The London 2012 Olympics have come to a close with what the media dubbed “the greatest party in the world”. Watching the proceedings was an uncomfortable experience for me and gave me the unfortunate opportunity to address a few concerns I’ve had of late about my own life. But I will come to that in due course.
Much as I’d come to expect, the Closing Ceremony was yet more ritual of subtle (maybe not so for some) imagery and mass perceptual manipulation. From the moment Timothy Spall appeared as Churchill reciting The Tempest, surrounding by a landscape covered in newspaper style slogans and literary references (including one reading “A Martian sends a postcard”!), it was this would be more of the same trite that was unleashed on the population two weeks ago.
The ceremony lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous: a shedload of all-seeing eyes, checkerboard patterns, butterflies, images of crying athletes, bowler hats adorned with light bulbs, fashion models bedecked in gold, silver and the odd Egyptian headdress, Monarch numpty Russell Brand, Annie Lennox looking like a zombie –surrounded by black and red, atop a flaming sail boat from the River Styx, a giant white pyramid (constructed from 303 boxes – to represent the 303 Olympic events, apparently!), the band Muse getting all demonic, and a huge luminescent octopus with its 8 sucker tentacles spread across the union jack! The only bright spark in all this was Eric Idle’s rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
The Queen was, unusually, absent – perhaps she’d used up all the expressions from her scorn face, first witnessed during the Opening Ceremony. An announcer bleated on, at one point, about “these days (of) the cult of instant celebrity status” and Bored Coe received a deafening seal-clap from the stadium crowd when he extolled the success of “the people who stood guard to keep us safe” during The Games. Yeah right…
I had heard the rumour that The Who would perform and really hoped that it was just a rumour. However, by the end, it became apparent that the rumour was true. It is bad enough that these performers (The Closing Ceremony was built around live music) agree to take part in such tub-thumping, mass distractions… although I perhaps expected more of The Who.
Watching Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend beneath a giant flaming Masonic Phoenix (ritualistically born from the ashes of the extinguished “Olympic Cauldron”) really did unsettle me and bring home certain truths about the damning nature of the music industry. When Townsend penned the songs from “Tommy” (of which “See Me Feel Me” / “Listening To You” were performed at The Closing Ceremony), he was addressing many issues such as child - based isolation and trauma and (most importantly) the cult of personality / mass, blind followings.
It was insulting to see how these songs became an anthem supporting the very subject they had once condemned, when played in The Ceremony. The phrase “sell out” could easily be applied to the changes made to the lyrics of Baba O’Riley in the performance. For the occasion, Daltrey sang: “Don’t cry. JUST raise your eyes. THERE’S MORE THAN teenage wasteland.” As the final act of the show, I couldn’t escape the feeling that they were effectively the final ingredient in the casting of a large scale, ritualistic spell.
I suppose this is ultimately the true nature of much of the entertainment “mass distraction” industry. As a musician who makes a fair amount of his financial “bread and butter” from the trade, I am aware of the potential trap inherent in the field. I have often walked a fine line between a passion for performing / doing the right thing, and “selling out” to some degree. I sometimes find this disturbing and there are times when I truly want to get out of the game altogether. Thankfully, my association is low to moderate level (and unlikely to ever change, given my age and convictions!), yet it doesn’t change the fact that I am worryingly a very minor part of this “distraction trade”.
Worse still, as my regular readers will know, I was (until recently) front man of a quite successful tribute band to The Who. My first reaction to The Who’s involvement in the event was one a hypocrite. I literally felt like I had been “fooled again”! This initiated a “long night of the soul”, where I contemplated many aspects of my life and just how little I had perhaps “awakened”. I discussed this the following morning with a musical friend who (maybe a little unfairly) said that all musicians are ultimately “sell outs”. She did, however, sensibly remind me that I have a knack of taking these matters a little too seriously sometimes. I initially felt that by being even remotely dismissive and brushing such things under the carpet, totally undermines any efforts made on the part of those waking up to the reality of the world.
Eventually, I got things into perspective, lightened up and realised that I had been a little hard on myself… especially when she reminded me that, as a musician, there are things I can do to redress the balance. So watch this space in that regard…
Did The Who “sell out” in time for The London Closing Ceremony? Maybe they did such a thing long before… who can say. I will certainly be eyeing them with a little more caution from now on though. I am not naïve to the reality of the music biz, but it is unfair to tar all musicians with the same brush. There are many artists who have always maintained their integrity and avoided any “serious” level of “sell out” – a good example would be Bob Marley. This is not me making excuses for the profession… but it is in some cases true.
I realise I have been absent from posting articles recently. Ironically, this has been caused by a heavy musical workload! I do have some projects close to completion that will hopefully mark the beginning of my using music in a more positive light. I will post this material fairly shortly. For now though: stay well and sane, be happy and try not to let the ball get too far out of sight!
Until next time.
The Truth Seeker’s Guide.
London Olympics 2012 - Related Articles:
Part 1: "The Culture of Fear" -
Part 2: “Zion, Messiahs, Plagues… Oh My!” -
Part 3: "Close Encounters of the Olympic Kind" -
Part 4: "Shadows and Symbols" -
Part 5: “London Calling” -
Part 6: "And Finally... Some Mind Games!" -
The Opening Ceremony of The London Olympics 2012 -
The Who Sell Out - London Olympics Closing Ceremony -
The Paralympic Games, Saturn Worship and Other Oddities -
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