Truly original artists often end up with a whiff of the prophet about them. I don’t think this is because they’re in direct communion with God, or anything like that. It’s partly because, whenever a cool idea which is genuinely new comes out, it is relentlessly photocopied by lesser, more streetwise types who realize, a la Mo Syzlak, that ‘you may have come up with the idea but I came up with the idea of charging 6.95 for it.’
Hoods these chaps and lasses may be, but they are also the engine of what we like to call capitalism.
The earliest copies are often not that bad. I thought the Monkees were pretty cool until I came across The Beatles. Culture has become a kind of fantastically speeded up geology, so that whenever some new seam of intellectual sediment is deposited, it is instantly covered over by layer upon layer of ever so slightly less good stuff.
By the time you manage to sift down the layers to the actual original which spawned it all, the creator of that first sediment seems like so much more than a workaday genius, she’s a seer, an enchantress, a living prophet.
I think that’s why I’ve been unable to avoid viewing a succession of female songsters through the prism of Kate Bush, who wrote about all their stuff a long time ago and managed to produce music you could dream to.
Apart from Bjork, who seems like a genuinely wacky and fearless original, a lot of them just seem to be peddling reworks of the same thing. I’m probably doing all of them a terrible disservice, but there are so many other, greater injustices in the world, after all. There’s hardly time to fight them all, is there?
I can’t listen to Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting’ without (almost) shedding a self-pitying tear. It was written many years before I became a father, but it seems to me to anticipate the kinds of things my own daughters (and the children of many others) might feel about their fathers today. Maybe I’m being Richard Harris, hectoring John B Keane with all the deeper meanings he didn’t see when he was writing ‘The Field,’ but there is a tone in ‘Cloudbusting’ that feels prophetic.
The girl’s Daddy in the song dreamed large, and encouraged her to dream as well, but things somehow came up short. The Daddy in the song is essentially a powerless figure (where the hell is that all powerful Patriarchy the feminists keep screaming at us about?).
This is what I mean by prophecy, which essentially means that, knowingly or not, an artist has somehow seen that bit deeper than others into the currents running under reality. How was Kate to know what would happen to fatherhood in the decades since she wrote the song? How culture and sleazy, mean-minded law would combine to emasculate it, make it irrelevant?
How was she to know that this law – conceived out of the most base and dishonest motives – would make an army of homeless dreamers out of the fathers of tomorrow? How could she have known about that legal and social consensus – as lazy as it is vicious and tyrannical and cowardly – which would turn fathers into imposters in what they had idiotically believed to be their own homes?
How was she to know how hard it would be to keep fighting and hold some sort of faith, some sort of connection, to their dearest of souls.
Here’s a 2017 wish to all those broken fathers out there, to all those who have been robbed, pilloried and slandered, but who keep on fighting because, as Cormac MacCarthy wrote “if the child is not the word of God then God never spoke.” Keep the faith. Don’t give up. You know better than anyone how most of what you read in the news is fake. Nothing is more real than your struggle. Keep the faith in 2017.