Yacht ahoy! Prepare to attack fat, follically challenged record exec
Tuesday 11 June 1996
I didn't see much of the programme. It looked grotesque, with record- company suits lining up to appear beside their gloomy, baseball cap-wearing charges. It was another of these happy, security-conscious ceremonies, where Michael Jackson could feel safe sitting in the front row like a grinning Skeletor (in slightly more ridiculous dress), happy in the knowledge that if someone were to run up behind him and make a wafting motion with their hands, they would be shot. Anyway, some short, balding, evil record-company bigwig brings up Hootie and the Blowfish and parades them around like bipedal cash cows at a cattle auction. They sold a lot of records this year, we're told, and the audience is given to understand, through the use of a meaningful pause, that they are expected to respond to this news with applause and general merrymaking.
Then the evil record company guy, who has this fantastic Sixties, BBC-presenter voice, so it sounds hilarious every time he has to say "Hootie and The Blowfish", calls up Michael Jackson so as these two great acts can share the stage. Michael limps up and says, in a voice normally reserved for ventriloquists' dummies, "Thank you. And well done, Hootie and the Blowfish."
The applause continues for a while. Now and then, you can hear girls in faraway voices shouting: "Michael, Michael." (Just once I'd love him to say: "What? What is it? What is it?) Michael then racks his brains for some witty nugget and settles on: "I love you all," the wag.
Then, the evil record-company guy turns to him and says - and I swear to God this is absolutely true, even if I am paraphrasing a little bit - "The happiness I feel, standing up here with you, is tinged with sadness, when I think of all the money that is stolen from you every year by pirates."
"What?" I thought. "Pirates? But ... how ... I mean, when did ... Oh, riiiiiiight." I realised he was talking about home taping. And you can't tell me that all those people who had just switched over from Reversal of Fortune on Channel 4 and happened to catch that line didn't think the same thing. Everyone who saw that got the briefest of marital pictures in which Michael Jackson was being attacked, at sea, by pirates.
I personally got a very vivid flash, which involved Michael taking all his money to a bank in a big ship and then seeing, with horror, the familiar death's head grin of the Jolly Roger. "Not again. Every year this happens." The ensuing battle involved a lot of big earrings, cutlasses and toothless laughter.
Calling these people pirates is a bit of a silly old thing, isn't it? But such kinks in our language are to be encouraged, especially if evil record-company guys can be made to look stupid by uttering them in public. For instance, rather than calling ticket touts "ticket touts", why don't we call them "monkeys"? (I have no real reason for suggesting that word over any other, except that you could say that ticket touts, like monkeys, are slippery customers). Since we're dreaming, let's change that to "little monkeys".
Then, someone at an industry dinner might have to say: "Millions of pounds are lost every year because of little monkeys." And someone else might bang his or her fist on a table and say: "We must stop the little monkeys." That would be great.
It's one of the sadnesses of life that we must constantly be reminded, through ceremonies like the World Music Awards, that behind our favourite bands there are a few old, balding men in suits, who spend their time trying to think up new ways they can get everyone to buy their entire record collections again.
Every time someone in a Rage Against the Machine T-shirt bangs his head, a cash-register drawer springs out with a ping. Every time Shaun Ryder says the F-word on TFI Friday, someone gets closer to buying their yacht, which has slightly nicer sails than the last yacht. If you play any Iron Maiden record backwards you can hear a group of cigar-smoking middle-aged men laughing (that's OK, though I think they might actually be Iron Maiden).
I think we should show these people what real pirates actually look like. We should board one of their yachts someday - you, me and the other guy who reads this column - dressed in all the appropriate gear. We'll tie them to the mast, get their tape recorder and do a few copies of their top-selling albums for all our mates. Then we'll kill them.
All right, we won't kill them. But I think the least we can do is a few Chinese burns or dead legs. I mean, come on, we've got to do something.
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