with pols harms Africa. Bono and Geldof are part of the problem. The Man pats these obeisant puppies on their heads, making soothing sounds so that they stop their ineffectual yapping and continue to do what they have always done: exploit Africa while making mealy-mouthed voices.

Does the tax-dodging Bono not realise how racist it is for him to think that an artistically bankrupt pop star going by his childhood nickname in blue or orange shades can do a better job of engaging and negotiating for Africa than Africans themselves? Bono and Geldof are trivialising and misrepresenting Africa. Not that the patron saint of smug is willing to face that reality.

I fear that I have failed here to summarise the full extent of Bono”s twattery. The music author Dave Marsh does so with much greater refinement and asperity than I have in his hugely entertaining article on Rock & Rap Confidential (get the follow-up by subscribing to the newsletter on rockrap@aol.com), which I discovered through the good offices of The Hits Just Keep Coming blog.

U2 were lacking edge

U2 were lacking edge

Still, there”s the music. So here is some U2. Two of them live recordings, one my favourite post-Joshua Tree U2 song (and probably Johnny Drama’s); the other a quite entertaining performance of Dancing Queen in Stockholm in 1992, accompanied by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus (and doesn’t Bono say “We’re not worthy”, the predictable cliché merchant).

Then there is an example of U2 at their most horrible, doing an entirely misconceived version of Cole Porter’s Night And Day “” on an album that was intended to be in tribute of Porter. Cole, as Bono would doubtless call Mr Porter, would have been aghast. After Sinatra had changed the word “darling” to “baby” on Night And Day, Porter once told him not to record his songs if he felt the need to mess with the lyrics!

U2 – City Of Blinding Lights (live in Brooklyn).mp3
U2 – Dancing Queen (live).mp3
U2 – Night And Day.mp3

Richard Cheese – Sunday Bloody Sunday.mp3

Categories: Twattery in Pop Tags: ,

McCain's double agent

August 26th, 2008 4 comments

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Pop and politics have a long tradition of mixing, but the relationship is not always a happy one. John Lennon”s hymn to hypocrisy stands as a totem for every song with a political or social message that would have been better served by banal lyrics about the whims of love found and lost. Of course, there are songs that did manage to capture the Zeitgeist: Buffalo Springfield”s For What It”s Worth springs to mind, or, more recently, Bright Eyes” When The President Talks To God. On the other hand, musicians dabbling in politics can be embarrassing, even in the hands of the veterans. Even the poet laureate of black resistance, Gil Scott-Heron, exposed a lapse of wit when he referred to Ronald Reagan as “Ray-Gun” (do you see what he did there?).

Valid questions may be asked about the efforts by Bob Geldof and Bono to heal the world and make it a better place for you and for me and the entire human race (there are people dying!). It can be said that they conscientise people who otherwise might be indifferent to African famines or international debt, which is commendable. But what is accomplished by these self-important bozos, with their trademark wild hair and blue shades, in the corridors of power? Since when do kings beckon the counsel of their court jesters? The truth is, George W Bush enjoys being felated by Geldof in Time magazine, and he imagines that posing with Bono gives him some sort of street cred.

In general, it is preferable that pop stars just shut up about politics, unless their gig is political or they know how to steer clear from sanctimony. Which would have been good advice for the ghastly Madonna, whom I might suspect of being a double agent for John McCain if it wasn”t so apparent that she is just another narcissistic moron. At a recent live concert she treated her audience to a PowerPoint presentation depicting John McCain alongside Robert Mugabe and, but of course, Adolf Hitler. And another sequence ranked Barack Obama alongside the Mahatma Gandhi, Al Gore and (please excuse me while puke) John Lennon.

The mad prune thought she was doing Obama a favour? Did she phone Obama first? “Yo, Barack me old mucker, Madge “ere. Listen, mate, I want to do something for you, innit? What can I do, pip pip old chum what?” Chances are that Barack would not have asked to be compared to Al Gore ““ who in 2000 failed to beat the pair that does warrant depiction alongside Mugabe and even Hitler ““ even less so to Lennon. And he would have pointed out that McCain is many things, but no Hitler.

Madonna certainly didn”t help her favoured candidate, her egomaniacal delusions notwithstanding. American voters might take their political advice from fat, sweaty bigots on the radio, but they are not going to listen to a woman who once published a book presenting herself with what I hope was fake ejaculate on her face. You don”t see Ron Jeremy campaigning for McCain, under the slogan McCain: A change is gonna cum, because that just is not helpful. Indeed, McCain has more in common with the Ron Jeremys of the world than he has with the Führer. Not in that I suppose McCain to be a prodigious sex machine who has been batting consistently above his league, but because McCain is a nasty misogynist who has publicly and loudly called his wife a “cunt” (a much worse insult in America than it is in Britain). “At least I don”t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt,” that charming man told his wife. It is here, not in hysterical references to Hitler, that Madonna might have fruitfully attacked McCain as an objectionable women-hater who”d probably call your mother “a cunt” too.

And then there is American Dream, that overextended Obama jingle by former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, a man whose proximity makes the virtue of relevance cower whimperingly in a corner. The song is awesomely bad (it might be OK if used to advertise fabric softener though), the video even more so. All that”s missing is Bono glaring with determined earnestness from behind his blue shades. Instead we have the usually likeable Forrest Whitacker over-emoting, smugmeister Denzel Washington smirking, Whoopie Goldberg gurning, and assorted pop stars and other self-congratulatory celebrities of varying legacies posing and leaping about in joy of the Second Coming, until the whole brew of cliché boils over with footage of Martin Luther King Jr making a speech (and guess which one). The deplorable irony resides in the video”s intrinsic racism. MLK because, as the eagle-eyed reader may have spotted, Obama is black. Don”t they know that Obama”s reference point is not really MLK, but JFK “60, or perhaps RFK “68?

If celebs want to express themselves politically, then at least their efforts should be helpful. Unlike Madonna”s slideshow and Stewart”s song, it should be intelligent and strategic, or at least witty or thoughtful. Preaching to the choir (insert your own Mama Don”t Preach joke here) can be a useful mobilising strategy. But Barack Obama needs no help there. Where Obama does need help is in swinging undecided voters his way. McCain”s policies and personality offer many points for attack; comparing him to Hitler serves only to insult and alienate those who are still thinking about voting for him.

And with all that in mind, here are a few politically-themed songs. Most bizarre of them is the effort by Linda Polley who claims that the spirit of John Lennon is channeling right-wing messages from the grave through her. Toby Keith”s reactionary kick-ass song is actually not too bad as far as the music goes, but the lyrics are, of course, gobsmackingly horrible ““ I was surprised to hear that our man claims to be a Democrat (please, no slideshows at his gigs!). JFK of course did not make records ““ this is from a record of his early presidential speeches set to music.

In the left corner:
Bright Eyes – When The President Talks To God (live).mp3
John F. Kennedy – The Ask Not Waltz.mp3
The Redskins – Keep On Keepin’ On.mp3*

In the right corner:
John Lennon (via Linda Polley) – Vote Republican.mp3
Toby Keith – Courtesy of The Red, White, And Blue.mp3 .

And for Taylor Parkes’ fantastic collection of Right-Wing Rock (whence I borrowed the Linda Polley thing), go HERE
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