Tuesday 23 April 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Not easy to just airbrush Jacko out of 'History''


'Society can’t simply pretend that one of the most influential figures in 20th-century popular culture never existed.' Image: Reuters/File Photo
'Society can’t simply pretend that one of the most influential figures in 20th-century popular culture never existed.' Image: Reuters/File Photo
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

Michael Jackson was never really on my radar. His talent was unmistakable and though I never resented the gushing acclaim lavished on him, I never properly understood it either.

Bill Shankly once quipped that if Everton were playing in his back garden he'd pull the curtains and I felt much the same about Jacko.

Indeed, I did something very similar. When he performed Cork in July 1988 I was home for the weekend and his gig was within earshot, but I didn't even open the window to let the noise in.

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The revelations in Channel 4's two-part documentary 'Leaving Neverland' were truly shocking, even allowing for what we always suspected.

Only those with the blindest loyalty or deepest emotional attachment to the myth of this oddball entertainer could now defend what is obviously indefensible. Allegations only? Nobody could really believe that any more.

The subsequent cries of condemnation have been vociferous and loud. If people choose, as many will, not to listen to 'Thriller' ever again then that's understandable.

But outright bans?

RTÉ was quick to airbrush Jacko out of all its playlists. It's as if the great pop chameleon had never existed. Donnybrook wasn't the first and is unlikely to be the last.

This week, however, BBC2 has come out and said it doesn't ban artists as a rule, perhaps on the sensible premise that if you banish one star to pop oblivion you should logically start culling so many more.

Appalling hedonistic, vile behaviour has been part and parcel of the rock industry ever since Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown in 1957 and probably before. How old was Priscilla when Elvis began 'dating' her? Fourteen, to be precise.

In the wider world of arts and entertainment you could roll credits for hours shaming glittering stars who lived tawdry private lives, the sort often hinted at in the scandal sheets but revealed in all their sordid glory by dirt-digging biographers after their deaths.

Charlie Chaplin had very peculiar sexual tastes and was obsessed with young girls; Errol Flynn stood trial twice for statutory rape.

Do we need reminding of what Roman Polanski got up to? And on it goes. Endlessly.

None of this is by way of justification, obviously, but if society ever decides to decree that the art we consume must be based on the moral propriety of the artist then we'll be left with the likes of Peig Sayers and 'The Waltons'.

Sound like an enriching cultural diet to you?

Ignore Jackson if you like. Your choice and mine. But society can't simply pretend that one of the most influential figures in 20th-century popular culture never existed. That would be 'Bad'.

There's no chewing the fat with the vegetarians

My beloved is on one of her missions. Her business, of course. We all find salvation in different ways.

But as it's the sort of relationship where we share everything except toothbrushes, this moral crusade will affect me.

She's gone vegetarian, you see. No biggie, except in my opinion we're both too settled in our habits and rituals to be trying new things.

It's not said often enough, but boring is good. My real concern is that as we eat together and share the same shopping list I will be expected to go without red meat too. Except no. I refuse.

The compromise so far is that as she sizzles-up multiple greens on the wok, I side-fry choice diced beef.

It's me putting down a marker, really, and standing tall for all that western civilisation holds holy and sacred. Like juicy burgers. Respect.

Irish Independent

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