Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Shhh. I'm going to tell you a secret. Don't tell all your friends that I told you because they might hate you. And me. Okay?

Aretha Franklin is a big bag of piss. Her throat is a urethra and her mouth is a piss slit, gushing out loads of effluent and spraying anyone in the ear who gets too close.

That's an even less polite way of saying the thing that can be summed up thus: My God. I hate Aretha Franklin. She really is toss.

I think it was John Peel who mistakenly called her Urethra Franklin on Top of The Pops in the 80s. It might have been Mike Reid or Paul Gambuccini or David "Kid" Jensen. But I think it was John Peel and I think it was probably not really a mistake, if I'm honest. John Peel knew a thing or two about music, so I reckon he thought Aretha was a big bag of piss too. And a urethra empties a big bag of piss, doesn't it? Nah - I reckon he meant it.

What? You want me to qualify all that? Okay then.

There are of course exceptions. Aretha's performance of "Don't Play That Song" is stunning. Crystal clear. She hits every note with the most wonderful clarity. She's generous to the song - it's clear she loves it - and she wants it to shine through. "Think" is pretty darn lovely too. I'm sure there are other exceptions, but most of her work provokes a response in me far worse than fingernails down a blackboard - I haven't been able to bring myself to delve deep enough to find anymore hidden gems. So - now we've got that out of the way, let's get down to some serious hating.

Firstly, despite the fact that Aretha has got a fine set of lungs on her, she doesn't sing. She screams. In every performance I have heard (apart from the aforementioned "Don't Play That Song", the title of which seems increasingly ironic) she caterwauls so badly and so randomly that the songs just disappear. Take, for example, "I Say A Little Prayer." This song was written for her by two of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century - Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It is the perfect marriage of music (soulful, easy, surprising) and lyrics (at times, pure poetry) - as all the best Bacharach and David songs are. Aretha was lucky to get it. So what does she do. She sings the first half of it pleasantly enough and then...then she just starts to SCREAM! And so you've got this beautiful Burt Bacharach piano groove going on with some mad woman having hysterics over the top of it. Aretha does this all the time. Even on "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" - you have Annie Lennox - her voice is deep, round and genuinely soulful. She's able to improvise around the melody and yet still manage to communicate a sense of what that melody is to the listener. Aretha just makes a horrible, horrible noise. At times it's genuinely like the gearbox crunching on a bus.

Secondly, she is responsible for the song "Respect". This song deserves only one response and that is this. "Bitch, PLEASE!" You want to know what this song is? It's the aural equivalent of Bodyform sanitary towels. It's a Diet Coke break. It's the Weighwatchers PurePoints programme. It's Terry's Chocolate Orange. It's skimmed milk. It's a compilation album called "Songbird". It's Take A Break magazine. It's Karen Millen. It's an article in Cosmo about how shit men are. It's Bridget fucking Jones' twatting Diary. To put it another way - this song represents that horrible media image of women as man hating, dieting, lazy self centred dickheads who don't want much - they just want to feed their shoe habit, be a size 8, eat loads of chocolate and, oh yeah, they just want a little respect too. Aretha never says why she feels she deserves respect - she just says she's about to give someone all of her money and she wants the profits in return. Way to go, sister.

Thirdly she makes some bloody terrible choices. That duet with George Michael was execrable. Who's Zoomin' Who would be considered the lame piece of shit that it really is had it been sung by Paula Abdul or Gloria Estefan (and that is anything but outside the realms of possibility - just listen to it!)

Anyway - I am sure Aretha is a lovely human being. I bet she'd be damn interesting to talk to. But I sense no pain in her screeching - not like in that of Etta James or Tina Turner. I just hear cash registers ringing. And that's always guaranteed to turn me right off.

Don't play that song again.

Next time: Bob Dylan off!!

Friday, 4 January 2008


This is the story of how Jason Donovan nearly ruined my life...

In 1989 I turned 18. For about a year before that I had been pretending to stay at my mate Ste's house every weekend so we could rehearse with our band, I've Got The Drugs Madam. In reality, I've Got The Drugs Madam was me and a few mates messing about and what I was really doing was catching the train to Liverpool to get absolutely roraring drunk in gay clubs in a clumsy teenage attempt to get laid.

I've known I was gay since I was about five. Don't ask me how I knew because it was a weird mix of non-specific feelings that I had. But I just KNEW. And when I was sixteen I started to admit it to a select bunch of people. It took me quite a while before I could admit it to everyone. But, anyway, this is not a coming out story, so enough of that!

Everyone knows Kylie Minogue. And everyone knows that homos love her. She has lasted the distance. But when Kylie was first starting out her boyfriend was Jason Donovan, her co-star in Neighbours (the Aussie soap that we used to bunk off school to watch until they started showing it at 5:30pm too). And Jason fancied a bit of pop superstardom too, so he signed up with Stock Aitken and Waterman (Kylie's production team at the time) and launched a bid for world domination. It looked for a while like it might work - his single, Too Many Broken Hearts, was actually number one in the charts on my 18th birthday. That cunt.

See, the thing is, homos at the time were absolutely obssessed with him. They loved his softly square jaw, his floppy blonde hair and his cute little ass. His videos would play in every gay club I went to. Every free gay magazine that I hid under my mattress had him on the cover or elsewhere in its pages. He was everywhere, like proverbial shit in a field.

There was a big problem, though. I absolutely fucking hated him. His music sucked balls. He was creepily clean cut looking and I found him, to be honest, pretty repulsive. I liked men. Men with beer guts and beards and big arms and legs and gruff voices. And this started to worry me because, in Liverpool, it seemed as though there was no-one else alive that liked the same things that I did. Even my best friends loved Jason. I actually began to wonder whether I was really gay at all.

Let me repeat that. I actually began to wonder whether I was really gay at all.

So I pretended to like Jason Donovan. I even stuck a picture of him on my bedroom wall (only a little one, and it was on the other side of the piano where I couldn't see it most of the time, but it was there nonetheless) as a way of proving to myself that I really was a proper, fully fledged homo after all. And this seemed to work. It was harmless, didn't really affect me in any real way and, in a vague fashion, reassured me that I could grow up liking men.

Then something happened. I met someone called Mark who went to theatre school in Liverpool (oh, you faggots!) I found him fascinating. He was into Talking Heads and They Might Be Giants (who no-one except me was into at the time - this was even before Birdhouse In Your Soul). He read Sylvia Plath and Thomas Hardy. He was the same age as me, but he had his own flat (on the same street John Lennon had grown up in) and didn't speak to his parents anymore. He had a double bed and loads of us would be allowed to get completely fucked up on booze and weed and then crash out on it.

And he would secretly wank me off under the covers while we were all there.

And he was desperate to be my boyfriend.

And he looked just like (and I mean JUST like) Jason Donovan. Aw, shoot!

I gamely resisted for quite a long time. Thing is, I liked him a lot. We made each other laugh and we always felt invincible together when we were staggering through Toxteth at 2am. At Jodie's, the club we used to go to, we were known as a very strange double act. Me, the strange little indie kid in paisley shirts and Smiths T-Shirts, and Mark, the prettiest boy in the club who everyone wanted to do. But they couldn't, because he was too busy getting me and him off our heads on pills and trying to do me. But I resisted. And then I resisted some more. And, after a while, I started to feel like my resolve couldn't hold out forever and I would have to be his boyfriend or lose him.

And then fate intervened.

It was the weekend after my 18th birthday. We were there at Jodie's as usual, celebrating. Probably dancing to Jason Donovan when I felt someone rubbing up against me. This was Phil. he was 36, taller than me, with a beard and a beer belly. He told me he wanted to take me home and do bad things to me. He actually said "do bad things to you". I didn't let him, of course. But I did nosh him off in the bogs. And Mark knew I did. And never spoke to me again.

Which sort of broke my heart. But it did prove to me that I was a proper gay after all. And I took all the pictures off my bedroom wall and replaced them with my own paintings. And never looked back.

And now? Now my boyfriend is called Mark. And he looks absolutely nothing like Jason Donovan. So, try as he might, Jason was not able to ruin my life. Though he got repaid in spades for trying. He went on to sue The Face magazine for saying he was gay. The magazine went out of business as a result of it. But he ended up looking like a rampant and lunatic homophobe and everyone hated him after that.

And, in case you were wondering, I DO have a favourite Kylie song. It's Come Into My World. I think it's lovely.

Enjoy the silence.