It’s Good To Be Back (not)

I’m not absolutely sure how this current stream of consciousness will end, but a funny thing happened to me while walking through Prague last weekend with Mrs Emu.

I heard a song I couldn’t quite place. Then, the horrible dawning that it was Gary Glitter singing, rather ironically, about wanting me to be in his gang.

So a number of things struck me, all in a very short space of time:
– for a fleeting moment, just before I realised what the song was, I enjoyed it, thinking ‘I’ve not heard this for a while’…
– then very quickly chastised myself for enjoying the work of someone who, let’s face it, is a pretty despicable individual…
– then felt slightly miffed that the person in the shop with the music on hadn’t realised that civilised people just don’t listen to GG any more for very good reason….
– then began to wonder the degree to which we should separate or integrate what we think of people with their artistic output…

Which is where I got a bit stuck. So we just don’t hear anything by the Glitter Band any more , which is kind of understandable, up to the point at which we deny people the pleasure of listening to some fantastic glam rock self-deprecation.

At the other extreme, we listen innocently enough to music that, for all we know, might be being played by Nazi sympathisers, Paedophiles, or…well, actually most other things are pretty ok in Rock n Roll.

Sometimes a terrible dawning hits you like a brick after you’ve been enjoying the music, then you feel obliged to discard, or end up listening to it with an apologetic grimace. To my knowledge, this has happened to me three times in my listening career (Herbert von Karajan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, seeing as you ask), and I genuinely find it difficult to listen to those artists any more without thinking of their political or moral views. But I’m probably enjoying listening to output produced by even more extreme individuals without knowing it.

So maybe we should just completely separate the political from the music. But then we wouldn’t have Bessie Smith, Woody Guthrie or Billy Bragg, and the world would be a worse place for that.

So, as I say, I’m stuck in this stream. I rather fear that the answer will be that we should always have an eye on the alignment of the artist’s views, but there’s probably a degree of forgiveness along the madness/genius axis. Which still doesn’t help your correspondant, who ironically has just found himself tapping his feet along to Rockin’ Robin by Michael Jackson…which is a fantastic song that I’d really like to recommend, but…


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