Responding to social media self-righteousness, Shaun Ponsonby does his usual half-arsed rant.
Originally published on Getintothis
Is it safe to come out yet?
You know, I am not usually one for celebrating New Year. I don’t quite get it. It’s just a measurement. It’s like celebrating a mile or a hertz. I don’t start a firework display whenever I get a mile down the M6, it would be preposterous.
This ain’t no fairytale. What do people expect to happen at midnight? Everything is still shit. Auld Lang Sayne isn’t a magic spell. Trump is still gonna be President, ya’ll.
Having said that, and I am hoping not to jinx this, but we are nearly two weeks into 2017 and we are yet to lose a major icon.
Those last few days of 2016 – Jeeezus! It is almost as if the universe decided to cram as much bullshit into the last few days of the year as possible. Consecutive days; Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Liz Smith, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds. Well, Merry fucking Christmas to you, too.
Naturally, there was an outpouring of grief on social media. But after 12 months of this – since Lemmy’s death at the end of 2015 – there were a big swath of people who were growing tired of it. I don’t know about you, but my feed had a few self-righteous people complain that people were sad that someone was dead.
On the one hand, I get it. The hyperbolic world of social media means that people become increasingly distraught, to the point where I am pretty sure someone filmed a blood sacrifice to their God asking for the return of Debbie Reynolds (although I may have been watching a snuff film).
But then they ruin the valid point by saying things like “I have felt real grief…blah blah blah”. Yeah, sorry for whatever loss you have experienced, but go fall down a well. As confident as I am that this kind of grief is an emotion that is completely, 100% unique to you, there is no need to be a prick about it. To suggest that anyone who is affected by the death of an icon has never felt “real” grief is frankly disgusting.
Imagine doing that, calling people out for saying they are sad someone has died. What a shower of bastards.
Everybody understands that there is a difference between the death of a loved one and the death of an artist whose work you admire. But 2016 went beyond that. It wasn’t just that famous people were dying, it was who was dying and what they represent to us.
Take a recent example in George Michael. Had some good tunes, didn’t he? Whilst you were pontificating, did you stop to think what he may have meant to gay men? This was a guy who was thrown the most revolting homophobic abuse from the press and even other artists – when he released his Bush protest song Shoot The Dog, national embarrassment Noel Gallagher said “This is the guy who hid who he actually was from the public for 20 years, now all of a sudden he’s got something to say about the way of the world? [Smug fake laugh] I find it fucking laughable.”
Let us follow Gallagher’s logic (if you can call it that), shall we? George Michael didn’t tell every man, woman and child on the face of the Earth who he was shagging, therefore he has no right to comment on an illegal invasion of another country. Classic Gallagher commentary, there; clueless, moronic idiocy, delivered as if he is saying something learned and profound. Strictly speaking, Gallagher has never sat down and told me he is straight, so his opinions must be worthless also.
Michael responded to Gallagher when asked with a simple response on the BBC’s Hardtalk; “This is not an intelligent man”. The press surrounding Shoot The Dog, particularly that owned by Murdoch, referred to him as a “pervert” (the same people who called Jimmy Savile a national treasure, go figure). But he always rose above it. His response to the infamous 1998…ahem…”incident” was to mock the whole affair with the worldwide smash Outside, the video for which showed Michael dressed as an American cop in a bathroom that turned into a gay club. Check. Mate.
He refused to be a sexless gay man – he was who he was. Take it or leave it. Judging by the reaction to his 2006-08 world tour, the press underestimated how much the people actually loved George Michael.
But it is a whole lot of them. Prince and Bowie weren’t just great artists, they transformed what was deemed acceptable masculinity and transcended race, gender and sexuality. Many gay men of the era have gone one record as saying they felt liberated when Bowie told Melody Maker he was gay in 1972. Whether it was true or not, one of the biggest pop stars of the day had come out in a time when homosexuality may have been legal, but still massively frowned upon by the population.
When Maurice White formed Earth Wind & Fire, they became the first black band to sell out Madison Square Garden, whilst Bernie Worrell was one of the most important ingredients in the P. Funk collective, the absolute architects of afrofuturism. Think of all the thousands of impoverished kids in urban areas these people inspired.
Beyond music, Victoria Wood was one of the few consistently popular female comedians of her generation, and let any growing young girl watching Saturday night TV that you don’t have to be one of the “lads” to be funny.
Muhammad Ali wasn’t The Greatest because he was a good boxer. There are loads of good boxers. What there aren’t many of is powerful, inspirational figures who stand up for what they believe in no matter what and never let anyone tell them there is anything they can’t do.
Even someone like Rick Parfitt. He can’t mean much, can he? Au contraire – he stayed with Status Quo for 50 years, carrying on with great success, despite snark and ridicule from a gang of self-appointed keepers of good musical taste.
I’ve missed loads of them, of course, but you get the idea.
The world too often feels like an impossible and unjust place. What these people give us is not just escape from that, but hope. And I think when we lose them, we lose a little bit of hope. Especially now, when everything is so homogenised. We ain’t gonna get to watch another Lemmy or Pete Burns on TV, living their lives without compromise. Who are going to replace them, boring Adele, puppet Justin Bieber or whoever the hell won X Factor this year? Puh-lease.
Most of these people were working class kids who defied the odds and demanded people respected them, and they succeeded. Now you’ve got to be middle-to-upper class and have the money to go the BRIT School. Daddy knows the Dean, yeah?
So, here’s what we should do in 2017; treasure the heroes we have, and encourage each other to listen out for new ones. Not studio-owned capitalist pawns, people who actually inspire us. Then let their legend grow. With what is waiting around the corner, we are going to need them.
Trump‘s inauguration will have “soft sensuality” instead of A-list stars. and The Rockettes, obvs. Nothing to do with the fact that nobody wants anything to do with him, then?
Mike Tyson has recorded a Soulja Boy diss track ahead of boxing match with Chris Brown. That is a convicted rapist recording a song for a convicted woman beater against a man who seems to constantly make death threats. I despiar.
Team Rock have been saved, ya’ll! Genuinely delighted.