Ireland

Bless you Sinéad

In 1992, when Sinéad O'Connor transformed Marley's key track 'War' to an acapella plea for the world to recognise institutional child abuse in the Catholic Church - on the rather surprising platform of SNL - the performance almost 'derailed her career' to use the common assessment of the time (and Internet since).

All these years later, leaving aside all the fuss and carry-on of the time among many forgotten types, we can appreciate this act as a supremely courageous gesture as well as a sublime musical performance, just on the basis of her voice, her conviction, alone. For me this is bravery incarnate, and when you know something of O'Connor's childhood, the fact that she could speak out like this is inspirational.

O'Connor was one of those rare prodigies, having written 'Troy'

when she was a teenager. The song makes reference to lines from Yeats' 'No Second Troy' ('Why, what could she have done being what she is?/Was there another Troy for her to burn?').

One of her loveliest songs, while still being one of her most political - even though that word feels leaden in this context, as it is so much 'more' than this - is 'Black boys on mopeds'; a song that is also a very touching representation of motherhood. For me this song shows the value of stepping past the categories we find ourselves in and the value of empathy that crosses racial and other categories. O'Connor sings of wanting to protect 'her boy' while singing of the suffering of 'black boys' shot by the police; they are one and the same.

The song was inspired by the death of Colin Roach who died from a gunshot wound inside Stoke Newington police station in London, in 1983. From wiks:

The 1990 album by Sinead O’Connor “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” featured a track called “Black Boys On Mopeds.” Although the lyrics do not mention Colin Roach directly, the entire album is essentially dedicated to his family, and contains a photograph on the inner sleeve of his sad-faced parents standing in the rain in front of a poster of their son. Below the image is the inscription: God’s place is the world; but the world is not God’s place.

The French often talk about being curious and how this is a valuable quality, more and more I think it is the essential quality - not love, whatever that might mean for you, that's too individual - but curiosity and openness to the experience of others. (And yet all over the place, perhaps particularly in progressive spaces, I see people closing in, seeking some kind of purity of experience based on identity. This seems so misguided ... nothing is, or can be, pure).   

Margaret Thatcher on TV
Shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing
It seems strange that she should be offended
The same orders are given by her
I’ve said this before now
You said I was childish and you’ll say it now
Remember what I told you
If they hated me they will hate you
England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill black boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving
Young mother down at Smithfield
Five a.m., looking for food for her kids
In her arms she holds three cold babies
And the first word that they learned was please
These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to dig your own grave
Remember what I told you
If you were of the world they would love you
England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving

    

Wipers 'Over the edge' (1983)/MBV 'You made me realise' (1988)

So continuing the conversation (with myself, cough) below about the hallmark of guitar music, being a replication of a total sonic world; a complete and all-encompassing wall of sound.

Here are two examples for the defence: Wipers' 'Over the edge' -

Portland's finest forgetten sons, remembered and celebrated by the singer of a much more famous band and the ultimate example of the UK - or Irish to be more accurate - obsession with hitting the perfect beat, 'You made me realise' by My Bloody Valentine ...

Small confession time: I'm not a monumental Wipers fan, I much prefer the Melvins cover of 'Youth of America' to the original and much of their output kind of bores me, as it's far too mono-dimensional in terms of its emotional quotient , much too black/white, but there's no doubt in my mind that the above track is one of real genius.  

If you listen to the way the instruments work together, it's hard to find anything purer than this; anything stronger and clearer in its intent. I love the repetition of the swing; it has a kind of pure poppiness that is strangled by the vocals and the lumbering guitar-line.  Machine-like, it hits the mark.

Also love the music-nerdiness of the following quote from the Wipers' singer Greg Sage recounting his early passion for music: 

I would spend countless hours studying the grooves I would cut under the microscope that was attached to the lathe and loved the way music looked, moved and modulated within the thin walls. I might have spent too much time studying music through a microscope because it gave me a completely different outlook on what music is and a totally opposite understanding of it as well. There was something very magical and private when I zoomed into the magnified and secret world of sound in motion. I got to the point that I needed to create and paint my own sounds and colors into the walls of these grooves.

As for My Bloody Valentine, well, what you can you say, other than there is no more perfect pop moment in the entire ugly guitar music scene than this. I often try to filter the instruments; listen to the drum-beat in isolation; listen to the guitars ... When I listen to this drum-beat, I love the fact that it is so artificial, it could be a sample overlaid.