Sunday, February 07, 2010

Hermannsdenkmal


I nodded in casual agreement with the whole of music-loving, non-Tantric humanity as The Daily Mash recorded a popular wish for Toyota not to fix the brakes on Sting's car.

Still, I rather enjoyed some Police tracks, in particular the robust "Dead End Job", and began to wonder when did Sting change from being just one more puncheable peroxide ponce among many into the most reviled musician, activist and erotic explorer since Arthur Askey.

Are all the bêtes noires of our modern menagerie putrid from their first plunge into the pool of publicity, or does the sewage seep slowly, like water under a picture frame, until an idolised image is washed away?

One of my Russian literature tutors used to set us students the task of trying to spot the moment when the anti-hero Hermann in Pushkin's "Queen of Spades" turns from being your average callous Guardsman into an hallucinating madman.

Hermann becomes obsessed with an elderly nobleman who is said to know a winning gambit at cards. He seduces the countess's ward in order to gain access, then scares the old lady to death. Thereafter he descends steadily into insanity, seeing his victim's ghost everywhere.

We all had our pet theories, and mine set the moment of madness at the point when he started quoting French novels. Mr Williams, however, was right to say it came as Hermann stood outside the countess's house in the early hours, wondering whether he might become the octogenarian's lover.

So subtly has Pushkin lured us into Hermann's hermit mind that we barely register how barking the boy has become.

The same applies to Sting, minus the talent and granny-groping. That first solo album of his was "jazz-influenced" - a 1980s term for anything with a saxophone in it - and heralded the horrors of "Ten Summoners' Tales", "...Nothing Like the Sun" and other hey-nonny nonsense.

(Note to all musicians: just as putting brackets in your song title guarantees quality, ellipsis spells more than a slight pause in your career.)

But the element of crime came much earlier, even before the primary-colour Jungian daubs of "Synchronicity". Incidentally, it's a shame The Police didn't dally with Adler, as I might have bought the LP of "Gesundheitsbuch für das Schneidergewerbe".

But no. It was when young Sting was crafting "Don't Stand So Close To Me" in 1980 - and if any song title needed a pair of brackets, by the way, this was it. The Devil perched on his shoulder and whispered "Need a rhyme for 'cough', Gordon?"

So Nabokov took the former English teacher on a trip of three steps to the Fitzcarraldo folly of his Amazonian adventures, where piranhas, blow-pipes and those tiny fish that burrow up your Jap's eye patiently await.

There's a fine Stanley Kramer film from 1961 called "Judgment at Nuremburg". In it lawyer Burt Lancaster acknowledges that Nazism made him betray everything he had stood for. He said he didn't know it would come to that. Judge Spencer Tracy replies "It came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent".

So, what was Bono's capital crime?

13 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

I reckon Sting's capital crime was when he agreed to play the role of Ace Face in the film of Quadrophenia. It's probably Townshend and co.'s intention that he's an unsmiling, peroxide Aryan amongst the brunett, cheeky-chirpy lesser mods, but Sting then insisted on having his actual initials "G. S." emblazened on the windshield of his scooter.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Oh, and that was 1979, like our man Hermann he started earlier than think.

Gorilla Bananas said...

According to the boys at South Park, Bono began life as a giant turd ejected from the bowels of the Pope. So that's original sin rather than a crime.

Gaw said...

I lost patience with Sting when it became evident that he didn't have enough face to pull off a proper Jagger-style seductive pout. The lemon-sucking expression he produces makes him look, at best, rather costive; at worst, he appears to have been inhabited by the scandalised spirit of Charles Hawtrey.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

I left a bar the other night because they were playing Sting. And it takes a lot to get me to leave a bar.

I've been to the Hermannsdenkmal - regretfully I didn't take Bono up with me and persuade him to lean out further from the viewing platform for a better view of North-Rhine Westphalia. Also, I have to confess, when U2 played FedEx Field here in DC last summer I neglected to organize an assassination attempt. Apologies.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

This is what happens to Geordies when they venture south of Durham. Hadrian should have built his wall a hundred miles further south.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I lost patience with Sting the first time I heard him sing.

Coincidentally, I went to the pictures to see Anton Walbrook in "The Queen of Spades" just the other week. Very good. At school we reckoned that Hermann was demented from the off, otherwise he'd have held on for a bit and appeared in a Jane Austen novel.

No Good Boyo said...

That's what I like in my comments, a rapid-fire and genuinely uninformed debate about matters cultural and libellous.

"From birth" was the pithy consensus among my colleagues as to when it all went wrong for Geordie Gordon. There was also vivid speculation, some of it involving mime and monkey noises, as to the reception Sting might receive if he were ever to return to Newcastle.

I've suggested to the City Council (or "Toon Koonsilman", as they call it in their Nordzee sprack), that they might like to invite him to accept the Freedom of the City or an almighty pasting.

We might want to be wary of Sting, though, as he seems to have acquired necromantic powers - either through antick Amazonian knob-piercing rites or sheer friction during the endless Vedic rooting of his unfortunate wife - for synchronicity is in the air:

- Kevin saw The Queen of Spades shortly before I posted this article;

- An old friend suddenly re-emerged and invited me to John Cale's "Paris 1919" concert mere days after I posted a link to that song on Facebook; and

- John Dankworth died within days of my father recalling how he can't abide Cleo Laine.

Perhaps Sting needs burning. Where does the Church stand on such matters these days?

We could use Bono as kindling.

inkspot said...

It was at the tip of my tongue while reading your excellent post, but has only just come to me: Phil Collins. Him, Bono and Sting. It's time to recreate the Hindenberg disaster, there's nothing else for it.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Mr G. Bananas is right: some people commit a crime by just being born. And we can't even blame the parents.

Well, perhaps that old answer that was sufficient to set free many a man accused of homicide: "The man needed killing" should be reinstated.

No Good Boyo said...

"Death by airship" has a very English feel to it. And there's not a court in the land that would convict, as Snoopy points out.

Reminds me yet again of the Deakin Defence (passim): "I shouldn't otter have done so, but I did it anyway. Let Hist'ry be m'judge".

Gyppo Byard said...

To answer your questions -
The Pushkin chappy was mad from the point he volunteered for the Russian Army.

Bono's first capital crime was naming his popular beat combo after a Nazi submarine.

Paxman done Sting up good...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO4Yftc1bMY

No Good Boyo said...

Haha, I saw the Stingening on Charlie Booker's Newswipe last week. Facing Paxo is, as Malcolm Tucker said, like travelling at 100 mph headfirst into a tunnel full of pig shit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6phFQENkpII

"That big, rubbery horseface of mock-incredulity".

Fair play to Sting, he did ok when facing Vic'n'Bob, but that they're almost Geordies themselves and he was very young:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4Zot1i7bJk