As not seen on TV
Sunday 25 February 1996
Not only were these the least boring speeches in the Brits' history, they constituted Oasis's best-ever live performance. Drunken and childish? Definitely maybe, but at least the band were being themselves. They weren't going to put on their best behaviour - let alone their best clothes - for anyone. It always gets a bit horrible when writers start decreeing what rock'n'roll is all about, but what it is definitely not about is decorum, modesty, or respect for your elders.
Not one of the Gallaghers' speeches quoted above made it on to the televised ceremony the following night. But in an uncensored segment the presenter Chris Evans crassly introduced DJ Jo Whiley as "the person at Radio 1 most likely to give you the horn". So, degrading sexism is allowed, party politics are not.
This year's Brits nominations were so close to those of NME's alternatives, the Brats, that it appeared that the music industry was getting hip, and rewarding young, interesting and sometimes original musicians. But no, they were just acknowledging the groups who sold best, as usual. Oasis won Best Album because theirs was last year's second-biggest seller. Why else would Prince and Annie Lennox have been winners? Their sales, past and present, dictate that they will win Brits whatever they do. At the press conference, the withered, bleached-blond cadaver of Iggy Pop explained why he thought the music industry was healthy: "There's some good people and a lot of assholes, so it makes a good clash. The money and corruption make it all the more delicious and disgusting." True words, Iggy, true words.
The event's climax came when Chris Evans announced that Michael Jackson would be singing his "Earth Song", and that those who had witnessed the staging's rehearsals had had their breath taken away by its scale. Presumably he was talking about the King of Pop's ego. The performance was a ludicrous, appalling testament to Jackson's gobsmacking narcissism. He was surrounded by sobbing, stricken waifs in rags, like the combined cast of Oliver! and Les Miserables. Swathed in celestial light, he stripped to white silk pyjamas. Not, I hasten to add, because he planned to go to bed with any of the youngsters, but so that he could look Messianic. As he stood in crucifixion pose, he suffered the little children to come unto him and hug him, and in trembling tones he told us that "three million children die every minute". Really? That's 4.32 billion a day. But what can you expect from a man whose relationship with reality is as abnormal as the nose on his face?
Bob Geldof then let us all down by announcing, with a sad lack of irony and swear words, that Jackson had the voice of angels - even though he was miming here - and presented him with a special new award: "Artist of a Generation". Yet more repulsively, the award is a reference to Pepsi ("The Choice of a New Generation"), the product that Jackson used to advertise.
Geldof had betrayed us, but Jarvis Cocker of Pulp registered his protest by joining Jackson, uninvited, for a dance. They didn't hug each other. The battle lines were drawn boldly: Jarv v Jacko, the Gallaghers v Geldof, Iggy v Annie, good v evil. And Cocker proved himself once again to be a hero of the common people.
In 10 years of residencies at the Albert Hall, Eric Clapton has played to an amount of people that even Michael Jackson would be hard pushed to overestimate. The last few years' shows have been serious academic lessons in blues history, with a written test afterwards on the textual ambiguities of Willie Dixon and Leroy Carr. This year, I expected to have to resit, but school was out.
Towards the end of the gig, Clapton descended into blues hell, jamming with such frictionless ease that he might as well not have played at all. But before that was a Greatest Hits package wrapped in colourful arrangements: "I Shot the Sheriff", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "Wonderful Tonight", "Sunshine of Your Love", an acoustic, laid-back swing through "Layla", a charming "Tears in Heaven", a white hot "White Room", and more. Clapton looked to be enjoying himself almost as much as his two backing vocalists, who were as cheery and prim as National Lottery presenters. In the audience, ties were loosened, knees were slapped, heads were nodded, and someone very nearly stood up. That's the Albert Hall for you. Great show, Eric, now how about trying a few different venues?
Not Eve's, though. A West End club as trendy as it is uncomfortably cramped, Eve's was where Moloko played songs from their album Do You Like My Tight Sweater? (Echo) on Wednesday. Moloko are a deranged, spooky, funky, poppy, trip-hop cabaret combo. Got that? They sounded fabulous but I couldn't see them, so I'll review them properly when they perform somewhere more sensibly sized. I mention them now only because they are Britain's best new band.
Eric Clapton: Royal Albert Hall, SW7 (0171 589 8212), Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun. Moloko: Southampton Joiner's (01703 225612), tonight. Jarvis Cocker profile, see main paper, page 19.
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