Monday, 16 November 2009

Living on a prayer

I wish I could write a pop song a fraction as good as I Say A Little Prayer. One of those stories about daily life which rings true, where the expression is unimproveable . The condensed dream of a young African-American working girl, optimistic and joyful, where schmaltz is a stranger. The singer's rushing into a new world where a change has already come.

It's the first Pop song I can think of written in present simple, where whatever's said is always true ; in the past, the present and the future. It makes a magic tension; the words masquerade as being about the now, but they're about the forever; where, just by saying it, she sings into existence love itself.

" I'm combing my hair now/ and wondering what dress to wear now/I say a little prayer for you" The repeated line, the mantra, wishing up her lover, who maybe doesn't really exist at all.

She's a modern girl, earning a living, independent. " At work I just make time, and all through my coffee break time, I say a little prayer for you" . There she is, believing the world has turned for the better, skipping down the street like Mary Tyler Moore, rewarding us with the present of her eternal smile, yesterday, today and tomorrow's reverie of a woman mainlining on happiness.

The song's so powerful, so rich, that Dionne Warwick's office girl daydream becomes Aretha's gospel shout to Jesus, a Saint Theresa of Tennessee falling into religious ecstasy. No more in the North, back down Highway 61, where strange fruit had filled the trees, paycheques are as rare as diamonds and you'll only lose if you try to win. Here, you don't stand a prayer.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Go compare!

The Plan: Meet at Kings Cross station at 8am . Drive in a splitter van to Hassel, Belgium , for a “Sinner’s Day” concert to 10,000. Return home immediately post show. Tidy.
The day should run on auto pilot. But only someone who does not get out much and has never interacted with a musician - let alone a drummer or a bass player - would expect such a simple thing to happen.
On the bus, the new Tour Manager, doubling as The Drive, says, cheerfully: “ Does everyone have their passports?” . This bugs me, as he must really be a Drive doubling as a TM, as TM’s are notoriously bitter and twisted and know not to ask questions they don’t already know the answers to; because any answer will be bad, and everything is , or soon will be , a disaster . His smile betrays him. Everyone has a tell.
Thomas says “Jeeziz Fick! ” or something profane in weegie, and: “ I only thought you needed a passport when you fly” . No passport. Mark Heaney, one of the world’s most talented and experienced drummers, says: “ Bollocks!” . No passport , ditto. We are doomed to gun through East London’s streets of gold to collect travel documents . And miss our cross channel connection . Many hours later , in Hassel, we meet Gill , relaxed and chipper, as he has presciently travelled alone by Eurostar while I have been stuck in a splittervan with idiots .
The retro lineup today includes Front 242, The Human League & the excellent Gary Numan, who I once saw back in the day skeetering around a Hammersmith Odeon’s stage in a Sinclair C5 to the tune of “Cars”. We try to sweet talk him into singing “Anthrax” onstage with us, as he’d done a fine cover of the song in LA a couple of weeks ago with Trent Reznor. But no go. Our show’s good, the punters are great. It is fun. Belgium is a good place for music. Perhaps we have got away with it.
But on the way home, too much is drunk, too fast. Leffe, one of the world’s finest beers, is 6.5% alcohol & can be purchased in petrol stations. In the splitter’s black light, we talk about King Leopold’s genocidal colony in the Congo, in which up to 10million Africans died, and where Europeans invented innovative work incentivisation plans such as cutting off the feet and hands of the lowest producing workers; and when this lost its edge, the feet and hands off the workers’ children. It caused mass outrage in the late nineteenth century and inspired Joseph Conrad to write The Heart of Darkness .
We talk, too, about the most hopeless ad campaign ever on TV, for , in which a fat opera singer jumps from domestic scenery to sing ( to the tune of the first world war recruiting song “ Over there!” ) rubbish new words boosting a poorly designed financial services price comparison website . It’s appalling ; and the thought perhaps creates the very ugly vibe that develops in the van. Angry voices are raised. The journey home is depressing. Our 11pm undersea train is cancelled. We are in Calais until the small hours. I muse about becoming a motorcycle despatch rider.
Today is Sinner’s Day. Mea Culpa, mea maxima culpa. I apologise to everyone I have not been good to. If this is you, I am sorry. Go compare.