Thursday, 25 January 2007

'Older and wiser' sounds good, so why does it hurt so much?

Driving into town, I'm listening to an ancient cassette tape of Iggy Pop's 'Lust For Life' album. Parking in the Claddagh, I walk up past the river singing Iggy's lyrics out loud.
It feels good to spend a few moments reliving those dangerous fast and hot days of youth, but now there is shopping to be done, pies to be bought, and -
No! No please no!
As I walk into Marks and Spencers food department, my ears catch the tune playing on the muzak: Iggy Pop's 'Lust For Life'.
Please universe, say it ain't so.
Yes, I know Dublin Bus, along with countless others, have plundered the album's 'The Passenger' track for their TV commercial, yet that made sense in a monetary and lyrical way.
But surely that voice cannot belong to James Osterberg, a.k.a. Iggy Pop, wild frontman of blood and guts pre-punk band the Stooges and their teeth-shreddingly brilliant album 'Raw Power', who before my eyes threw himself onto a bed of broken glass on stage.
I do not accept it.
It must be a muzak session band spinning covers. Iggy couldn't have sold his soul to muzak.
When the female backing singers jump in with their inimitable chirrup, I know it's the real thing.
As I sort through the purple sprouting broccoli, Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' is playing, which already sounds like muzak anyway.
Whilst checking out the pies, I'm singing along to The Jam's 'Going Underground', and having a rather lovely time.
Punk was not born so that middle-aged men in tweed coats can have a rather lovely time whilst choosing pies in Marks and Sparks, but fair play to the marketing industry.
If they are trying to reach their target customers, they have scored a direct hit with me.
By the time I reach the cash register, The Clash's Joe Strummer is singing about whether he should stay or he should go nowwww.
I cannot stop myself from becoming a tad guttural and cockney as I sing along, interspersing pathetic attempts to appear musical with breaks to make pleasant conversation about the weather with the checkout lady.
Sure and doesn't that wind get on your nerves?
And haven't we had it for weeks now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
Deep inside me there is a burgeoning sadness. I'm not upset about being out of touch. I'm not sure I could tell a Kaiser Chief from an Arctic Monkey, and I wouldn't be the man to turn to if you wanted to separate yer Shakiras from yer Anastasias. Hopefully, today's youth are out there listening to music I neither appreciate nor understand, because teenagers should be desperate to take refuge from the tyranny of old farts such as myself.
'Lust For life' was released 30 years ago, in 1977. If the teenager I was then were to be presented with music from thirty years before that, I would be forced to listen to Bing Crosby's 'Whiffenpoof Song', and that other major 1947 hit, Doris Day's 'Papa Won't You Dance with Me?'
So why am I upset?
Simply because these days I find it impossible to summon up the linear black-and-white passion that I enjoyed in those days. Driven by a certainty that I was right about everything; that Socialism and Punk Music were the only things that mattered, I argued and pogoed and sweated and sniffed and drank, just as you're supposed to do at 17 years of age.
The idea of being older and wiser sounds great doesn't it? I understand more than I did back then, but far from making me feel happy, I now yearn for the times when Right and Wrong lived at opposite ends of the street.
Thankfully, I still hold dear the same ideals, nurture the same beliefs and sense of social justice, but along with wisdom has come cynicism.
Wisdom can be defined as the marriage of two essential ingredients: knowledge and experience. Alone each is powerful, yet together they offer a snapshot of understanding.
This understanding brings with it the knowledge that whilst people are essentially good, we are also massively selfish. Every day we listen to horror stories of hospital patients waiting for weeks on trolleys in A & E departments, because there are no beds or no nurses.
The Irish people complain constantly about the dreadful state of their health service, yet come election time they will vote for Fianna Fail all over again, because, as US Democratic Party strategist James Carville famously said years ago,. 'It's the economy stupid'.
Unless it's your granny dying of cancer with inadequate medical care, or your wife or child waiting interminable lengths of time in Accident and Emergency departments, you prefer your HD TVs to your NHS; your DVD players to CT Scanners; your PCs to M.R.I.s.
My heart breaks for Ireland as I watch the feeding frenzy surrounding the maturing of all those SSIAs. The Celtic Tiger has eaten up the sick, old and infirm, vomiting out millions of Euros in freebie government payments to those lucky few who could afford to participate in these saving schemes.
I'm not saying that Fine Gael, Labour or the Green Party present a better alternative. I am saying that the next election is already all but won, with a massive vote for the status quo, in the form of a government who gave away millions to those with SSIAs.
Fianna Fail know that, given the opportunity to choose between your own pocket and your Health Service, you'll choose the SSIA handouts and a new patio over the beds and wards, doctors and nurses every time.
For the first time ever, Ireland has billions of Euro to spare in the Exchequer's purse, but instead of demanding what truly matters, you line your nests and devil take the hindmost.
The teenage punk that I used to be has become a tempered pragmatist who accepts that for most of you, looking after Number One is the order of the day. The Health Service will die before people take the trouble to look beyond their perceived needs and wants.
Somehow I don't believe that the Irish will vote for change, or demand massive investment in what really matters.
Mind you, if The Clash can become supermarket muzak, anything can happen.
Sure, and maybe I'll do a little pogo to the Ramones, but not in Marks and Sparks Menswear Department, if you don't mind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

By email, from Hugo in Galway:

m&s the totally new shop for music sarcasim.welcome to the world where our wee brains have bin mangled and shat on,music where we based our ideals on have become supermarket fodder.revolution what fuckin revolution?hey the spring rolls taste better here the pizzas cost more but hey you got to pay 4what you pay. all those spits,long nights,bar room discussions,fingers up,nights of pain and issolation,reading and poetry etc fuckin etc to find out we are mainstream normal.....hey fuck at least their listening to us now..