Tuesday 24 April 2012

I want to hack my ears off with a rusty butcher's knife

I am used to rubbish on TV. I watch quite a lot of it; when the brain needs a rest and doesn't want silence, there is a wealth of soothingly meaningless TV to watch on any number of channels. And if you missed anything particularly soporific, you can watch it on +1 or +2 or iplayer or whatever. But on Sunday I had a moment of horror which has rarely if ever been surpassed in all my TV watching history. (I'm a pensioner now, so my TV watching history is quite long.)

I don't normally do reality TV. Boring. Relentless minute peering into the tawdry mental crevices of people I'm not remotely interested in. But yesterday I walked into the room while one was on and had one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. It was the kind of moment that ordinary life does not prepare you for, frankly, a moment of earth moving proportions that even a man of my decades of experience should not have to suffer. Ever.

It was The Voice. There were three of them. Yes, they had big voices. Yes, they had energy. But all of that was as empty of merit as the life of a mayfly for all the good it did in the face of the awful treatment they gave to an iconic song. That sort of thing should simply not be allowed. It was massacre, a soulless, plastic demolition of one of the songs that defined its era, made worse by the specious energy with which the massacre was carried out. They attempted to perform Springsteen's Born To Run, and they strangled it with a noose turned tighter with every overemphasised vowel and mispronounced consonant.

It should be enshrined in human rights legislation that people should never be condemned to have this type of travesty thrust upon them. It should be a cornerstone of our constitution that such a misbegotten endeavour should never see the light of day, and if we have no written constitution, we must write one just so that we can incorporate this principle.

Born To Run has soul, it has poetry. It is born from the streets that Springsteen and his band trod. It flowers from the lives that he recorded and celebrated so concretely and so poetically. It was not and would never in a million years be so plastic, so fake, so harrowingly overdone as it was on Sunday night. Springsteen spoke for a generation because he was that generation. The first line “In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream” (a single voice with spare orchestration behind it). People loved that line because it was his experience and it spoke to theirs. Sunday night's lot haven't sweated anywhere except under stage lights. They have made a plastic, fake, phony, sham, mendacious, distorted forgery of a true poem. To reduce that to the fraudulent, meretricious counterfeit that was served up on Sunday night with such hollow zest is a cultural betrayal, an act of destruction beyond wanton.

Just about everything gets copied nowadays, but there are some things that just don't copy. A true original isn't just the words and the music on a page. It's life, belting at you from the stage, out of bone and sinew, out of the raw experience of being alive in that place at that time, of feeling the hopes and the fears of a generation just finding its feet in a time of turmoil, and beginning to wonder what comes next.

It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we”re young...”

And these three Sunday night simulacra, with their big voices and their complete lack of connection with the fact that art emerges raw and tumultuous from life, and they turned it to trash. The idea behind The Voice and all those other reality contests is that you can somehow turn ash into diamonds. All they did was turn a diamond into ashes. Please don't tell me who they were. I don't want to know. I don't ever want to hear anything like that done again.

I'm going to listen to Bruce.

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