Sugar and Sheeran

So yeah, it was our son’s 17th birthday yesterday and as such he got to choose where we went for dinner. His favourite is TGI Fridays, so TGI’s it was. Menus were scanned, orders made and the food duly arrived. While we waited we chatted and admired the real actual Strats, Teles, Les Pauls and Harley Davidsons which were bolted to various parts of the joint, along with colourful night time photos of Broadway and 7th.

The food arrived, and I must admit I never thought it was possible to stack that much food vertically between two buns! It was a good ol’ feed and a rare opportunity for the four of us to be together. We were, however, astonished at how sweet the ‘savoury’ dishes were! Stone me, they must have marinated pretty much everything in corn syrup – even the chips were more like churros. (I later discovered that these dudes are able to cram a whopping 850 calories into a Caesar salad – that’s got to take some doing, right?)

We dropped the boy off at his ‘yard’ and then headed home, listening to the bare-footed Jo Whiley enthusing about all things pop on her Radio 2 show. She had Ed Sheeran in the studio (wasn’t he a footballist at Newcastle?) talking about his new material. I’d heard “Castle on the Hill” by accident the other morning as our clock radio had erroneously been left tuned into R2, rather than its usual, and splendidly blissful Chill. Chris Evans was, as I recall, also waxing lyrical about the new Sheeran stuff. Anyway back to the journey home. She played the song. It’s nice enough, accessible, an evocation about a journey home to his native Suffolk Ed himself had taken; notions of nostalgia, roots, old mates – some who are struggling to get by, some who’d messed everything up, some who are doing ok; a sense of ‘back home’. It is accessible, no doubt, with a wide appeal, sugary sweet production, all flavours hugely enhanced with compressors, wideners, aural exciters, stereo-sonic-glutamate and multi-band glaze – a bit like my burger, I guess…

Now, when I first started getting into music, for me it was all about Led Zep, a band shrouded in sorcerous mystery, with songs about mythology, blues and sex, laden with infectious and explosive groove-thunder and overdriven magic spells of four, six, eight and twelve string wizardry. If one wanted to find out anything about the conjurers behind the magic, one had to read subsequent biographical publications. Hammer of the Gods came out a good five years after Bonzo’s untimely passing, but even then all we got was unlikely salacious stories of wet fish, TVs flying through hotel room windows, and bullshit tales of debaucherous derring-do onboard the Starship. The band, even in interviews, was still enigmatically inaccessible outside of the arena, and that was part of the appeal, no? We had no minute by minute Instagram or Twitfeed.

Different world now.

Mr Sheeran duly announced to Ms Whiley (and the rest of us minions) that on the night of his recent Grammy win, rather than attending the after-show, he’d hired a private jet so that he and a “friend” could fly direct to a geothermal spring in Iceland in which to spend his birthday. Suddenly all the nostalgia about ‘back home’ in his latest offering shrivelled like cold burger cheese. Now I’ve got nothing against successful artists earning a lot of money and spending it however they wish. What I object to, however, is being offered a chance of connection and yet being the ugly kid no-one selected for the team, all within a measure of a 5 minute broadcast segment. It is insulting, it’s mockery, and it rankles. Ed, spend your money, you’ve earned it, you work hard for it, paid your dues, honed your craft, but please don’t pretend you care about those of us ‘back home’.

Write your songs, entertain us, take our money, but don’t play your fucking nostalgic song on the radio and then go straight into a smug little brag about fortune, opulence and excess. That is not good manners, mate. Just remember that there are a lot of young people out here who, because of issues such as diminishing opportunities, shitty care and mental health systems, and a capitalist fascism you are doing nothing to challenge, are never going to see the Kent coast, let alone bathe with a lover in the Blue Lagoon, while they’re supposed to be celebrating with the ones who helped them get there, and instead will be force-fed increasingly vacuous hyperbole and pitiful deceit on the airwaves while they strive to pay sky-scraping rent for a tiny room in a dingy little shared shithole and make sense of this Trumped-up sugary-shit world we’re leaving for them.

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