Alice Jones: A case of never knowingly under rock'n'rolled

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What does John Lewis have that other shops don’t?

Apart from beeswax furniture polish, arcane haberdashery and the world’s largest selection of fascinators, that is? Middle England’s favourite department store has somehow persuaded the Smiths, and their lead singer Morrissey, to lend one of their songs to its Christmas campaign. It would be wonderful to report that the song in question was “Shoplifters of the World, Unite!” but it’s not. Rather “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” plays over the charming sight of a little boy rushing to give his presents to his parents. Not a jot of Mancunian miserabilism or a sulkily tossed gladioli in sight.

It’s another musical coup for the department store. Elton John and Billy Joel have both approved the use of their songs – enjoying royalty-boosting chart success in the process – while the 2008 campaign was the first time that the Beatles put their music to a UK advertisement. One can only assume all rock-stars eventually reach the point where a lifetime’s supply of Egyptian cotton towels and Le Creuset outstrips the need to be credible.

The Smiths aren’t the first to sell out – and they won’t be the last. Iggy Pop’s lust for life has mellowed into an enthusiasm for life insurance and women’s perfume. Johnny Rotten has chosen Country Life over anarchy in the UK. And Bob Dylan, well, it’s hard to keep up, but Starbucks, Cadillac and Victoria’s Secret have all kept him in red wine of late.

Perhaps this latest example is nothing more than Morrissey and his band-mates looking to their pensions. Besides, Morrissey is about to take the NME to court over an unflattering interview – and, unlike John Lewis Clearance pillowcases, barristers don’t come cheap.

***

There’s a moment in the recent thriller The Adjustment Bureau where the bright young Presidential hopeful, played by Matt Damon goes calamitously off-script. Instead of promoting policy, he starts to talk about how his tie was selected by a focus group and a specialist in New Jersey was paid $7,300 (£4,600) to scuff his shoes. “Shiny shoes we associate with high-priced lawyers and bankers. If you want to get a working man’s vote, you need to scuff up your shoes a little bit, but you can’t scuff ’em so much that you alienate the lawyers and the bankers, ’cause you need them to pay for the specialist back in New Jersey.”

It’s not too far from reality. Most politicians today are more heavily stage-managed than Britney Spears. The bigger the politician, the more attention to micro-details – hence we know far more than is necessary about Barack Obama’s suits, Vladimir Putin’s martial arts prowess and David Cameron’s DVD collection.

The one detail that can’t be preplanned, though, is live conversation, which leads to slip-ups like Obama’s on-mic bitching to Nicolas Sarkozy about Benjamin Netanyahu – “you’re fed up, but I have to deal with him every day!” – and Rick Perry’s car-crash policy amnesia at the Republican debate. They’re fun to watch, of course, but they’re important too. These eavesdropped gaffes afford us an all-too-rare glimpse of the truth behind the tasteful tie and not-too-shiny shoes.

***

David Cameron proffered helpful advice on the best way to protest this week. “Protesting you should do on two feet rather than lying down, in some cases in a fairly comatose state”, he said. So he’d probably approve of the dissidents in 13 at the National Theatre. Mike Bartlett’s state-of-the-nation epic, which opened just over a fortnight ago, is impressively up to the minute. There are iPads and student protests, Rihanna and a Twitter-orchestrated anti-war rally, but its protesters already look so last summer. They’re of the air-punching, marching, shopping trolley-hurling type when, as Dave tells us, the modish way to fight the power is “comatose” camping. Bartlett should update his script immediately. I’m sure that Millets would be happy to help out with the necessary props.

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