David Lister: Muses deserve some sort of credit, but not always of the financial kind

The Week in Arts


Much discussion surrounded the remarks of Adele after her Grammys triumph, namely that she was taking a break to concentrate on enjoying and developing her current relationship.

But I suspect her record company may try to crowd that relationship and get her back into the studio sharpish.

I was rather more struck by another remark she made. She said that her enormously successful album 21 was about a "rubbish relationship", and the ex-boyfriend in question had, after all the publicity, asked if he could have a share of the songwriting royalties for inspiring the work. Adele told the press: "He really thought he'd had some input into the creative process by being a prick. I'll give him this credit – he made me an adult and put me on the road that I'm travelling."

I would have thought that the ex-boyfriend had his tongue firmly in his cheek when making that request, though Adele insists that he was "deadly serious" and called her for about a week about it. But is it that fantastical a request? It does seem possible that without him, 21 in its present form would not have existed. If the album is inspired by the relationship of which he was one half, then he has left some sort of fingerprint on it.

Prick he may or may not have been. But I am sure that even if he was guilty of that offence, pricks can be muses too. It is not just the beautiful, the poetic, the angelic that inspire. Just as the dark lady may inspire sonnets, the prick boyfriend, or PBF, can inspire music.

Of course, there is no case whatsoever for a share of songwriting royalties for inspiring a musician to bring a troubled relationship into a song. If there were, there would be queues of people spanning the generations, claiming to have inspired all those barbed lyrics, from Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" via Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" to Arctic Monkeys' "Mardy Bum", and thousands more. Whether the muse is fondly or sourly remembered, there's no cash in being a muse, because it takes an artist to turn a muse's inspiration into a work of art.

But if the muse, in this case the PBF, has no right to a royalty cheque, he does, one feels, have a right to some sort of place in posterity beyond an invisible presence on an album. Should a PBF, and indeed muses of any type, be able to demand a credit on an album's liner notes, below the producer and engineer certainly, but above the catering company?

I don't think that's too much to ask – the inspiration credit, the PBF namecheck as opposed to royalty cheque. Adele probably won't agree, but the intervention of her former PBF should have given her cause for reflection. Without a PBF in her past, she might have been a Grammy or two lighter.

20 Silk Cut and a tower, please

A visit to Stratford-upon-Avon this week not only meant seeing the much-praised production of The Taming of the Shrew (I know, an idiosyncratic choice for Valentine's Day), but also a good look round the RSC's remarkably successful rebuilt theatre complex, and its new adjoining tower with views over the Cotswolds.

The tower signals to all visitors that they have arrived at the theatres. Was it discussion among learned academics and architects that resulted in the decision to have a major landmark announcing the presence of the RSC's theatres? Apparently, there was a bit more to it than that. I learned on my visit that the real catalyst was the newsagent in the shop across the road, who told the RSC that people kept coming into his shop to ask where the theatres were. Perhaps the tower should be named after him.

What's in a name? A wealth of history

I was pleased to hear an interview the other day on the Today programme between presenter James Naughtie and a teacher in Greece about that country's austerity programme. Pleased, because the teacher's name was Antigone. For some reason, it does the heart good to know that Greeks name their children after heroes and heroines of ancient Greek drama. It must have been a little disappointing for the Greeks listening to find that the Today presenters were called James and John. They must wonder why the Today programme hasn't come up with a Macbeth or Othello yet.

And I couldn't help but wonder who else was in that particular Greek staff room. A Medea planning the next session on pastoral care?

d.lister@independent.co.uk // twitter.com/davidlister1

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