Monthly Archives: April 2010

missing Morning Star piece: my Hitchens hell

I can’t find last week’s Morning Star column online, so maybe they didn’t run it, or maybe it was in the paper but not uploaded. Anyway, I liked it, so here it is:

I do wish someone would give the Hitchens brothers blunt weapons – Phillips screwdrivers perhaps – and lock them in a small room together until they’re both dead, Battle Royale-style. I don’t want to actually watch them stab each-other up, that would be disturbing. I just want it to happen quietly in the dark, so we can get on with our lives.

Like a veruca on each foot, Hitchens Mjr (social conservative god botherer) and Mnr (contrary ex-left pro-war piss artist) both popped up in unwelcome fashion last week and left me grinding my gears when they really didn’t warrant the attention.

First, Peter was inexplicably booked to appear on the BBC’s new Review Show. He’s long been a reserve team right-wing stalwart for Any Questions, wheeled out if Norman Tebbitt misses the bus. In fact I can even quite enjoy him in that context, since his every bluff horror about woman’s place or immigration is counter-balanced by an epic rageful put-down of Cameron’s new Tory softness.

But what on earth qualifies him to discuss the arts of any kind? Hitchens is so socially regressive he loathes it all, creativity itself is probably anathema and he has the artistic vibrancy of a dead cat on an ant’s nest. This was made abundantly clear in his lack of any coherent engagement with the work he was asked to review. At least, if you’re challenged by secular – pagan – art when you’re a Christian, have the stones to take it on its merits, like the sweetly stalwart Rev. Richard Coles does, without ever compromising his quietly determined faith-based perspective.

Once Peter is out in the open, yappy deep-fried brother Christopher has to emerge blinking from the hole too. Not to be outdone, suddenly Crispy was shouting to anyone who’d listen about how he and his mate Richard Dawkins were going to arrest the pope.

Well fucking done fella, great idea. Honestly, I know he hates God and his own clunky version of Dawkins’ book about how terrible religion is has made a decent splash. But if there’s one person we don’t need as a national humanist flagbearer of righteous anger towards Christian bigotry, it’s Inconsistent Hitchens.

I foresee a heavily PR’d deathbed conversion undermining all the good work, just to be annoying and catch some last hours’ attention. In fact, for the first time ever, I actually feel a modicum of sympathy for Ratzinger, as Hitchens puffs and preens, prior to embarking on his great pontiff-bait.

At least when Peter Tatchell tries to arrest people, he does it with class. Like with Mugabe, it’s the real deal, he gives it a proper go: rolls up his sleeves, a stealthy wriggle under the barriers, dives in head-first shouting about homophobia and then gets beaten shitless for his efforts. That’s commitment. Even Jack Straw managed a decent pop when he put the wind up Augusto Pinochet and made that old mass murderer’s final days satisfyingly itchier.

Feisty as Dawkins is, can you honestly imagine him taking on the bulletproof Vatican security mob? They’re Paul Bettany in the Da Vinci Code movie for god’s sake, all sharp angles, hidden weapons and self-harm. And I know Crispy has a masochist’s love for getting punched out by fascists (or at least, telling everyone he was) but the dude can barely walk up stairs, let alone jump in front of the popemobile.

Basically, Tatchell’s political citizens’ arrests were rock’n’roll, Dawkins and Hitchens will be Laurel and Hardy.

What they’re really into is phoning up some lawyer friends and then instigating yet another media discussion. At least it is – credit where it’s due – a chance to flag up the topic’s overlooked ambivalent legal issues.

But, well, yawn.

Give us Sinead O’Connor in 1992, tearing up a photo of the previous pope on American TV, then getting booed offstage at Madison Square Garden at a tribute gig for – if you can believe it – Bob Dylan. She hushed her band, then took the crowd on face-to-face with an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s ‘War’ that remains to this day one of history’s most singularly powerful moments of protest art.

Give us real action, not an ageing contrarian publicity stunt. No, I’m sorry, I didn’t expect to take this line: Not defending Rome for a second. The gradual mainstream realisation of what most right-thinking people have known for several hundred years – that the Catholic priesthood is on a moral par with the black hole of Calcutta – has been a phenomenally positive development and may even change things permanently. However, in self-absorption, Hitchens distracts from any real use: to properly challenge the fetid old Nazi and child abuse cover upper masquerading as the leader of the car crash that is that Church.

If any tag team should arrest the pope, it should be Robin Ince and Professor Brian Cox, at least then it will be amusing and a bit cute. Alternatively, let the Vatican’s London office hire brother of faith Peter Hitchens as a bodyguard and then mayhap we’ll get to see the bloodshed I wanted in the first place.


Can you help make my ‘book burning’ video?

I need your help to make my new video for ‘Words Fail Me’, which comes out as a single in September. The video is about book burning, so we’re organising a few book burnings across the world and we’ll be filming them for the vid. I’m really looking forward to it and I’ve got my books to burn in a pile already.

But what we need from you is your own bit of book burning footage to drop in. So, would you be up for filming yourself setting fire to a book (presumably one you hate) to be included in the video? You can be alone or do it with friends, drunk, sober, in a forest, by the sea, on the estate or in your house. What you need to do is pick one – or some – books you’d really love to burn. Then we need three key shots to drop into the video – but anything you film will be fantastic. These shots are:

1. you walking along, all dressed up for the book burning party, carrying the book – or books – you’re going to burn. You ignore the camera and just walk along, a group or solo, whatever.

2. a portrait shot of you just looking at the camera, being still, just looking at the camera. If there’s lots of you, can we have a portrait of each of you and maybe a team shot?

3. the money shot – burn those books. as much footage as possible of you, in whatever way you’ve decided to do it. saucepans are fine. barbecues are fine. a massive fire in a wood is fine. industrial furnaces, however you like.

The deadline is June 10 end of June (we’re editing first week of July) and if you set fire to a book and send me footage, I guarantee you’ll be included in the final video with your name in the end credits (if you want): so get burning, then email and we’ll sort out how to get the footage to us.

Thank you so much, I can’t wait, it’s going to be my best video ever. xxx

The cuckoo lyric: how I messed up the words on ‘Nintendo’ and only realised this week.

Damnit. The lyric was always: “Your words come quiet, single file. / On one long roll of paper (in) Kerouac style.” That’s what it was meant to be, what I originally wrote and what was taped on the demo version.

But somehow in the album recording sessions, on this particular vocal take I randomly sang: “On one long roll of paper and Kerouac smiles,” and then somehow in my brain, that slipped into place like a big-arsed cuckoo and became what the lyric was. When we mixed, that was clearly the best vocal take and I pushed aside a nagging feeling something was odd about the words. Already by then I’d got too close – forgotten meanings and lost perspective – and I didn’t think about it again, even once I started singing the song live. I was singing the replacement lyric instead of the original one.

I only realised my mistake last week, during one of the final few shows of my UK tour, when something clicked back into place and I found myself acutely aware that all this time I’d been clinging to the wrong words. It was a particular shock because, for me anyway, they were drastically weaker words.

It’s a subtle difference and almost certainly you don’t give a fuck either way, especially since the sentence doesn’t remotely affect the underlying premise of the song. But for me the previous version was much, much better. “Kerouac smiles” conjures the dead poet looking down, in some way approving of the work – which is patently ridiculous and nothing like I’d want to say. It’s a bogus phrase too, slushy and romantic, at a point in the song where I’m trying to keep descriptively cool. “In Kerouac style” is simpler, sticks to the point and focuses on that image of a long roll of paper, which is what I wanted to get across.

So how did I get it wrong, and for so long? I have no fucking idea. What do I do about it now? Nothing – it’s too late. Sometimes, writing songs, that’s just how it goes. I’ll sing the correct version of ‘Nintendo’ from now on and, like a typo gone to press, hopefully nobody will notice.