Ground control to major faux pas

 

 

I went to see U2 at ANZ Stadium on the Monday night – the first night – of the Sydney leg of their 360° tour.

The writing that follows are the thoughts of someone who feels as if he should be fan, and wants to give deserved respect, but still doesn’t feel as if fandom and respect have rightfully been earnt. So it is, in turn, critical, praising and defensive. It was how I felt, looking back on the evening, the following day. With apologies to passionate life-long U2 fans who loved the show, I pick it up from my seat in the stadium, midway through support act Jay Z’s set…

 

After the obligatory ticket tout with the obligatory cockney accent made the obligatory offer to buy “any spare tickets” while I washed the obligatory dodgy kebab down with an obligatory flat, warm beer (choice between XXXX and Hahn Lite is not much of a choice at all, really, particularly since Brisbane punters got the choice of vodka or bourbon slurpees), I found myself up in the gods with a choice between squinting at the distant stage or squinting at the equally distant – though bigger – screen, wondering if a ticket costing $230 could ever be really worth it.

‘Compared to what?’ is, I suppose, the best way to approach the fairest answer.

The first big concert I ever went to produced a similar response, at the time, as far as ticket price is concerned, although I didn’t mind so much then: it was my first opportunity to go to a big concert, and it was to see a rather mighty and impressive act. It was a Sydney performance of David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour, at the Entertainment Centre, in 1986.

I was in Year 10, and a mate had to do the sleep-over in a queue outside a department store (either Grace Bros – which became Myer about a decade ago – or David Jones, I don’t remember which) at the local shopping centre (Warringah Mall) because that’s where the ticketing outlet was located. The outlet opened before the store, so security guards policed the desperate punters who, once allowed in, would barrel through various departments, knocking over whitegoods and racks of clothing in order to get to the ticketing counter fastest and secure the best possible tickets. That was in the days before Internet – dial-up or broadband.

A ticket to David Bowie cost $40 in 1986. I had friends who commented, at the time, that they had thought Bruce Springsteen two years earlier had been exorbitant at sixteen bucks. The excuse for Bowie being two-and-a-half times more expensive was that international performers were paid in American dollars and the Aussie dollar had been devalued, courtesy of Australian Treasurer Paul Keating, to somewhere in the vicinity of Monopoly™ money, as part of ‘the recession we had to have’ or something. This, our Treasurer assured us, was to aid exports and strengthen the country. To music nerds like me, it just meant that I could no longer afford to buy imported vinyl or bootleg releases on a schoolboy’s modest weekly allowance.

The forty-dollar price tag was so expensive that I had to get my sister, a uni student, to use a computer printer at uni (not many of us had home computers in 1986; it was, as stated, the pre-Internet dark ages) to forge a certificate of congratulations purporting to be from a radio station so that my strict dad wouldn’t crack the sh*ts. I so wish I’d kept that piece inkjet inscribed cardboard upon which two tickets were stapled and presented – as if they’d just arrived in the post.

Were tickets available at various pricepoints back then?  Could $40 buy you front row tickets to David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour at the Entertainment Centre? They certainly bought you tickets to Row W, because that’s where we were. And there was no Row X behind us – only a solid wall.

The princely sum of $230 bought me a seat to U2 in Row 15, Aisle 411 at ANZ Stadium. And there was no Row 16 behind us, only the solid wall. And though there were two tiers of paupers above us, I’ve no idea what those suckers paid.

Yet, try as I might, I can’t quite translate $40 in 1986 to $230 in 2010.

Not just because this is the year that the Aussie dollar hit parity with the US dollar, rendering ‘paid in US dollars’ meaningless for acts visiting Australia.

And not just because Ireland is broke, U2 are filthy rich, and both those reasons should mean U2, from Ireland, ought to be grateful and charge less.

And not even because, in 1986, $40 was only slightly more than 13 7-inch singles (26 songs – two more than U2 played last night). Depending which you bought, $40 was two-and-a-half long-playing albums.

$230 is – what? – a hundred individual song downloads on iTunes, or – depending which ones – ten albums. Unless, of course, you’re a kid. Then it’s infinite downloads because kids only ‘buy’ the files they can download for free. Mostly illegally.

Oh yeah, that's right: $230 will probably land you a re-issued version of one of U2’s albums if you’re part of the demographic being milked by musicians who have been making music for as long as you’ve been buying it, and you absolutely positively have to have a copy of the deluxe remastered, remixed multidisc hardcover book edition including b-sides, 12-inch mixes, a DVD of film clips and one more previously hitherto unreleased outtake than the last re-issued deluxe version you purchased of this album. Bringing it to the fourth or fifth copy you actually own of said album.


As I was sitting in Seat 47, Row 15, Aisle 411, I couldn’t help noting how much the U2 360° stage set – a space station, apparently, but one inspired by a crab – looked like Bowie’s Glass Spider.

The Glass Spider tour was long considered the epitome of self-indulgence. So much so that PopMart, U2’s late-90s over-the-top tour was considered by many to be their ‘Glass Spider’ tour. Being at a Sydney gig of U2’s current Plastic Crab tour was proving ironic not just for those reasons, however. I was here with my mate Damien – a life-long U2 fan with whom I saw one of U2’s Sydney PopMart gigs in 1998, at Sydney Stadium. In addition to organising this U2 ticket and the one in 1998, Damien was also the mate who did the sleep-over in 1986 in order to secure the Bowie tickets! At least, that’s how I remember it. I could be wrong.

Photo(2)

From up in Seat 47, Row 15, Aisle 411, the best seats I could see were on wheels. On the ground of the stadium, towards the back of the ‘standing’ area, was a raised platform accessed by ramp. It was where the people in wheelchairs, and their carers, enjoyed the show. By the time the standing area was full, this platform was surrounded on three sides by standing punters, makign it was a mosh pit in negative: raised and sparse, and square and rigid, whereas a regular mosh pit would be dense and low, its unfixed, curving edges undulating as it grows or shrinks to cater for its participants.

I decided there and then that I’d use my dead dad’s electric wheelchair to scam prime position in the cripple mosh pit at the next stadium Lou_Andy_Smurf_Outfit concert I attend. If he wants to, Damien can be my carer. We’ll be like Lou and Andy from Little Britain. I may even look a pillock and dress as a Smurf.

 

Before I move on from utterly offensive, I will continue being somewhat annoying and admit I’ve never loved U2. Never. I’ve only come to like them relatively recently.

I never wagged school with all my mates in Year 11 to see [P]Rattle and [Ho-]Hum in the cinema the day it opened in 1988. ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ aside, I didn’t care much for that semi-live album of the same name, even despite the presence on it of Bob Dylan, and the Lennon-referencing ‘God Pt II’.

Over time, I got over my pretentious, haughty snobbery, relenting long enough to own the odd CD. I have two CD singles – ‘One’ and ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ – two of the most beautiful, passionate ballads they ever recorded, in my humble opinion.

I even own one of the reissue versions of Joshua Tree. Not the super-deluxe-sell-your-children-into-slavery-so-you-can-afford-all-the-bells-and-whistles edition, and not the bog-standard edition, but one of the ones in between. I’d also go so far as to own similar – or bog standard – versions of Achtung Baby and Zooropa since they, similarly, strike me as the groundbreakers, the albums that stand out, that constitute the point at which U2 were Brian Eno’s best backing band since Talking Heads.

I should also admit – for fear that it comes back to haunt me – that I once owned a copy of the 7-inch single of ‘Angel of Harlem’. In a picture cover. Pressed on blue vinyl. And I parted with it, not recently, on eBay, when it would have been worth hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars.

No.

I purchased in the late-80s for $2.99, back when a 7-inch single gave you two songs for only slightly more than the cost of a solitary song download on iTunes, and you could physically own the source of music and even re-sell it if you wanted; let’s see you, some years from now, part with a ‘rare’ download with original artwork, pressed on coloured digital coding!

I admit, I bought it mostly because it came on blue vinyl. And I parted with it, also in the late-80s, not for an exorbitant amount of cash, rather an adequate amount of adolescent heartache. I gave my now rare and valuable copy of ‘Angel of Harlem’ on blue vinyl in a picture cover to a girl my own age, with whom I wished to make the beast with two backs. Or at least, with whom I wished to initiate an impressive expanse of pash rash. She was a U2 fan, though not a music nerd, and I somehow realise now she couldn’t love a disc of blue extruded polyvinyl chloride as much as I could, just as I realise now I could never have loved her as much as I loved that blue disc. The tone of regret is for the record, and not the woman, I let slip from my grasp.

So much for romance.

7_harlem_blue

I should also admit that I own Pop – the album where U2 embrace techno really late and piss off all but their most loyal fans. In fact, And I owned Pop before I owned Joshua Tree – clearly some purists would like to kill me now.

Point is, I finally relented on U2 in time to buy their worst album (still pretty bloody impressive by virtually other band’s standards, and – as far as I’m concerned – not as bad as [P]Rattle and {Ho-]Hum). And I went to see a show from their most self-indulgent tour.

I still remember being rained upon in shitty seats at Sydney Stadium. But what I learnt in the process is that U2 really are a brilliant live band. They were being rained upon also, albeit not as much as their fans, as they were at least able to seek shelter beneath bits of their elaborate, indulgent set. A set which, to be honest, no longer seems that over-the-top when compared to the 360° crabbulent space station. And come to think of it, PopMart was delivered ‘in the round’ as well, so this ‘360°’ nonsense is a bit of bull.

 

Back to the gig. It began with further synchronicity since U2’s appearance – with Oprah, I’m told by someone sitting close enough to the stage (whose ticket also cost $230!) – was preceded by David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ playing over the speakers. I know, they thought it was a case of ‘space station=space oddity, we’re as awesome as David Bowie’. I couldn’t help feeling ‘Crabbulent Space Station=Glass Spider… it may take a while living this one down.’

U2 really are an awesome band. Musicianship was excellent. They were tight as ever. If they were miming, they still mime flawlessly. Bono’s vocals were faultless at least to my ears. The use of the screen – which was also ‘in the round’ – was well-integrated, sometimes showing images of the band as they were performing then and there, at other times intercut and overlayed with pre-recorded imagery. The limb mandalas – swirling patterns made up of hands and arms – during ‘Mysterious Ways’ were particularly cool. Or ‘trippy’, had I been in a different age group or socio-economic demographic. Even without age- and genre-specific chemical enhancement (apart from warm XXXX beer), every song and its accompanying sequence of imagery and light show pattern was delivered spectacularly enough to transport you out of your sh*t seat in a concrete stadium, into… wherever it is you drift off to when utterly enjoying fantastic music accompanied by spectacular imagery. Until, of course, the pontificating started.

Desmond Tutu banging on like a caricature of himself proved significantly less engaging than the limb mandalas, for example. In his clip, he insisted that all the African kids we’ve saved – by buying over-priced tickets? By making further donations to Amnesty International? – could now grow up to be doctors and scientists and poets and writers and musicians.

Aw, c’mon, Desmond, face it: some are gonna grow up to be prostitutes, drug manufacturers, arms dealers and politicians. They have to, otherwise what are the poets and writers and musicians – the politically aware ones especially – gonna use as inspiration? The Amnesty International interlude was a bit dreary. I’d like to believe that being enough of a fan to pay $230 per ticket to a bunch of multimillionaires who don’t pay tax in their own bankrupt country, could actually make the sort of difference that gets Aung San Suu Kyi released from house arrest in Burma. I would love to believe that. But I just don't. But even if I did, it feels like U2 are preaching to the choir and patronising everyone else. If I believed that, would I need to be reminded at this point in a concert?

Perhaps U2 actually have fans who are dumb enough to need that sort of heavy-handed message. Perhaps there are people hip enough to love U2, rich enough to pay that sort of money, and still be ignorant about the world. It almost doesn’t matter to me, though, because I can forgive all of Bono’s didactic posing when it comes back to bite him on his leather-clad arse. And it came back spectacularly, early in the night.

 

Towards the end of ‘Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’, Bono broke into lines of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, in honour of another self-important Irishman, Bob Geldof, whom, Bono said, was “in the house”. (Indeed. Bob’s playing the Lyric Theatre at Star City this week.)

From there, Bono played another of his ‘the audience will love this’ cards. When performing to Aussies, Bono likes to pander to his Antipodean fans by commemorating a fallen Aussie son, his mate Michael Hutchence.

And so he did.

WHAT?

Bono, you fool, use your noggin. Hutchence stole Geldof’s wife, remember? And she later ‘overdosed’ (or ‘suicided’ – your call). Shortly after Hutchence’s own tragic demise. By ‘suicide’ (or ‘misadventure’ – your call). So you’ve just acknowledged Geldof’s presence and in the next sentence, paid tribute to the man who cuckolded him and made his life a misery.

Ground control to major faux pas.

Bono realised. The words were barely out of his mouth when he stumbled for a second. ‘Where are we?’ he said. Rather than back down, he proceeded into an awkward introduction to a song about “having an argument with himself” or somesuch. And no wonder the awkwardness. The song was ‘Bad’, but this version contained lines from the songs ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Need You Tonight’ – two classics from Kick. That was the album that made INXS internationally successful: it helped them crack the UK, the culmination of which led to selling out Wembley Arena. No subsequent release Hutchence had a hand in ever made quite as much of a splash – until that one in November 21, 1997, from the wardrobe door in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Double Bay, of course. By 21 November, 1997, Bob Geldof would have identified more than ever with ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Need You Tonight’. Of course, by that stage, there’s no way he’d ever be able to listen to them. Onya, Bono!

 

Still, by the end of the two-hours-plus show, you’d have to be a bigger boofhead than me not to have enjoyed it. So many good songs performed well, including ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’. The first encore began with ‘One’. The second began – well, the second one began with a cute, trippy, short animation involving two aliens in a saucer, discussing the show as they fly home – the space station theme again. We got some more ‘Space Oddity’ before the second encore began with U2’s contribution to the Batman Returns soundtrack, ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me’. Yes, even as a non-fan, I’m chuffed to get a relatively obscure soundtrack single as part of the set. That’s because I’m a nerd.

I did think the evening ran a bit long, but only  because, whenever I was drifting off enjoying it, I was brought back to earth by tedious, sanctimonious preaching. That’s when I wasn’t getting exhausted by perpetually squinting at the stage.

And yet, now I have to admit: the preaching works.

I can tell you off the top of my head that after Aung San Suu Kyi, there are still 2203 political prisoners in the world we need to set free. I’m not sure if paying Bono $230 to tell me about it in between songs is the way to go about securing their freedom. But if it is, guess what: once I've paid $230, I don’t particularly want to be preached to between songs by anyone, let alone Bono. Unless, by ‘preaching’, you mean ‘being intimately caressed’, and by ‘between songs’, you mean ‘for several hours’, and by ‘anyone let alone Bono’, you mean ‘a high class courtesan who is particularly adept at intimate caressing’.

 

The ticket price also covers transport to and from the venue. How much of a ‘transport levy’ are we being slugged with? Doesn’t matter. Having a designated bus go from the venue to my neighbourhood is much nicer than having to squeeze on pre-existing public transport that hasn’t taken a mob of concert-goers into account.

And I certainly got value for my money.

Remember how I suggested you’d have to be a bigger boofhead than me not to have enjoyed the show?

That boofhead entertained me from the seat behind mine, all the way home.

She voiced her disappointment in the evening as vehemently as I have here, though with less humour, logic or intelligence. And it wasn’t the ticket price that got her down; nor the preaching. It wasn’t a lousy seat. It wasn’t even the flat, warm XXXX beer.

No.

Her problem was that U2 didn’t play ‘New Year’s Day’.

“I’ve seen them three times now,” she said. Ad infinitem. For the entire journey. Each time adding, “The other two times were better. They played ‘New Year’s Day’.”

I was happy enough to try and filter out the drone of her voice, but she proved hard to ignore when backing up opinions with ‘argument’.

“U2 not playing ‘New Year’s Day’ is like John Lennon not playing ‘Imagine’,” she argued.

No.

No it isn’t.

‘New Year’s Day’ doesn’t carry nearly the weight, in U2’s career, as ‘Imagine’ does in John Lennon’s oeuvre. Lennon had to come the other end of the Beatles and produce a song that cancelled out the weird middle bit of experimental albums with Yoko Ono, as well create a song that was an anthem or a hymn of some sort. ‘Imagine’ succeeds in doing that. U2 never had to overcome a past legacy followed by a weird interlude; their songs that stand tall, just do so, with no one song towering above the others as ‘Imagine’ towers above so much of – let’s face it – the little that he subsequently did.

And furthermore, by the time Lennon recorded ‘Imagine’, he’d all but ended his career as a performer. He only played a handful of gigs before a five-year ‘retirement’ followed by tragic murder before he could resume touring again. So chances are he only played ‘Imagine’ two out of three times. Still, I’m sure given the choice between early death and sharting up an ignorant, lippy bird on a long bus ride, Lennon would have happily played ‘Imagine’!

And yet, had John Lennon toured extensively, Yoko Ono would have still been shrieking from within a bag for half the show; that would have made an ignorant, lippy fan such as the one sounding off behind me to get up and leave before the encore in which Lennon would have played ‘Imagine’… and so it would have been to no avail.

But perhaps I’m being too rash. Perhaps the lippy bird would surprise me and stay for the entire show out of  respect for Yoko’s art – despite it’s often being somewhat impenetrable, particuarly to ignorant, lippy birds – and Lennon’s love for his missus – usually resented by ignorant, lippy birds. But if the she staid to teh end of the Lennon/Ono concert, I expect the woman behind me would still be on the bus home from the gig, complaining. Although, this time around, it'd be because Yoko failed to squeal anything from Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions. And the last to Lennon/Ono shows were perfect, because she had squealed something from Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions.

But still, annoying lady behind me, bemoaning the lack of ‘New Year’s Day’: U2 may have neglected your favourite song, but they came close to it by playing a much better song: ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’. That's like John Lennon not playing ‘Imagine’ but instead playing ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ or ‘Give Peace A Chance’, which would please a genuine fan even more than ‘Imagine’.

“It’s not about the music, it’s about the songs,” the woman insisted, elaborating: “Like MasterChef. You can cook as fancy as you like, make it look as good as you like, but in the end, it’s all about the taste…”

No, no, no. Surely that metaphor of MasterChef being about the taste rather than the exotic ingredients and the plating means exactly that it’s about the music, and not the songs. Foolish woman. And yet, she was right about something, I couldn’t help realise as she continued: taste

“…they should have played ‘New Year’s Day’.”

Yeah, but they played ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’. And they even did ‘Miss Sarajevo’ from the Original Soundtracks 1 album (when U2 and Brian Eno were recording, as equal partners, under the ironic name Passengers; who was carrying whom on that one?) If you don’t rate that song choice, noisy, annoying lady behind me, you’re a bigger pretender than me, going to see U2…

They don’t rock out,” she reasoned; “their music rocks out.”

I don’t even know what that means. Is it a criticism or a compliment? Doesn’t matter – she was back to the original refrain:

“I mean, two out of three…” she said. “No ‘New Year’s Day’…”

Christ How long? How loo-oo-oo-oo-ong must you sing this song?

Then she dropped this gem:

“I would rather U2 played ‘New Year’s Day’ than listen to that last hour…”

Right, that’s it! How very dare you!

The show went for over two hours. The second half with its two encores was clearly better than the first half, and the first half was not much short of brilliant, even if the supreme entertainment of one sanctimonious Irishman inadvertently offending another sanctimonious Irishman didn't take place until the second half.

But I'd prefer not to have listened to the last hour. Because the last hour consisted of the bus ride with the stupid woman behind me bleating incessantly about not getting to hear ‘New Years Day’.

 

Addendum

By the time I finished writing and posting this, I was informed that there were forty-dollar ‘general admission’ tickets available on the second night that would have availed more intrepid concert goers access to the inner circle, close to the stage. Of course I’m annoyed. But I’m still glad I got to see the band live. Especially on the night of the major faux pas. Thanks Damien.


Spontaneous Admonition

Some time between the end of school and the end of a Bachelor of Arts degree, some friends got together to make a pretentious black and white short film in which my big hair and bushranger’s beard pretty much shared top billing with a chess piece.

During the ‘down’ time, we took to recreating the cover of the Beatles’ Twist & Shout EP – the photo in which the band are captured in the air. Rather than have the camera running while we all jumped at the same time, and then editing it, or (somehow) taking a still from it of us in mid air, we foolishly decided that the optimum way to proceed was for us to jump, with the cameraman trying to click the ‘record’ button at the precise moment we reached what would be the nearest thing to a ‘zenith’.

State-of-the-art camcorder technology of the early nineties, along with the limitations of the human reflex meant that, unlike the Beatles, we were never captured at our highest point in the air. Instead, in that split second between us reaching the highest point in our rise, and our landing on the ground again, we somehow detected that we were plummeting and that the red ‘record’ light was not yet illuminated on the camera.

Our method of dealing with this knowledge was, of course, to run at the cameraman screaming. By which time the little red light was illuminated, because he had started recording. Which made for great viewing, when you watched the ‘rushes’: what you see is a bunch of guys suddenly appearing from nowhere, running at you screaming that you’re a bloody idiot, or words to that effect.

Imagine if life was really like that: every time you got something wrong, people would appear out of nowhere and swear at you.

I have, of course, experienced the real-life version of this, in the form of unsolicited e-mail. Sent by somebody I’d never met, not even through a mutual friend, it consisted of a single word:


ASSHOLE

After days spent trying to work out what exactly it was that I’d done, and who I could possibly have done it to, I realised that it was most likely something I wrote about the Doors or INXS that had produced this unsolicited e-mail.

Turned out it was the latter.

(But I don’t really think I got it wrong, personally.)


An Excess (ANXS):
Too Many Leather-Trouser’d Lead Vocalists


wanted

No, the 21st Century Doors are not in need of a new replacement for Ian Astbury, former front-man of the Cult, currently filling in for the long-gone Lizard King Jim Morrison.

It turns out that INXS are on the hunt for a new lead vocalist. Again. You may recall that Jon Stevens (former front-man of Noiseworks), Terence Trent D’Arby and Jimmy Barnes have all had a go at being part of INXS.

Now INXS have decided to combine their inability to permanently replace the late Michael Hutchence with that vile contemporary television genre ‘reality TV’, in the BBC series Rock Star. Produced by the company responsible for (amongst other examples of televisual ‘crimes against humanity’, I’m sure) Survivor and The Apprentice , Rock Star will see the band auditioning hopefuls in five continents. The difference will be, unlike other reality TV shows, the viewing audience doesn’t get to pick the winner. That’s up to the band. Although, let’s face it, the audience will continue to pick the loser – in each instance, he’s the guy foolish enough to think it’s a worthwhile occupation, being a poor man’s poor man’s poor man’s Michael Hutchence.

Thus, this year’s Jon Stevens/Terence Trent D’Arby/Barnesy will get his proverbial fifteen minutes, recording an album (I bet you can’t wait to hear that one, either!) and touring with the band (I’m starting the queue outside the ticket office as soon as I hit the ‘send’ button!)

But what of the fourth- and fifth-rate Michael Hutchences, the ones who aren’t even good enough to front reality TV INXS? Surely they must receive some lurks and perks; even final round Big Brother evictees get to make shopping mall appearances, flounce around almost trendy nightclubs and do a spot of fundraising for Planet Ark and the like. Shouldn’t some of the better also-rans, the not-quite-as-crap contestants, have a moment in the sun? They could date Dannii Minogue for a couple of weeks (since only the winner could actually justify having a stab at Kylie), and maybe occasionally babysit Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom, Pixie and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily for Sir Bob Geldof.

However, if there’s any justice, many years from now that special someone who actually does win the competition and fronts INXS for a time, will wrangle the right to tour with a pick-up band of random musicians under the name ‘INXS’, much as the Beach Boys, the Byrds and the Little River Band have been able to soldier on with a distinct lack of founding members, much to those founding members’ collective chagrin. Then Gary Garry Garrry Garrrry Beers, the Farriss quintuplets and Kirk Pen-Gin-Gan-Goolie will have to tour with a stupid tie-in name, like ‘Modest Sufficiency’, or some such.


Postscript:

While surfing the net to find background information, I chanced upon the ‘news’ section of the band’s own homepage. Therein is listed a eulogy for Ray Charles, bearing the subheading


Famed INXS collaborator dies at 73

Now listen up, folks: Ray Charles is famed for many things, but collaborating with INXS ain’t one of them.

The article actually begins by claiming that Ray Charles “virtually invented the genre known as ‘soul’” – which is true enough – but then claims that Charles, who “rarely involved himself with rock ’n’ roll”, did the monumental thing of “making an exception” in order to work with INXS on the track ‘Please (You Got That…)’ from the 1993 Full Moon Dirty Hearts album.

What’s that you say? Can’t remember how that particular ditty goes? I only can just remember the album, but I certainly don’t remember that song screaming up the charts either. Yet, that’s by-the-by, because in the first place, the early recordings that Ray Charles made that led to what we now call ‘soul’ were steps in the direction to what we also call rock ’n’ roll. The twelve-bar blues of ‘What’d I Say’ was, for it’s time, virtually ‘none more rock’! So this glorifying of INXS with the still-warm corpse of Ray Charles is merely dodgy rhetoric, and were I to employ dodgy rhetoric of my own, I’d class it as a kind of necrophilia, metophoric though it is. However, given that it is still just rhetoric, a more accurate reading of the collaboration would be to describe it thus:

‘The Atlantic label in America (to whom the band was signed, State-side) tried to earn INXS some vintage rock cred and therefore a wider audience by teaming them up with another artist in the roster who could have probably done with a bigger market share at the time.’

I mean, really.

Of course, when you keep reading, you realise the true intent of the article: not to commemorate the passing of a great musician, or to commemorate a great moment in musical collaboration, if indeed the collaboration between INXS and Charles could be deemed ‘great’; what it is, ultimately, is an advertisement for a forthcoming DVD:


An alluring video was made for the song, directed by Matt Mahurin, and can be found on the eagerly awaited I'm Only Looking/ The Best Of INXS DVD coming in July.

And they have the audacity to give the advertorial the title Ray Charles R.I.P.


Closing The Perception Of Doors

doorsfront

The contention that, in 1984, the Doors had “sold more records than they had during the entire time they were together” (see “It Was Twenty Years Ago Next Year”) could be incorrect. It may well be the case that in 1984 the Doors in fact sold more records than they did in all of the years up to 1984 combined. Even so, the ‘collector’s edition’ single released in 1985 – ‘Road House Blues’ coupled with ‘Wild Child’ (essentially, two lesser tracks, derived from an ouvre of lesser tracks) – failed to dent the charts in Australia. One thing’s for certain: by the end of the 80s, it was a truism that you knew it was time to leave the party when everyone started singing along to Doors records. And when they started singing along to Led Zeppelin, you knew you should have left while they were still singing along to the Doors.

If only it could have ended there.

The 1980s interest in the band culminated with the film The Doors (1991), another trawl through the late 60s by director Oliver Stone. For this outing, Stone cast in the role of lead vocalist Jim Morrison the actor Val Kilmer. As Morrison himself sang in ‘Riders on the Storm’, “An actor on a loan/A dog without a bone…”

If only it could have ended there.

Two original members of the Doors, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger, are currently touring as “21st Century Doors”, much to the distress of original drummer John Densmore. Severe tinnitus prevents Densmore from joining his former bandmates on stage to play rock ’n’ roll and so he has been replaced by Stewart Copeland, former tub-thumper for the Police, who has in turn been replaced by Ty Dennis.

Whaddaya mean ya never heard of Ty Dennis? He was the drummer in “modern, edgy-arty, quirky” Hollywood band Fire Bug, who boast “intense female vocal delivery” (because you just can’t get enough of the ‘intense female vocal delivery’ subgenre in rock ’n’ roll!) as well as drumming in one of the numerous line-ups of the also-fronted-by-a-female band, the Hollywood New WaveMotels. (‘Fire Bug’? ‘Motels’? ‘Police’? Can you see a theme developing here?) At least Ty will fit in with the Hollywood/LA mindset that originally helped inform the Doors.

 




 



 


However, what mostly distresses Densmore is that the band is being fronted by Ian Astbury, of the Cult. Densmore claims that when he, Manzarek and Krieger soldiered on (with a couple of drearily lacklustre albums) after Morrison passed away in the bath in July 71 (or did he? Perhaps he did re-surface in Africa under the anagrammatic pseudonym Mr Mojo Risin’ – as he'd always threatened he would) they agreed that only the three of them in partnership could continue to use the name ‘The Doors’.

What qualifications does Ian Astbury have that enable him to deputise for Jim Morrison, anyway? Apart from the ability to spout bad poetry and wear leather trousers, of course. It’s a pity that Michael Hutchence passed away; he also happened to fit the criteria. Indeed, if the INXS track ‘Mediate’ is anything to go by (from Kick, 1987) Hutchence could even have made the bad poetry rhyme, something that seemed beyond Jim Morrison’s capability. Perhaps when Astbury’s finished hanging out with The 21st Century Doors, he can put in an appearance with INXS. That’s after he’s also finished being in the reunion line up for the MC5; he appears to be taking turns to provide lead vocals with David Vanian, the longest-lasting founding member (and therefore keeper of the flame) of The Damned.I’ll let comedian Denis Leary have the last word on both the life of Jim Morrison and the wretched biopic he inspired. “I can sum it up for you in five seconds,” says Leary, on his album No Cure for Cancer (1993). “‘I’m drunk. I’m nobody. I’m drunk. I’m famous. I’m drunk. I’m dead.’ There’s the whole movie, okay?! ‘Big Fat Dead Guy In A Bath Tub’; there’s your title for you!”


doorsback