If the Rolling Stones don’t make a fascist of me, then Andy Murray surely will

Never join, is my motto. Never clap along, never sing along, never do as asked


I have a question to ask, but first I have a confession to make. On three separate occasions last week I made a fist and punched the air. So my question is: does this, by my own lights as someone who despises mass feeling, make me a fascist. In extenuation, allow me to say that I didn’t punch the air as an act of ecstatic connection with my fellow men. I did it at home, once with friends, twice solitarily. And while what you do solitarily has its dangers, it can’t, I think, constitute a Nuremberg Rally. On the other hand, I did briefly sway in unison with others last weekend, did share in communal excitement, did feel what a crowd felt at the moment of its feeling it – so what does that make me?

This latter breach of my own strict code of individuality occurred at the Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park. I don’t often go to rock concerts but make an exception for the Rolling Stones. I have liked their mocking bluesiness since first hearing it half a century ago. The joke of being rockers in their seventies only compounds the joke that was always intrinsic to Jagger’s performance. Go to New Mexico and you will find countless depictions, from ancient petroglyph to contemporary souvenir, of the trickster god Kokopelli, a humpbacked, flute-playing, body-twisting, mischief-making, sex-laden fertility figure – like all tricksters, simultaneously dangerous and absurd.

To my eye, Mick Jagger is the urban equivalent. Kokopelli’s humpback is said to contain seed and unborn babies, but Jagger – I’m speaking figuratively now – is the seed itself. Watching his sinuous, worming strut last week, I was reminded of Woody Allen’s faint-hearted sperm in Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). But where Woody Allen played it only for laughs, a shmuck-sperm never going to make it through as one of millions of pumped-up paratrooper spermatozoan, Jagger has it both ways – the über-sperm going boldly where others do not dare, and the comedian-critic, instigating and deriding the whole procreative frenzy. Woody Allen’s ineffective reproductive cell is dressed in a sort of fluffy white babygrow; Jagger snakes into the crowd in black from head to toe – a pastiche of potency, Max Wall and Mephistopheles, the seed of Satan.

I don’t, of course, clap my hands when Mick tells me to. And I would rather have my fingernails pulled out one by one than join him in ooh ooh ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, if that’s how you spell it. Never join, is my motto. Never clap along, never sing along, never do what you are asked to do. This is partly a matter of personal pride: I am not another person’s unpaid backing group. But it is also a political statement. Whoever consents to being manipulated in one area of life will consent in another; whoever submits to the will of the majority in matters of trivia will submit to it in matters of moment. Today it’s ooh ooh ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh; tomorrow it’s Sieg Heil!

Few of my friends concur with me in this. “Bullshit!” is how my wife views it. Indeed, I had to promise her, before she would agree to our going to hear the Stones together, that I would at no point in the concert invoke Hitler or Il Duce. A tough promise to keep when tens of thousands are swaying with raised arms to the same rhythm and hooting like one giant owl in jackboots. But even I could not resist the universal enchantment of “Honky Tonk Women”. “Gimme, gimme,” I sang in a voice too low to be detected by those surveillance agencies that are plugged into me day and night, “gimme the honky tonk blues.”

For which capitulation to mass hysteria I’d have punished myself all week had not Andy Murray put me through the wringer the following afternoon and given me a new sin to expiate. Reader, the minute he won that most recalcitrant of match points, I leapt from the sofa, gave a Nazi salute, and shouted: “Yes!”

“Yes” isn’t even a word I use. Out of what hitherto unmined deposit of hand-me-down enthusiasm did I dredge it? And having found it, who or what of no conceivable interest to me might I be employing it about next? Lewis Hamilton? Michael Bublé? Call the Midwife? As for the pumping fist, for all the choice I had in the matter I might as well have been in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But the biggest question of all is this: why did it matter, why did I care so much, what’s Murray to me (“What’s Hecuba to him?”) or I to Murray (“Or he to Hecuba?”)?

He, of course – the First Player in Hamlet – is nothing to Hecuba, just as I am nothing to Andy Murray. Why, it’s conceivable he doesn’t read this newspaper, let alone this column. But isn’t that precisely the virtue of entering sympathetically, as actor or spectator, into the trials of someone unconnected to you? It’s an act of pure disinterestedness, useful to you only in that it gives you a holiday from yourself. So did I punch the air as an expression of pure selflessness? And if I did, then how to describe the motivation of those who punched the air when Il Duce addressed them? Still selflessness? Concede that and selflessness doesn’t look so fine a virtue. Retaining a fierce imperviousness to the rhetoric that moves multitudes seems a better option to me.

Knowing which didn’t stop me punching the air when Anderson took Michael Clarke’s wicket with a perfect ball. “Yes!” Or doing it again during Newsnight when the marvellous Margaret Hodge trained her intelligence on the smugness of BBC management. There at last was something unequivocally worth saying “Yes!” to. Talk about a honky tonk woman.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a visit to Scottish Widows offices in Edinburgh, where he made an impassioned plea to keep Scotland part of the union, saying he would be  

Scottish referendum results: David Cameron did the right thing, so why does Scotland’s vote feel like a defeat?

John Rentoul

i Editor's Letter: The rules were simple: before the results are announced, don’t mention the S-word

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week