Sunday 26 January 2020

Our Haiti single is the best -- so look out, Simon

A word with the angels led to a miracle in the studio, says Victoria Mary Clarke

Is it wrong to be happy when other people are suffering? I should re-phrase that question. Is it wrong to be happy as a result of other people's suffering?

I am thinking specifically of all the people in Haiti who lost their lives, their loved ones, their homes, their possessions, their hope. And of how, because of what happened to them, I am having one of the most fun, most exciting moments of my life and feeling that there is no place in the world I would rather be than right here right now, feeling that if I died tonight, I would die happy. Surely this cannot be right?

Perhaps I should explain. I am happy because I am in a recording studio watching Shane MacGowan recording the Screaming Jay Hawkins song I Put a Spell On You, with Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie, Chrissie Hynde, Glen Matlock, Mick Jones and a host of other really great musicians. Listening to them and watching them work makes me think there must be a God, and He must be a good God, to have created such awe-inspiring creatures as these, (not to mention Johnny Depp who will be adding his guitar solo afterwards).

But if there is a God, and if He is that good, what's he thinking when really bad things happen, like the recent earthquake in Haiti? And not just those things. We are bombarded by bad news on a daily basis. Normally, it seems like there is a balance of good and bad in the world. But for me, the Haiti disaster was overwhelmingly depressing.

The sight of all those little children wandering around with nothing and nobody, the sheer horror of what happened in Haiti, made me want to switch off, to not feel anything at all for them, I felt so powerless to help.

Whenever things get really bad in my life, I generally take a chance on asking the angels if there is anything they can do to help. So I asked them what they thought about Haiti. And they said quite simply: "Don't think about what you can't do, think about what you can do, and you may be surprised."

Shortly after I had asked this question, Shane and I were watching the news, and they were talking about Simon Cowell and how he was doing a cover of Everybody Hurts for Haiti. I said to Shane, "You could do a single. You could do I Put A Spell on You. It would be better than what Simon Cowell does." He said yes, he could and yes, it would. We decided to ask Nick Cave and Bobby Gillespie to sing it with him. And now here we are in the studio, less than a week later, and it is actually happening.

I am not sure if the desire to compete with Simon Cowell is indeed a suitable motivation to make a charity single. I am not sure if charity should be about competition. And I can't help wondering, as I watch these amazing musicians, if I wanted this to happen for purely selfish reasons -- just so I could get to be here and to hear them make a great record.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but to me it seems that the desire to be charitable is not always entirely altruistic. I did feel ridiculously smug when Chrissie Hynde pretended to play pool with me for Channel Four News, and when I got to watch the Big Brother final with Mick Jones.

There are many surprising human qualities that have emerged in the course of getting this thing to happen. Never have I seen Shane get his act together so fast, and never have I seen him do such an enthusiastic performance as he is doing right now. And not only that, he got to the recording studio on time -- which is a record in itself.

The fact that all Shane and I had last week when we embarked on this was an idea and some musicians; the fact that we did not have a recording studio, or a producer or a label to release the single until last night; the fact that we didn't have permission to use the song until this morning -- these hurdles have been swiftly decimated by Gerry O'Boyle, the maestro who has organised every aspect of this event with a level of genius that would terrify Brian Cowen. And all with no budget whatsoever. Running Ireland would be a piece of cake for Gerry.

As I am writing this, the initial rough mix has been edited, Johnny Depp has done his guitar part and there has even been a documentary made about the proceedings.

All we have to do now is release the single, promote the hell out of it and hope we beat Simon Cowell.

But even as I am thinking that, I am listening to his track Everybody Hurts and I realise that it is not so bad, it is even quite pleasant. It's just very different to our one. But our one is a million times better.

I am still very sad for the people in Haiti. But not depressed. Because I realised that even if terrible things happen in the world every day, these tragedies offer endless opportunities to see what you can do.

And the angels were right: it can be surprising in a good way what happens as a result.

Sunday Independent

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