Sunday, July 03, 2005

It was twenty years ago today...

I spent most of today in a semi-daze, due to a lack of sleep after watching the G8 concert into the small hours. Not live in Hyde Park obviously. My days of standing up in a field for 10 hours, hemmed in by a crowd of swaying teenagers and being deafened by an array of state-of-the-art amplification are over. To be honest, it was never really my thing. I’ve only been to two outdoor gigs. One was Paul McCartney Live at the Liverpool Docks and the other was watching our school Wind Band play in the International School Orchestra competition at the Liverpool Garden Festival. Not exactly Woodstock, is it? I even sold my tickets for the Cambridge Folk Festival at the last minute. In the days before Ebay, when selling concert tickets wasn’t deemed despicable. But I was intent on at least watching Live 8 on the box. If only to see if it lived up to my memories of Live Aid. It may be a cliché, but it really was a seminal moment of my childhood. I was never a huge fan of Queen, but Freddy Mecury was a demi-god in my eyes after that concert.

I mentioned this to a colleague on Friday; I told her that, ending world poverty aside, my main motivation for watching was to see how it compared to Live Aid. I asked her if she thought it would be as good.
“I wouldn’t know” she replied, “I didn’t see the original.”
I was horrified. “How can you not have seen the original?? Everyone saw the original”
“I didn’t” she said “I was two”.
Two!? I am working with a woman who was two in 1985?! If I’d wanted to work with children I’d have gone into teaching. And she’s not alone. Another colleague let slip, just before Charles and Camilla’s wedding, that she was born AFTER his wedding to Diana. How is that possible? No-one was born after Charles and Di’s wedding. Apart from William and Harry of course. And they’re hardly likely to get a job in my office. Or indeed, any office.

I couldn’t see the entire concert. I had to dip in and out as Scrappino insisted on playing Game of Life with me. And he hates pop music so I couldn’t even have it on in the background while we played. But once I’d finally managed to get him to bed at 8.00 pm I was able to sit back and enjoy the final couple of hours. It was a tremendous achievement. Normally he’s not in bed until 9.30 at the earliest. And the concert was a terrific achievement too. I know his idea of sending a flotilla of dinghies to France to pick up people to take to Edinburgh was a bit wacky. But Saint Bob’s ability to galvanise public opinion and highlight a situation thousands of miles away, that otherwise we’d not give a damn about, has to be applauded. I know the cynics doubt the concert will have much of a concrete effect. But the very fact that everyone is talking about Africa is a result in itself. The papers are full of Africa this morning. The sentence that caught my eye was this. It will cost the world 3 billion dollars to educate every child on the planet. Which is roughly the same as the USA spends every year on ice cream. How bad do you feel now?

Actually, I shouldn’t really call him Saint Bob. I don’t think he is a saint. He’s too vulgar and in-yer-face and earthy to be a saint. I was chatting to friends on Saturday morning and we decided that actually Bob is not a saint at all. He’s a prophet. In the traditional Old Testament fire-and-brimstone sense of the world. Consider the evidence. He looks and dresses a bit odd. He expects people to behave in a way that is, at first glance, either ridiculous or impossible. But on closer inspection you realise that actually he’s not talking nonsense at all, and you could emulate his ideals, if you put your mind to it. He screams at us in an uncontrollable, almost insane manner, but what he’s saying is uncomfortably true. It’s just terribly unpalatable. If Elijah was alive today I reckon there’s every chance he’d also wear ill fitting jackets, never wash his hair and tell us to ‘give me your f**king money’. Or something like that.

The highlight of the concert, for me, was seeing the ‘Who’s gonna drive you home’ video from Live Aid and remembering the horror of the Ethiopian famine from twenty years ago. When they brought on stage the beautiful woman who had survived the famine and introduced her to the crowd against the backdrop of her own emaciated face as a starving child I welled up. Granted, it doesn’t take much to make me cry. But that was a truly moving moment. Less moving was Madonna’s confession, in an interview after her (admittedly brilliant) set that she had never been to Africa. She qualified this statement by reassuring us that she knew people who had been so she was very aware of what was going on. But I couldn’t help thinking, what a waste. I mean, what is the point of earning 200 million and being the most famous woman on the planet if you don’t put that money and fame to some altruistic good? What has she been doing for the last twenty years? There has to be more to life than vogue and papa don’t preach.

My first (musical) love remains the Beatles, so I was delighted to see that Paul McCartney hasn’t lost it. His voice didn’t quite carry over the electric guitars, but I sang along, in my flat, to the Hey Jude chorus. And I couldn’t help smiling when Pink Floyd, average age 59 and with faces looking the worse for years of drug abuse, sang “What do you do when your heroes turn to ghosts?” I’d always taken the lyric to be a rhetorical question, but watching their drug addled and wrinkled faces staring at me, I half expected the crowd to shout back “You have turned into bloody ghosts”. I can’t claim to be a huge Floyd fan. In fact, if I’m honest, Brick in the Wall is the only song I really know. And I’ve never much liked it, ever since I once had a cup of tea in a filthy greasy spoon café in Manchester and saw the thirty-odd year old waiter wiping down a table and singing along to the track on the radio. As he mopped up spilt coffee with his dirty sponge and sang ‘We don’t need no education’ I remember thinking to myself, actually, an education might have been a good idea, don’t yer think??

But the highlight of the weekend for me was the return of my good friend P, who is back in the UK after her great US adventure. It’s been a long three months. It seemed fitting that she came back this weekend. She was part of my seminal Live Aid moment. Everyone remembers where they saw that concert. Well, those of us who weren’t two at the time. And I watched it, with P and her Grandma, at her Grandma’s flat. We laughed as we had to tell her who each of the acts were, and looked at each other as if to say ‘how can you not know who Paul Young is??’ I didn’t feel quite as smug yesterday as I tried to work out who the hell the Kaiser Chiefs are. Twenty years is a long time in popular music. But not quite as long as three months when your oldest friend is away from home. So you’ll forgive me if I take this opportunity to welcome P home. It’s great to have her back.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found your blog, and must tell you how much I enjoy both the intelligence and humour in your posts...fantastic!

6:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You brought all the nostalgia back, let alone reminding me how old i am. x

8:59 am  

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