Robyn Hitchcock – One Long Pair of Eyes

Usually, surreal lyricism isn’t something you associate with beauty.

But Hitchcock always seems to come up with melodies that transform his odd musings into something transcendent.

This is a good example, originally appearing on his 1989 album Queen Elvis.

It is probably not fair to compare him to Syd Barrett, but I can’t help but think this is what Syd might have done had he managed to keep it together and stay in music.

I also highly recommend Madonna of the Wasps from that album, a soaring bit of jangle pop that manages to be indelibly lovely without compromising its otherness.

Van Morrison

Once upon a time, on Twitter, I observed that I wanted to give a copy of Astral Weeks to an architect and tell them to design a home for me that embodied the spirit of that album.

It has been a long time since I listened to that album.

And I suspect I may never listen to it again.

Two weeks ago, Van Morrison announced he was taking legal action against Northern Ireland’s ban on live music due to COVID-19.

This followed on several anti-lockdown recordings he made, and a statement calling out the ‘pseudo-science‘ around COVID-19 that led to the lockdown.

I get that he is frustrated.

A lot of musicians are.

But his songs, his statement, his legal action, all undertaken as the UK has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, have essentially ruined his music for me.

Morrison has always been a crank and a contrarian.

If you know his back story, some of that is understandable.

But not this.

Over the past year, we have lost John Prine, Manu Dibango, Lee Konitz, Adam Schlesinger, Matthew Seligman, Wallace Roney, Alan Merrill, and Charley Pride, among others, due to COVID-19.

And millions have lost relatives and spouses and friends to the virus.

The fact that Morrison has decided that the best approach to this crisis is to call the evolving science around it ‘pseudo-science’ and to call measures to contain it a form of slavery is not just ill-advised or ignorant.

It is dangerous.

I know people say ‘separate the art from the artist.’

But the art is the artist.

One does not exist without the other.

And so, I am essentially done with Morrison.

To think I once thought that his dabblings in Scientology was his biggest failing

Phil Spector

Phil Spector was a monster.

There is no disputing that.

Yes, Spector had mental health issues.

But Spector was aware of those issues.

And they do not excuse the fact that he was a murderer and an abuser.

Did he revolutionize music?

He did.

But it does not change the fact that he was a monster.

Many great artists are or were.

You don’t have to look far for examples.

They are legion.

Some people can separate the art from the artist.

I do that for a few.

But generally, it is for artists who have long since passed away.

Not for artists who are living, which Spector was until this past weekend.

Much of what Spector did, the stories of him holding a gun to the neck of Leonard Cohen for example, seems to have been looked at as eccentricity.

The kind of weirdness that embellishes a rock and roll legend.

But such acts are the acts of a monster.

As was his abuse of Ronnie Spector.

As was the murder of Lana Clarkson.

There were signs all along that he was not an eccentric, but a monster.

Should you engage with his art?

That’s up to you.

There is an argument that has been made that cancelling all the work he was involved with essentially sidelines women such as Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love, and that we choose to listen to his compsitions or recordings, it should to celebrate their talents, not his.

I get that.

Apart from one song on his Christmas album, I haven’t engaged with any of his art for a very long time.

And I have little inclination or interest in changing that.

My hope is that we look at his life and use that as encouragement to look critically at our artists and their actions, and maybe not separate the art from the artist, or at least think about why we do that.

And at the very least we stop looking at the monstrous acts of people like Spector as eccentricities that add to their mystique.

That needs to end.