Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Man In The Mirror

It was hard not to avoid the gruesome spectacle coming out of Los Angeles yesterday; the Lennin-esque laying in state followed by the highly questionable ‘celebration’ of the boy-man-boy who died last week in, what can only and best be described as, questionable circumstances.

Musician, singer and song-writer supreme – no shadows and tall trees of a doubt there.

But… why wasn’t it left at that; why – or what caused – most of the known-world to react in the manner in which they have; this out-pouring of communal grief, the like of which hasn’t been globally seen since the (public) death of Diana, Princess of Hearts.

Yes, it’s a tragedy that someone so absolutely talented died so young – but, its this comparison-thing that so grates: the whole over-the-topness of ‘he / his music was there for me, he wrote / sang the soundtrack to my life’ – all total, utter, bollox.

Jackson’s music – like so many others’ – just touched a part of all our lives.

However, the fact of the matter is that it was simply that – a touch – no more, no less. Equals, why this apparent (self fulfilling) requirement to make it into something it never ever was?

Its like being on the receiving end of a discreetly flirtatious smile from a pretty girl at a party… that's something rather nice, makes one feel good. Doesn’t mean – in the telling of it later – that one enjoyed a full-blown relationship or had children together.

This outpouring of ‘public’ grief; the gnashing of dentures; all of the hysterical wailing and tear-smudged make-up; the ‘fans’ 'comments'… one wonders if – in time to come – they’ll think back and consider more wisely; somewhat like those who chucked flowers at Diana’s coffin en route to the island in the middle of that lake in Northamptonshire; the Lady of Shallot on her way home.

Unfortunately, the very same that happened earlier this year when someone who’d had their own Warhol-like fleeting brush with ‘fame’, publicly died of cervical cancer – the absurdity of all of that bloom-laden hysteria proven these last few months by example; how often is that particular person thought about, discussed, commented upon… today?

And... where was the dignity?

The Los Angeles television-transmitted images owed as much to the psychedelia-tinged pictures from Johnny Depp’s new Alice in Wonderland as it did to a funeral (for a friend); the grotesque spectacle of the ‘family unit’ in single white gloves while hiding their crocodile tears behind a uniform of the blackest of dark glasses – hey, we’re Los Angeles royalty so lets look completely preposterous indoors; their fake(d) D’Artagnan solidarity – all for one, one for all – when, in real life, family harmony had been a daily misnomer.

Once again, I wonder… where is the dignity?

And what or who caused the spectacle of his daughter being pushed forward to howl her own, ten-year-old anguish straight into the cameras and millions of homes, bars, cafe's and over-sized plasma screens around the world?

Grief is an incredibly private thing; coming to terms with and mourning the death of a parent is a unique experience – not one single person can compare their own knowledge of that to anyone else – and that’s a fact.

Yes (of course), people can sympathise with one another but to say – yes, I know what x or y is like – bollox. You don’t, ‘cos everyone is different. So… for someone who’d been ‘protected’ and pretty much out of the public spotlight for as long as she’d been alive, to have the older members of her family push her forward on the dais and have her speak – how utterly irresponsible was that?

Dignified… no, I don’t think so.

But then, the entire ‘show’ smacked of being a public-relation’s led extravaganza – less Cirque du Soleil and more freak-show circus.

And, as much as that was truly ghastly, witness the phalanx of so-called friends and celebrities who’ve been coming out of the woodwork like so many termites to pontificate about someone that so few, so very few ever knew.

Which leads one to wonder… what was this all in aid of? Unhappily, this last ten days or so has been just the beginning – the squabbles will go on for years if not decades and, in all probability, the regiments of lawyers and aides will be the only ones to reap massive remuneration, Allan Klein-like from the dying embers of his estate.

This is a line taken from Danny Eccleston’s excellent piece written for Mojo Magazine: In death as in life, Jackson was the canvas on which the circling carrion-birds projected their desires: for love, fame, money and copy. Next up: the "revelations", fact and fiction, with no way of telling one from the other. After all, you can praise the dead, or bury them – or both – but one thing you can't do is libel them.

Precisely so… Because… and without a doubt, his highly dubious ‘other-life’ will also continue to be air-brushed under the carpet just like it has been ever since his death was announced. Almost as if that part of MJ didn’t exist – which, clearly, it did.

Which, in itself, presents another paradox – because he created the body of (musical) work that he did, is it ok to sweep that (wholly unpalatable) aspect of his existence to one side? Clearly, from the way he was eulogised yesterday, it seems so.

This little Voltaire says bollox to that... entirely.

While one (and this should be emphasised) was markedly less ‘flawed’ than another, much like it was with Diana, so has it been with Jackson.

And, as curious and bizarre a fact as this may be, I met both Jackson and Diana at the same venue; different circumstances but, nevertheless, the same place.

With the latter, I was in the line when Kid Creole performed at The Grosvenor House Hotel – can’t for the life of me remember the occasion, perhaps a Prince’s Trust charitable event… the precise circumstances are now lost in the mists of my mind’s time but, the handshake and the short conversation ensued. She was taller than I’d imagined; very softly yet firmly spoken and had the most exquisite eyes. Being on the receiving end of the full nuclear blast of them is something one never forgets.

Jackson and I stood next to one another at a BRIT Awards ceremony at the same venue – equals, that’d make it early eighties; after a few glasses of the well-chilled, nature had come a-knockin’ and I’d made my way to the men’s room on the first floor of the very same hotel.

Positioned all alone and half-way along the urinals and mid-flow and there was the unmistakable sound of the door opening and – while gentlemen stare straight ahead (unless, your name is George Michael that is) – it was impossible not to notice a smallish quasi-military-clad figure arrive and stand next to me; immediately unbuttoning the fly of his black uniform trousers.

Not a moment to either introduce oneself or to proffer the hand to be shaken, I think you'd agree.

Anyhow, we stood there, side by side – neither uttering a word, both focussing intently on both the task in hand (as it were) as much as the gleaming white tiles at eye-level, straight in front of the pair of us – letting nature take its course. Ablutions over, I turned, washed my hands, dried them and the door was opened for me by Michael’s gargantuan, Giant Haystacks’-like minder, standing guard over his charge.

Very different to another occasion when, out on the road with the Irish group and support act The Waterboys in northern France (equals more or less same sort of era); a motorway pit-stop is called. This was in the days when tour-buses were not the luxury means of conveyance that they are nowadays; in fact – its unlikely that the Irish quartet bother with such in this day and age, far easier for them to fly from show to show.

Anyhow… there we all are… like cartoon animals from one of those French paintings from the turn of the 19th century that my parent's had hung in both the downstairs cloakroom and above the lavatory in the upstairs bathroom; lined up and ready to go. Only… one of us was in a spot of bother. Yes, the fly-buttons had been undone and the porcelain had been pointed at but… action came there none.

One by one, we all buttoned or zipped back up and turned to exit the urinals. Yet, with one remaining, legs slightly astride in that most manly of stances and staring straight ahead. What’s up, Bono? Quoth long-time tour manager, Dennis Sheehan, can’t go… you got stage fright?

Was Diana really Queen of (all our) Hearts; was MJ the King of Pop; is Bono the penguin-Emperor of rock ‘n’ roll? Its all relative and, most probably, era specific.

And, in a peculiar manner and within this Voltaire on its grassy knoll on the windswept prairie of other Volatires (and there are zillions if one cares to look with regard to MJ) death - viva la vida - is a common, binding factor.

We’ve witnessed the public displays – quite a few years back for the flawed-princess and over the last few days for the pop-sovereign – but, what was instructive was being at Earls Court (again, a few years back now) to attend one of about a week’s long stint of shows that the Irish band played; dates that coincided with the death of Bono’s dad.

As mentioned earlier, the death of a parent provokes unique feelings; there can be no debate about that – yet, that night, the band played one of the most emotional sets I’ve ever witnessed. Its likely that very few in the audience would have known – this being pre-Twitter days – but, it’d (almost certainly) be true to say that the ‘emotion’ emanating from the stage would have been felt from the very front to the very back of the 18,000 people in Earls Court that night.

There was (as I recall) but the single mention from the stage; during Bono’s intro to their song Kite – when, among other things, he mentioned that he thought he’d written the song but, in actual fact, he realised that his father had.

It's summer, I can taste the salty sea;
There's a kite blowing out of control on the breeze

I wonder what's gonna happen to you;
You wonder what has happened to me

I'm a man; I'm not a child

A man who sees; The shadow behind your eyes

Who's to say where the wind will take you
Who's to say what it is will break you

I don't know

Where the wind will blow

Who's to know when the time has come around

I don't want to see you cry

I know that this is not goodbye

Did I waste it; Not so much I couldn't taste it
Life should be fragrant; Rooftop to the basement

The last of the rocks stars; When hip hop drove the big cars

In the time when new media; Was the big idea

That was the big idea

Who's to say where the wind will take you
Who's to say what it is will break you
I don't know

Where the wind will blow
Who's to know when the time has come around
I don't want to see you cry

I know that this is not goodbye

The other night, while on stage at The NeuCamp in Barcelona, Bono dedicated Angel Of Harlem to MJ whilst citing the fact that the song had been inspired by another (tragic) Harlem Angel, Billie Holiday.

There was dignity in that… dignity in music.

1 comment:

Drew said...

Jackson used to piss?...I'll not have that!

I could echo your thoughts on the new mode of almost industrial-scale pageantry that is collective grief for those who, at the end of the day, were simply flesh, blood and grey-matter.
I just couldn't replicate your eloquence.