Donovan had the Maharishi, we have The News
They celebrated 15 years of Sky Sports News last week. Which, as regular readers – or even irregular readers – will be aware, is known in our house simply as The News.
It is on now, as I write. It is on most mornings, and most afternoons. And most evenings too, I will check it out, from time to time.
As I glance up at the screen, which is silent now, I note that the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series, their third title in ten years and the first at Fenway Park since 1918. I see that in cricket, a Western Australia X1 are 369 for 4 against England at the Waca. And now, they're showing last night's penalty shoot-out between Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City in the Capital One Cup.
I can hardly remember what life was like before they invented "The News", I just know that it can't have been much good.
And yet my responses to it can be contradictory. While the rolling news service is exemplary, satisfying that deep yearning in the human heart for knowledge of the draw for the next round of the Scottish Cup, there is a corporate feel to the proceedings, that "smart casual" ambiance which is so deeply wrong.
And perhaps the oddest contradiction is this: an always-on devotion to The News is one of the clearest marks of intelligence that we have. Yet it is also, in some strange way, a mark of unintelligence.
I don't fully understand that, though I know it is true. I guess we must live with it somehow.
* * *
In the 1960s, men such as Donovan couldn't find answers to the big questions just by turning to Channel 405, so they would go to India, to visit the Maharishi, with the Beatles and Mike Love and Mia Farrow.
Of late I have noted that Donovan is reclaiming his rightful place in the story of rock 'n' roll, as any man who was with The Beatles in India is perfectly entitled to do. He appeared on a recent Saturday Night Show explaining his influence on the White Album, demonstrating various chord progressions which he had showed to Paul McCartney.
Indeed, it has become a strong feature of The Saturday Night Show, this practice whereby a guest arrives along with his guitar and, with a bit of persuasion from Brendan, gives us a bit of a tune – the rugby player Damien Varley performed Nancy Spain last week, like a professional (and yes, wiseguys, I mean a professional musician).
As for Donovan, I recall that he played the Purty Loft in Dun Laoghaire circa 1990, during which I overheard one of his disciples saying to another, perhaps not entirely in the spirit of the teachings of the Maharishi: "If he even tries to play some new material, I'll go up there and I'll f*****g kill him".
Yes it's been a mighty long way down rock 'n' roll for Donovan, and while he is right to assert his position, I would just worry that he may go too far.
I happened upon Sunshine Superman, an entertaining documentary on Sky Arts, during which it was said that Donovan "wasn't so much an actor as a great composer of music for film."
And that in the 1970s, he was "still a great concert artist".
The person making these assessments, was Donovan.
* * *
Alistair Campbell, too, has an admirable and entirely justified sense of his own significance, a fact recognised by RTE, which went to the launch of his book and gave it a spot on the main evening news.
He took the opportunity to give credit to politicians who are often criticised, yet who can achieve things such as the peace process. He did not mention all the ones who had done so much to make a peace process necessary in the first place.
Campbell should be above such banalities. He is a football man, who was most interesting last week during his interview with Sean O'Rourke, on the subject of Roy Keane.
He felt an empathy with Keane, because "we're both a bit dry drunkish".
Now Campbell, in the period leading up to the Iraq war, would have been too pre-occupied to know that in this paper, I was making that same point about Keane. It was good to hear it again, 11 years later.