Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Every time Bono or Sean Penn open their stupid mouths - blame John Lennon!

Sean Penn has been in Argentina to demand that Britain hand back the Falklands. Apparently it's time we gave up our ridiculous colonial attitides (although, as someone pointed out, Penn hasn't yet offered to hand back his Malibu home to Mexico). Whenever some ghastly multi-millionaire entertainer opens their big fat gob to demand that the world rearranges itself politically in order to make them feel better about themselves, I’m reminded of John Lennon.

Before this cosmically self-obsessed musical genius, drug addict and all-round nasty piece of work hooked up with Okay Yoni and decided his album sales justified him telling voters, politicians and religious leaders how to go about healing the world, celebrities occasionally endorsed politicians or supported a particular religious or cause, but they themselves tended to retain a sense of perspective, and the media – and the rest of us – tended not to pay much attention to their fits of self-righteousness. Bono, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Bob Geldof – with their arrogance, monomania, self-regard and fascistic, anti-Democratic tendencies – are truly John Lennon’s children.

If I sound irritated, it’s because I adored John Lennon as a musician and, no doubt foolishly, often felt let down by him as a man. His treatment of his first wife and their son was scandalous, his political posturing was nauseating, his “Lost Weekend” interlude with Harry Nilsson was horribly tawdry, and “Imagine” is hypocritical and childish and still feeding the fantasies of liberal droolers everywhere. Yet “Instant Karma”, “Cold Turkey” the  Plastic Ono Band LP, “Jealous Guy”, “In My Life” and "Strawberry Fields" are all wonderful. 

I was reminded of just how great the Plastic Ono Band LP was while watching a Sky Arts Classic Albums programme about the making of it last night. The combination of Lennon’s voice, Ringo’s drumming (no, honestly – he was never better), Klaus Voorman’s bass and a sparse, stripped-down, echo-drenched production hit me like a fist when I bought the album during a few days after its release in 1970. It was just very different. The fact that my copy of it is scratched to buggery is a testament to how often I played it at the time.

Of course, each mention of Yoko’s name was like a dentist’s drill hitting an exposed nerve without benefit of novocaine, “Working Class Hero” was silly and false (Lennon’s Menlove Avenue home was solidly lower middle class), but there were some beautiful tunes, and the Primal Scream rawness of some of the singing was exciting to a seventeen year old - and still hits the spot 42 years later. Altogether, a masterpiece of that era (up there with The Band’s eponymous second album and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s eponymous first album).

Thanks to Lennon’s anti-Vitenam War posturing and his Bed-Ins and sending back his MBE and “Give Peace A Frigging Chance” and the albums he’d made with the pretentious banshee he’d fallen for, I’d almost given up on him, but the power of the Plastic Ono Band LP temporarily blew all the doubts away. Unfortunately, if he’d been a bit of a prat before the album, he became a world-class, Olympic Gold-winning prat afterwards. His highly-publicised agit-prop anti-American shenanigans following the USA’s incomprehensible decision to grant him citizenship (what were they thinking?) represented an appalling example of ingratitude, that silly cap he took to wearing (see above) made me want to push his face in, and each album proved even worse than the last (“Woman is the Nigger of the World” anyone?), culminating in a spectacular clunker of a final “comeback” LP.

But even now I’d be prepared to forgive him for all the bollocks if he hadn’t created the template for the activist entertainer. 

Nevertheless, I'll leave you with the lovely, delicate, folky "Look At Me":


  1. I wonder whether there's a correlation here. I don't own a U2 album but those who do tell me that they haven't made anything worth listening to for years - about the same period as Bono has been giving us the gift of his political genius. The political double album Lennon made with Elephant's Memory (has there ever been a worse band) is unrecognisable as being from the same source as Strawberry Fields. Not sure if the theory works for Sean Penn. Was he ever any good?

  2. As they said about Michael Schumacher : "A great driver, but a shit human being". The irony is that many of these unbearable people are really rather good at their art. And then you have poor old Bob Geldoff whose ravings are really about his own complete lack of musical talent. Mind you, I shouldn't really comment on such musical matters as I get confused between the Boomtown Rats and Thin Lizzy and to me U2 remains a spy plane and the Fu..[the editor has redacted this comment].

    Your post is spot on.

  3. I'm fascinated, SDG. Was the redacted comment going to be 'The Fugs' "It Crawled into my Hand, Honest" is the best song title of all time. Please end the speculation.

  4. I can clear this up. The song is "The Fugging Duke of Edinburgh" [the Michael Jackson version]. I am a great fan of this blog and especially "The Fumigators". Have you ever thought of doing your version of Peter and Gordon's "World without Love" or Jonathon King's song about the moon [the title eludes me]?

  5. Ex-KCS, I think what happens is that when actors and pop stars get sated by all the popular acclaim, they cast about for activties which will afford them even more adulation, including respect from people who don't care for their music. Some activist actors can go on producing decent performances, because they have directors and scripts to save them from themselves, but pop stars have more creative control over their output, and therefore a new-found mania for liberal posturing means inevitable artistic decline.

    Mind you, Sean Penn was always a lousy actor.

  6. Bono is pretty silly. Penn is stupid. Lennon was banal. But the first two are so rich they can afford smart-making publicity.