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Cosmic Slop #136: Your Heroes Were Always Gammons

As the likes of Noel Gallagher, Van Morrison and Ian Brown make their fans groan, Shaun Ponsonby says that you should have been groaning long ago.

By Shaun Ponsonby
Tue 06 October, 2020

There’s no doubt about it, since Lemmy’s death in December 2015, shit got weird.

Look at what we’re living through now; Trump, Boris, Brexit, Covid-19, QAnon and now Gary Barlow releasing an album that features both Michael Buble and James Corden. We don’t need any of this. We’re fucked.

I keep reading that there is proof that the world is, indeed, upside down because certain artists seem to have gone crazy. They are musical heroes that (straight, white, middle aged) people have clung to for generations. People like John Lydon, Morrissey, Van Morrison, Ian Brown and Noel Gallagher.

But, call me crazy, weren’t they always utter gammon twats anyway?

Van Morrison is a prime example. Inarguably the most talented of all those listed, he is also a notorious curmudgeon who is almost as famous for treating people with utter contempt as he is for Brown Eyed Girl.

Here’s a kicker too; in 2009, his tour manager Gigi Lee claimed that Morrison had knocked her up. She gave birth to the boy in December, but the boy passed away in January 2011, with Lee dying of throat cancer ten months later. Morrison saw neither the boy nor Lee before their deaths and the paternity matter was never settled. Classy. So…what? We’re shocked that he’s a prick who is promoting a return to normal life before it is safe to do so?

If living off the success of the first Stone Roses album with virtually nothing of note for the next three decades, and constantly looking like he’s just learned to see for the first time wasn’t enough, fans now seem confused that Ian Brown started down the conspiracy route. “You’re no longer my hero,” white Northern boomers bellowed into their parkers. Yet my earliest memory of Brown is when he threatened to cut a stewardess’ hands off and endangered an entire flight full of people by banging on the door of the cockpit as the plane came into land. Acts for which he was jailed, incidentally. And fans are taken aback that he is an anti-vaxx, anti-mask, conspiracy arsehole?

Noel Gallagher is probably my mortal enemy – a serial plagiarist who has contributed nothing worthy to art and culture. If anything, Oasis’ obsession with looking back is arguably one of the catalysts that ended the rock era and made guitar music so uncool. Since then, popular guitar music has barely progressed. Which is fine, and inevitable, but the baffling popularity of Oasis has meant that he now thinks he is a profound beacon of knowledge.

Not a subject passes him by. He’s always ready comment, whether he knows what the fuck he’s talking about or not. This ranges from calling Ed Milliband a communist (which is objectively ludicrous) or claiming that hip hop doesn’t belong at Glastonbury.

My favourite is the homophobia he directed towards George Michael over his opposition to the war in Iraq (i.e. in Gallagher’s eyes, not sucking up to Tony Blair). The comments really do highlight the differences between the two of them. Michael was well educated on the subject, and pretty much everything he was saying about the war turned out to be true, from the fact that it was really about oil to it leading to the creation of ISIS. Gallagher just shoots his mouth off like the complete dunce one suspects he is.

His charge was that Michael isn’t allowed to express his opinion on the war because he didn’t come out straight away – bearing in mind that Michael came out privately during the AIDS epidemic, one of the worst periods for gay men that absolutely would have torpedoed his career. That comment aged well. Now he’s claiming to have had fights with people over his refusal to wear a mask – which, strangely, no footage has emerged of as it definitely would have if Noel Gallagher was arguing in  public with people about wearing a mask.

And then there’s Morrissey.  This bastion of representation for the outsider has displayed racist tendencies over the last few years. You’re surprised? Really? Morrissey has always been consistent on these views, you just chose to ignore it so you could keep on listening to How Soon Is Now.

He has been open about it since at least 1986, when he gave an interview with Melody Maker in which he exposed his worldview for all to see.

He begins by admonishing an entire genre, apparently equating Jimmy Cliff and Toots & The Maytals with the notorious Nazi punk group Skrewdriver; “Reggae, for example, is to me the most racist music in the entire world. It’s an absolute total glorification of black supremacy.”

Not content with pissing on an entire genre of black music, he then goes in on future and current black icons. “But, ultimately, I don’t have very cast iron opinions on black music other than black modern music which I detest,” he waxes lyrical. “I detest Stevie Wonder. I think Diana Ross is awful. I hate all those records in the Top 40 – Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston. I think they’re vile in the extreme. In essence this music doesn’t say anything whatsoever.”

For a wealth of opinions on everything from songwriting memes to Leaving Neverland, check out the Cosmic Slop archive here

This music doesn’t say anything whatsoever? Stevie Wonder is part of a long, proud tradition of black protest music that is one of the greatest canons of any kind of art ever produced. He has used his music to bring about political change; Wonder is one of the main reasons Martin Luther King Day exists in America, for example. Diana Ross? As a powerful black woman in the 60s, 70s and 80s, Diana Ross didn’t communicate anything important? In 1986 Janet Jackson released Control, a hugely impactful record for black teenage girls that spoke to many people in a way that they had never been spoken to before.

The journalist tries to challenge him – but comes across equally as clueless by saying that this music doesn’t aim to change the world like rock (read: white) music does – to which Morrissey replies; “Obviously to get on Top Of The Pops these days, one has to be, by law, black. I think something political has occurred among Michael Hurl and his friends and there has been a hefty pushing of all these black artists and all this discofied nonsense into the Top 40. I think, as a result, that very aware younger groups that speak for now are being gagged.

When asked directly if he thinks there is a black conspiracy to keep white artists off the charts, Morrissey replies succinctly. “Yes, I really do.” This is significant as in 2019 he posted a video that suggested the exact same thing, which implies that he has always been the person he is currently showing himself to be.

I’m going to end with the one that seems to be upsetting people most; John Lydon in a Make America Great Again t shirt. The Sex Pistols remain a band shrouded in myth and mystery, and they were important for a lot of people. But Lydon has always been a loudmouth contrarian for the sake of it rather than to make any larger point in which he believes. He is, in essence, a musical Piers Morgan, and his schtick became boring years ago.

And who can forget the 2008 incident at Barcelona’s Summercase Festival? Lydon and his entourage left Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke with facial bruising and a split lip after Okereke approached him backstage and asked about Public Image Ltd. Lydon became aggressive and spliced in the statement “Your problem is your black attitude”.

Being at a festival, there were many witnesses. Those who backed Okereke’s version of events included Gruff Rhys, Ricky Wilson, Yannis Philippakis and assorted members of Mystery Jets, Mogwai and The Raveonettes. Absolutely NOBODY who witnessed the incident backed Lydon.

There was a tweet responding to his MAGA shirt which read “John Lydon is the most disappointing Sex Pistol, and one of them killed somebody”, which sums up the complacency that society have had collectively for these flawed icons, provided they are straight, white and male. That Sid Vicious could literally murder Nancy Spungen and remain a beloved icon, whilst Courtney Love, Yoko Ono and Pamela Courson are continually vilified with obscene misogyny for mere conjecture and mostly baseless rumour surrounding their supposed involvement (or, given there’s no evidence on any of them, lack thereof) with the deaths of Kurt Cobain, John Lennon and Jim Morrison tells you everything you need to know about what it takes to be celebrated by our popular culture.

We all do and say things we regret, and we have to live with them. I can’t imagine the humiliation of my own digressions being in the public domain, following me around like a curse. But the good amongst us take ownership of our mistakes and learn from them. When your behaviour and commentary is consistently awful, and you learn nothing, then they’re not mistakes. You meant what you said and stand by what you did.

All of them have made good and even great music throughout their lives – except Gallagher, who is a total hack and glorified busker who got lucky. Many of them have stood as representation for the working class, or the outsider, or kickstarted their youth, or said “shit” and “fucker” on TV once in 1977. So they mean something to people. But it is important not to put them on a pedestal that is impossible to live up to.

Aside from this, they are all now irrelevant to where popular culture is in 2020. Few artists like these are just flat out not charting anymore. Which makes it even sadder – old men complaining like Grandpa Simpson, desperate to be relevant.

As an epilogue, the extra twist is that of all the people to hold them accountable, it is Jedward who seem to be taking the lead, owning them all consistently on Twitter with a genuinely biting wit.

People are as surprised by this as they are by their heroes being twats. But should they be? It should be obvious to anyone with the ability to think that Jedward have been playing a role. They’re in their late 20s, do you really think they’re the big kids they pretend to be? It’s a brand, one that was concocted by the X Factor producers and that they have successfully maintained for over a decade.

With the exception of One Direction and possibly glorified Butlins blue coat Olly Murs, they’ve maintained a successful post-X Factor career more than pretty much any other alumni. You don’t do that if you’re not savvy.

So, if there is one thing we can say about these unprecedented times, it’s that those in the public eye – whether they’re celebrated or maligned – are showing who they really are.