Wednesday 19 June 2019

John Masterson: 'Why music is the soundtrack to our lives'

Iconic: Bobby Gillespie
Iconic: Bobby Gillespie

John Masterson

Forget Maria Bailey. There is another enjoyable interview on the internet where the car didn't quite crash and no one was hurt.

Serious journalists get very excited when they have a rock star in front of them instead of a Taoiseach or Boris Johnson. They like to feel cool. Let's face it, we all do. Lots of people will have seen Kirsty Wark interviewing her fellow Scot, Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie on YouTube and all over the place. Gillespie is well known for delivering a thought-provoking one liner and, as usual, he did that. His father was a prominent trade unionist and stood for Labour and Gillespie has an interesting brain - even after the chemical enhancements he admits having regularly administered to it over the years. Palestine is one of his causes.

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All interviews are a performance, even a game. There are roles to be played and conventions to be followed. Usually the interviewer and interviewee agree on the rules. But Gillespie is a one off and he was not playing Wark's game with serious questions on the Middle East which made the whole event very watchable. His game is that he is promoting a new compilation CD and publicity is the oxygen he needed.

Gillespie is a slow, thoughtful speaker and would not get two seconds on TV were it not for our love for watching uneasy interactions with famous people. He is on the circuit getting headlines and one of the things he said in another interview has stayed with me. Gillespie, a rocker who continues to love being one, said that "rock is like Latin, it's a dying language, it's old, it's finished, it really has nothing more to say".

He further went on to observe that there are no sex symbols in rock any more because there is no sex according to him. It is all inward looking, and solipsistic and me, me, me. There was a lot in there and I was sorry that Kirsty did not get that nugget, but in any case she would not have had time to develop it in the shoehorned arty spot at the end.

So is the world being taken over by Ed Sheeran? Being 'in love with the shape of you' is not a lot different from 'seeing her standing there' - but there was a lot more energy in The Beatles. Roger Daltrey sneering that he hoped he would die before he grew old was very 'me' - but it was about the whole generation and it still sounds fresh to me. Thankfully Daltrey, Townshend and indeed Gillespie did not fulfil the entire rock script and overdose in their twenties, but they have grown old and creativity does fall off a cliff when you hit 30. I still love Teenage Kicks, but teenage angst is just that, teenage.

Elvis and Mick Jagger had so much sex appeal that it was frightening. They wouldn't have stayed still long enough to get a tattoo.

Has the scenario of sitting in the bedroom with a few friends excited beyond reason by a new single played over and over become a thing of the past? Will music ever again have the jaw-dropping effect of hearing Pink Floyd for the first time? For me it was Arnold Layne and it was about a man who stole underwear from washing lines and possibly was banned. Nowadays, expletive-filled songs are heard everywhere and there is no shock left. Madonna on the Eurovision? I ask you!

Music is the soundtrack to our lives and it shifts with the decades - and Gillespie was honest in that he just doesn't get much of today's stuff. It was comforting to hear. Neither do I. But I didn't get the Spice Girls and the people who did are flocking to see them again. If it was Abba I would have mortgaged the house for a ticket.

And in a few weeks' time, I will join the faithful to give Bob Dylan one more chance. If he is good enough to come to Kilkenny, it would be rude not to go. As a teenager it was inconceivable that he would visit my city. And will he play his greatest hits and send me home happy? Not a chance.

He will infuriate me. After all, that's his job - and there is life in the old dog yet.

MIND MATTERS

Sunday Independent

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