James Brown was presented with his award by Jazzy B, “the genius behind the legendary Soul II Soul” crowed the otherwise likeable Dermot O’Leary. If our memory serves us correctly, Soul II Soul were, for about six months. The Teletubbies have since spent more weeks in the singles chart. The ancient Brown no longer impresses; he can’t even do that mic stand trick any more.
Led Zeppelin received a tribute from the White Stripes’ Jack White who bared his unnaturally stunted front teeth that resembled a herd of albino gazelle cowering in the pink, flowering undergrowth from a pride of lions. (While on the subject, Steve Tyler of Aerosmith’s mouth seems to be widening at the same rate as the ozone layer over the South Pole.) Wolfmother were herded in to perform a Led Zeppelin track. Yes, that’s Wolfmother the sorry gobbet of saliva and blood swinging pendulously from rock music’s split lower lip after taking a facial battering from the juggernaut of record company-endorsed fakery.
Dusty Springfield died in 1990, but had done very little that was recalled here since the late 60s/early 70s. But we still appreciate her right to be inducted.
Sir George Martin was inducted because he produced The Beatles, but he also worked with Celine Dion, which is like Benito Mussolini convincing St Peter to admit him entry to Heaven because he got the trains to run on time while ignoring the small matter of his brutal fascist rule.
Rod Stewart epitomises that thing where a hero of a previous generation is allowed to get away with disgorging the most banal, worthless junk because of their former glories. The Faces could have been the greatest group of the early 70s, writing hit after life-affirming hit, but anyone who wasn’t around then just thinks: “Rod f***ing Stewart, we are f***ing sailing, do you f***ing thin I’m f***ing sexy and the retired-to-f***ing-stud American f***ing Songbook atrocities.” Guess which camp we’re in.
Rod did amusingly drop his award as he spoke from Los Angeles, in between offering some fatherly, but disturbingly sinister advice to James Morrison, a singer truly of Rod’s bloodline who will have his CDs re-issued in the run-up to Christmas with “bonus tracks and free DVD” from now until eternity.
Brian Wilson did write some of the best songs of the 60s, and performed some of them at the ceremony. But he still looks rather haunted and statuesque like one of those photographs in which the subject is captured in a perfect freeze frame while all around them the blurred world busily carries on. (The woman sitting next to Brian in the audience emerged victorious in the Biggest Sun Glasses = Smallest Talent Award ahead of Bono, Richard Ashcroft and Prince, as she looked as if she had just stopped off momentarily on the way to her day job as a spot welder.)
During Brian’s tribute film, hat-obsessed U2 frontman Bono popped up to deliver twin prize roast swinging bollocks of philosophy. “The genius of his music is the joy that’s in it,” he began, as if believing each syllable he uttered was chipping away at the dark shroud that surrounds the most profound mysteries of human existence. “I know Brian believes in angels; I do too, but to listen to the string arrangement on God Only Knows is proof of angels.”
Bon Jovi Dave Stewart shambled up on stage to deliver the usual banalities in the sort of tone a life-support machine usually emanates to show someone’s dead, before some jarring efforts to put some inflection into his voice.
The tribute was made worse by the woman who was presenting the award with Dave. “You Give Love A Bad Name, Livin’ On A Prayer, Wanted: Dead Or Alive and Bad Medicine are all great songs recognised by people in America, Asia, Australia and, of course, the people of the UK,” she gushed. If Bon Jovi’s spectral, fetid reach is restricted to those territories, then we have never in our lives felt a yearning so great to be an Eskimo sitting in -35C waiting for a seal to emerge from its breathing hole, a teenage militia member in some corrupt African state or even a Canadian.
During Bon Jovi’s performance, Jon would occasionally smile to reveal a set of teeth so white that the Ku Klux Klan might easily select that shade for its spring/summer hoodie collection, while the thirtysomethings in the upper tiers of the audience were all doing that dance that only people over 35 can do when the feet are rooted to the floor while the body sways with the arrhythmic inelegance of an epileptic snake.
Joss Stone She came dressed in the fashion of a photograph of a stylish young woman that has been mischievously manipulated by a 14-year-old with Photoshop. Her long hair was seemed to have been transposed from a waterfall of blood gushing out of Castle Dracula, while her dress appeared to have been raggedly cut from azure skies by a baboon with scissors. And what made things even worse was that an American accent was creeping through her words like the initial symptoms of rabies.
Prince lectured the audience, the viewers and, if could have his way, the whole world that “music does come from God and as soon as we realise that we’ll get back to a golden age”. Ah yes, the mythical “golden age”, a ruse promoted spuriously by anyone over the age of 40 who is bitter that they aren’t young any more.
Gordon Brown was jeered when he arrived to induct Sir George Martin into the Hall. We’d like to think those people booing were doing so out of a sense of rage and frustration at the inept foreign policy of the Government, but were resigned to the fact it was more likely to be squalid little motorists incensed that they can’t drive at 90mph anymore because of speed cameras.
But they should have been heckling him after his shockingly self-serving speech. “George was the architect of the most creative period of music that this country has ever seen. I am proud Sir George is the greatest music producer of all time!” he bellowed, which was doublespeak for: “The Beatles were the best, the 60s were the best, anyone who disagrees, well you are just wrong because I said so and it’s true.” And after such a spout of insoluble dogma it’s incredible to think we were more scared of Dr John Reid becoming the next prime minister.
Sharon Osbourne’s Pied Piper of Pap voice coach was in the crowd singing jauntily along to Good Vibrations and God Only Knows, which seemed a little off-key sounding more like the Jim’ll Fix It theme tune played over the rhythm of clopping horses at Trooping the Colour.
Christian O’Connell, who was once the figurehead of XFM but now champions corporate rock, was one of the few faces scraped from the bottom of barrel to praise Bon Jovi. He has truly fallen to the Dark Side.
Al Gore also crawled from the slime to laud Bon Jovi, which almost made the prospect of living in climactic turmoil preferable to being preached at by a washed-up politician desperately courting popularity just so when the Mid-West becomes a desert he can smirk, “I was right!”
The whole shebang was rounded off by Sir George Martin conducting as many cheap credibility props as could be fitted on to the stage such as a full orchestra all pulling their best “I’m totally absorbed by this classical music, wholly to superior to ‘pop’ don’t-you-know” faces; a gospel choir, number two on any self-respecting credibility prop list, sang their hearts out; while sundry music stars both young and old murdered a classic song, in fact they mutilated it beyond all recognition so that even its dental records would have been useless.
And chiefly responsible for the cacophonous homicide was Razorlight’s Johnny Burrell. To the over 40s, he is a curious new life form a gigantic squid-like creature from the deepest depths full of intrigue and mystery shining new light into their dim lives, but anyone under 25 has already seen through him as the decaying blubber of a dead whale not even fit to feed carrion. And the 25-40 year olds? Well, they’ve stuck The Kooks in their car CD player now and so don’t really give a damn.
UK Music Hall of Fame, Channel 4, Thursday 17 November 2005
What to say if you liked it
Contemporary deities, the equivalents of Strauss, Mozart and Bach, take their sacred places in the pantheon of musical history.
What to say if you didn’t like it
While The Last Tommy provided a timely chronicle of World War One veterans before they passed away, here was a nauseating hive of worthless historical mayflies before they quickly pass into oblivion.
What was good about it?
• Jamie Cullum’s peculiar hair. Deciphering the convoluted styling – which ranges from on the top of his head, where locks seem to be clawing at his forehead like a mountaineer scrabbling his way back onto an icy ledge with a pickaxe, to his temples, where the strands are spread-eagled as if hit by a meteor – provides a beguiling salvation from listening to him play his own, or anybody else’s, music.
• The wonderful Arcade Fire’s Wake Up being used to announce June Sarpong and Michael Johnson. It should be the Christmas Number One, or rather it shouldn’t given that that once venerated honour has been adulterated by portly wizened snowmen like Louis Walsh. If this was truly the UK Music Hall of Fame, an effigy of Walsh should have been burning at the stake on one side of the stage.
• Despite now looking like a grotesque character from Little Britain, the film on Aretha Franklin showed why she was a worthy inclusion to the Hall of Fame.
• Mick Jagger, who seems to have developed a set of working gills on his right cheek.
• Dermot O’Leary did what he could with a pretty humourless script, and managed to be charismatic and likeable despite the audience’s audible apathy.
• The Jimi Hendrix film did possess the artificial ambience of a corporate video, but his undeniably wondrous talent with the guitar perforated the suffocating plastic bag of rehearsed platitudes.
• The clips of Ian Curtis dancing during She’s Lost Control are still thrilling and disturbing.
• During his tribute to Pink Floyd in their film, Pete Townshend mindlessly added the banality “I wish I was there with you”, before realising that he actually would be there in the hall with them.
• AC/DC guitarist Angus Young, not in his schoolboy garb, shaking so much as he read the homage to Black Sabbath he appeared to have been caught in the juddering reverberations of one of his own guitar riffs.
• The Kinks’ songs have aged remarkably well. Waterloo Sunset, All Day And All Of The Night and Lola still sound fresh and vibrant.
What was bad about it?
• Jamie Cullum’s performance of Aretha Franklin’s music. The man is a human diluting machine, watering down anything he touches to a state palatable to the undemanding masses (i.e. anyone who owns Life For Rent, Jagged Little Pill, Back To Bedlam, Brothers In Arms or Be Here Now) like an aqueous King Midas.
• The Gospel Choir herded into the studio to add senseless credibility to the Aretha Franklin tribute.
• Bob Geldof who recited the pre-prepared eulogy to the Eurhythmics like a firing squad pumping bullets into an already limp corpse.
• Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart wearing sunglasses indoors. They then performed what may have been their new single (well, it was dreary, mediocre and middle-aged), before deigning to play Sweet Dreams, which might have redeemed them somewhat were it not for pre-ordered vocal histrionics from the backing singers.
• Slash receiving a round of applause for lighting a cigarette. He later managed to control his anti-social habit of meandering, indulgent guitar solos right up until the end of the Jimi Hendrix tribute, but ultimately gave in and started his musicians’ masturbation.
• Bob Geldof’s crushing arrogance scaling new heights. “Pete Townshend is the most radical guitarist we’ve ever produced,” he began, not unreasonably, before supporting it with his own objective testament, “And it’s true.”
• Bob Dylan. There should be some sort of societal segregation between those who think Dylan was a genius and those who think he’s an irrelevance. And it should be manifested by those who idolise him not being allowed to use electricity in any shape or form, right down to them having to wrestle open a train door on the Tube.
• The fact that still nobody’s found any lost footage of Joy Division which means Ian Curtis will forever be framed in two live TV performances and the Love Will Tear Us Apart video, all of which briefly featured. Yes, we know about the Here Are The Young Men video, but the celluloid quality is so poor it looks like CCTV footage shot in 1903.
• New Order played the quite good Regret when they could have chosen Thieves Like Us or Bizarre Love Triangle. And Bernard Sumner’s voice is too flat for Love Will Tear Us Apart, Transmission suits him better.
• The incessant camera shots of Lauren Laverne and Edith Bowman. There’s nothing wrong with either of them, but on this evening they were little more than flaxen-haired adornments.
• Almost all of the inductees were very old. The youngest entrants were Joy Division/New Order who were last at their peak in 1989. Where were Radiohead, Nirvana, The Smiths, The Cure, Blur, The Stone Roses or Public Enemy (feel free to add your own post-1980 non-morbid bands)?
• Without his scary mask, Slipknot singer Corey Taylor looks like a lantern-jawed snowboarder.
• Ozzy Osbourne sounded dreadful during the first Black Sabbath song, and Paranoid was only saved from a murky grave by the guitar riffs. He also didn’t help matters by mooning.
• As John Peel’s wife and brother came to the stage, Damon Albarn demanded that “everyone stand for John Peel” when they were already well on their way to their feet making it look as of he commanded the gesture of them.