Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The one which starts as a chat and ends in a rant

It's clearly rock-u-mentary time on telly at the moment, with BBC, ITV and Channel 4 all screening big behind the scenes documentaries of three of the big pop music stories of the year.

First up was Madonna's 'I going to tell you a secret' all exquisitely shot in black and white real-o-vision. Aside from the introduction of the children Lourdes and Gastap, she rather neglected to tell any of her secrets. In fact it was basically a complete re-run of her previous backstage documentary; Truth or Dare, albeit with a Guy Ritchie cameo replacing Madonna deep throating a coke bottle. We pretty much learnt that she still hangs out with greased up gay teens and burlesque dancers, she still does a silly prayer before each show "Please let God protect our hairstyles whilst we fornicate and blaspheme on stage", and that's pretty much it. Although you can't deny she puts on a good show for an old bird.

The jury remains out on whether Take That can recreate the magic as a foursome without the charismatic one. It's a shame they feel the need to reform because they carry the grace of people who have been there, done that, and moved onto other things. Recreating teen pop magic seems all a little tragic. On the other hand, the one who won't be there, Williams, is a desperado when it comes to being loved by crowds of 30 somethings. In response to the question 'are you jealous of Gary Barlow' he responded with "14 Brits? Fuck off", because that's how he values his life it seems. Barlow's life nowadays revolves around his mansion, home studio where he still make diabolical MOR pop, his beautiful ex-dancer wife and his three year old daughter. Their former manager, Nigel Martin Smith nailed it when he said that Williams' obsession with discrediting Barlow after the split did Barlow a favour; it drove him off the popstar treadmill away from all the paranoia, obsession and isolation that fame provides.

Then there's the story of Live8; or, the story of how Richard Curtis, Bono and, of course, Bob Geldof slipped from a good cause into narcissism. Geldof's contradictions were writ large; whilst trying to convince people that Live8 had nothing to do with a rock show, he was also obsessional about avoiding being viewed as naff. Curtis and Bono, who have made careers out of naff-ness, had no such pretensions. They wanted to recreate Live Aid for their nebulous 'poverty' cause (poverty is bad, bad things are bad, bad things shouldn't happen, let's stop bad things), and slide into the history books whilst they were at it. To his credit Geldof's resistance was fierce; he wanted "something different" eventually caved-in when Bono painted his 'different' vision. 63 year old Paul McCartney on-stage with 45 year old Bono and U2 who released their first album in 1979, singing the 1968 hit Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band. Fuck yes, that's different.

Once Geldof was on board however, his obsessional induglencies took over. It was all wrapped up in a fiery exchange between Geldof and Harvey Goldsmith. Goldsmith was sitting with a list of bands that looked like one of those GQ greatest ever trad rock band lists. Geldof was insistent that The Killers had to be fitted in somewhere. They couldn't, it was a physical impossibility. They had to, said Geldof, The Killers are the coolest band on the planet (really?), Goldsmith said that something had to give, suggesting The Cure or UB40 could make way. Geldof obsessed that both bands we integral to the whole plot. I wouldn't like to underestimate the power of the cod reggae massive or the balding goth community in making poverty history, but surely Geldof had to get real. "we can create our own reality" he said. If you like, Bob.

So, how come the three biggest events in pop last year involved a 47 year old mother of two, a band reforming after 10 years and the most middle of the road social protest in history (backed by the prime minister for christsakes)? Music and television needs to constantly evolve. That means people with new ideas need to come in all the time. The problem is that the people who were the cutting edge in the mid eighties, early nineties are now 30 and 40-somethings with kids and mortgages. So no longer do you get programmes like the Tube and The Word, you get Location Location Location and House of Tiny Tearaways. Interesting to adults trying to bring up their kids and move up the property ladder. Dull as ditchwater to teenagers. There's no chance of another Acid House or Madchester because we're too busy re-inventing the last 10 years and presenting it to the Kids as something new. The drive to eradicate poverty is being done in a thoroughly sensible way, Pink Floyd and The Who and Madonna and Take That are the kings of pop and rock? How can I think differently if all I'm hearing and seeing is the same old stuff. I don't want to understand today's music, I want it to be noise, but it's all so lovely and palatable, how will we ever progress if everyone is so bloody nice about it.

And breathe.


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