Saturday, 14 September 2013

All that glitters...

Should I have felt ashamed? Or, even worse: afraid? Afraid that at any moment the police would knock on the door and demand to search the premises, perhaps even to seize my possessions? And all because I couldn't resist listening to something that I'll never again hear on the radio. Regardless of what anybody actually thinks of the song itself it's just not going to get airplay... because once someone has done something despicable, their creative output has to be eradicated from all forms of public exposure too.

It's not that 'I Didn't Know I Loved You ('Til I Saw You Rock'n'Roll)' was ever a favourite of mine, but it was a song that my nine-year old self did rather like. When it turned up on a CD in our local charity shop, I had the desire to hear it again. That stomping glam rock rhythm had me bouncing around in my chair and singing along. Mr SDS cheerfully enlightened me to the fact that when he was at school the lyrics had been memorably changed to, “I didn't know I loved you 'til I saw your sausage roll” as well as the somewhat more unsavoury but typically puerile version, “hairy hole”. Ahem. But I think everybody I knew liked a little bit of Gary Glitter back in the day. I recall walking down the road with my school-friends singing 'I Love You Love' in unison, twirling our satchels theatrically, then collapsing into giggles, the kind that made our chests ache and our eyes stream. It was all so innocent, or so we thought. I certainly never fancied GG, nor (thankfully) did I want him as a Fantasy Dad, but he could sing a good, catchy, rebel-rousing tune and had a unique stage presence that was hard to ignore.

I enjoyed the song yesterday. It was just a song. However, there was something inside me that made me feel I shouldn't be listening to it. Was it like some kind of guilt by association? Was it the fear that if the neighbours were to hear Mr Gadd's distinctive vocals through our wafer-thin walls, they would assume terrible things about us too? Is that why it will never be included in a Top of the Pops repeat or any other TV broadcast in which it might have featured? Although, in a way, not to include it is a bit like trying to re-write history. Acknowledging its existence isn't the same as condoning his behaviour....but it seems that way somehow. There is also the argument that a convicted criminal shouldn't be entitled to earn further royalties, and that a radio station could lose revenue from advertisers if it played something that could be considered offensive. So is it just easier to pretend it didn't exist than to have to explain or justify its inclusion?

Thinking about this reminded me of a blog post I read a while back (unfortunately I can't remember where) in which the writer expressed his personal dilemma at having loved a particular band's music for years only to later discover that they supported far right politics. It didn't stop him liking the songs he'd always liked but it made him feel differently disposed towards them as a whole. His taste in music was separate from his taste in politics, but they all get tangled up together in this business, don't they? I guess the same could be said about attitudes to many people in the public eye with a creative output – authors, artists, comedians, actors – if we discover that they're wife-beaters or racists or anything else that we're repelled by, how do we then feel about the things they made, played or did that we originally liked for very different reasons? Our judgements feel tarnished, our integrity in doubt, yet they weren't made or based on the same grounds. I think there's an instinctive and self-protective need to disconnect ourselves completely, even though it is actually a denial of our intrinsic, personal taste in one relatively small aspect of life.

Anyway, I'm not a secret Gary Glitter fan. I just wanted to be able to say that I listened to a song for nostalgic reasons and that I was honest enough with myself to admit that I still liked it for what it was. I was also honest enough with myself to admit that I didn't know if I 'should' (and I hate that word 'should'!)  So you'll understand why I've chosen not to include it here but, if you find you just can't help singing it in your head now, I recommend trying the 'sausage roll' lyric.

14 comments:

  1. This post says so much, C. I've had many of the same thoughts and suffered the same dilemma, particularly when it comes to GG. When I was a kid I actually owned his first two albums and dearly loved 'Rock and Roll (Parts 1 and 2)', 'Hello, Hello', 'Do You Wanna Touch' and, yes, 'I Didn't Know I Loved You' (we , too, used to sing the sausage roll line but were obviously not inspired enough to think of 'hairy hole'). Now, how I would dearly love to be able to enjoy those 'Bubble-glam' classics but I just can't. I know that if I heard any of them again I'd want to jump around the room (yes, at 52!) but then the come down would kick in when I'd remember what a despicable creep Mr. Gadd is. Sad, truly sad. Will we ever be able enjoy them again? I doubt it.

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  2. I feel the same way about songs from my youth, especially 'Rock On' by David Essex. And your new profile pic? ADORABLE.

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    1. 'Rock On'? That's simply brilliant and not problematic in any way. I'm puzzled.

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  3. I don't think David Essex has done anything despicable has he?

    I had lots of similarly conflicting thoughts racing through my head when I watched that Spike Lee documentary on Michael Jackson last year. I wondered why someone of the stature and talent of Lee would choose someone so tarnished as the subject of his film... but somewhere along the way I rediscovered just how amazingly talented Mr Jackson was and oddly was left with the feeling that I don't believe the accusations. Just my personal belief but we can never know one way or the other for certain.

    As for Mr Gadd, his own behaviour in life has proven him to be beyond a shadow of doubt of very questionable morals, but we heard it first with innocent ears and it still appeals to that part of us. I think we have to separate art from the artist. Picasso didn't sound the nicest of men, Francis Bacon could be a bit of a git... look at their canvases though and it all seems irrelevant how they lived their lives. I think that is why I have zero interest in Heat magazine and all the gossip rags, I don't care how actors, musicians, writers, etc live their lives, only what they produce... and as for those that produce nothing and only exist to feed the gossip rags: I have no interest at all ;o)

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    1. Have you ever seen Dave Chapelle's court room skit about Michael Jackson?

      He just answers every accusation by referring to Thriller.

      Mr Jackson did you...

      Thriller. I wrote Thriller.

      Mr Jackson is it true...

      Thriller Nigga...I wrote Thrilla

      Mr Jackson...

      Thriller.

      Hilarious.

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    2. I will have to look out for that ;o)

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  4. You got a mess on your hands here.

    If I concerned myself with the political views of musicians there'd be a lotta dead air around here. I figured out early I'd just have to ignore it...I wasn't not going to listen to the Minutemen or Gang of Four.

    Then there's a song like Fight the Power from Public Enemy...I'm completely sold out for P.E. but, consider Fight the Power. Love it...listening to it right now. Mostly it's just a series of fuzzy slogans over a titanic beat. The best line in the whole thing is based on a falsehood...Elvis was not simple, not plain and, according to black musicians that knew him in these parts, not a racist...but, when Flavor Flav pops up and says "Motherfuck him and John Wayne" it breaks me up every time. More to the point, false or not, it conveys the sentiment they're trying to express perfectly.

    It's doubtful that Orwell ever actually [Shot] an Elephant or witnessed a particular Hanging but,....

    Very messy.

    What do you do with Wagner...or Martin Heidegger? Ezra Pound?

    "The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough."

    What has the crushing beauty of that to do with Pound being a fascist?

    I would say Beauty is Beauty, Truth is Truth...Artist are merely conduits, their personal foibles and whacky beliefs aside. That's a particular philosophical stance that has implications well beyond the issue at hand though.

    It's also nearly impossible to maintain such a stance...which points to important distinction between taste and judgement.

    In my judgement Rock N Roll (I and II) is an almost perfect expression of the form...unstoppable but, thanks to Glitter, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.



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  5. Thanks all for listening and joining in.... much appreciated.
    I threw the question(s) out there because I was aware of the basic ridiculousness of some of the thoughts that were entering my head whilst listening to an ostensibly innocuous record! I had this vague niggle of, well I suppose it was paranoia! "Oh what if someone thinks...?" ...but why...?! I hadn't done anything bad!

    Yet this paranoid/vigilante/censorship approach seems to be all around us in the fact that once someone becomes persona non grata, you just don't hear/see their past output on the radio or TV, regardless of the context of the time, and anyone who risks stepping outside of that might become targeted as being questionable or, at the very least, offensive and insensitive, themselves. All the repeats of ToTP with Savile and DLT presenting, or Gary Glitter performing, are cut...the BBC etc must think it's the only decent, tasteful thing to do. But at the same time when you break it down, acknowledging a person's existence in a role/creative pursuit doesn't have to be perceived as akin to condoning their transgressions or glorifying them, it's part of history, whether tasteless/offensive or not. There seem to be so many double standards too, just to complicate it all further....
    And all this without even continuing the wider subject re. artists, writers, politics/bands... I need a cuppa tea.

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    1. Got my cuppa now and realise I just repeated here pretty much what I said in the post already...d'oh.

      So I really appreciate all the points everyone's brought up to add to it, thank you!

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    2. Ha haaa, it would make me paranoid if I played Leader of the Gang right now too (I wonder where the Human League's cover of Rock n Roll stands in all this?) because an awful lot of people find using their brain a bit hard so go with knee jerk reactions... remember all that fuss a few years back when art school educated Bryan Ferry extolled the finesse of Nazi imagery? He was only repeating what we were also taught at art college about Leni Reifensahl etc... but the tabloids had a field day and M&S had to drop him from their ads. I don't understand how any rational person could get the wrong idea but that's how witch hunts start and the British media has the "villagers" ready with pitch forks and burning torches, off to march on Castle Frankenstein/BBC HQ/Coronation Street studios.... (sorry, I mixed my Hammer Horror metaphors there but you get my drift I am sure)... at least it's taking the Proles minds off the state of the economy...

      C, listen to GG with your headphones on and save a brick through the window!

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    3. Oh Yve thank you. The media witch hunt: you've hit the nail on the head. Thankfully not mine with a brick.

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  6. Brilliant thought provoker C. I bought GGs first album and pretty much liked his stuff and Kamp image, 'I want be in your gang!'
    But when you think what he does and is obsessed by, you get that kind of image when you hear his name or music. I think I would rather not listen to anything by him anymore, I would rather not.

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    1. Thanks!
      If it's how you feel, Old Pa, then you just can't argue with that.

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