Random Play by Graham Reid


Life? In the Fast Lane

Yes, there are many important things to consider right now: the modified plan for Eden Park (I told you so); the further decline of the Listener (down 11 percent according to Nielsen Media Research); Helen Clark’s hilarious example of hubris (see previous post); the new Arcade Fire album which sounds a bit like old Echo and the Bunnymen in places . . .

But between all these pressing matters is the tragic story of Britney Spears, the virgin who fell from grace to the seedy.

Unlike many people who are enjoying her latest emotional crash -- shaving her head -- and saying witty things like, “Oops she did it again” I take absolutely no pleasure, and can find no humour, in this at all. I just think it sad.

I don’t care for Britney’s music and the little I have heard of it only confirms that it isn‘t made for me. But no one has a gun at my head making me listen to it, just as I don’t demand anyone listen to Captain Beefheart or Yoko Ono’s early albums for which I have an unnatural affection.

But I was genuinely saddened to read that she seems to have now utterly flipped out after splitting with her husband, hanging around with Paris Hilton, being photographed without underwear, and going into a tailspin on what are euphemistically called “painkillers”. It appears people around her are unable to help.

No one -- whether you care for their vacuous pop or not -- deserves that in their short life. And hers has been short: she is only 25.

Just think about that for a moment. Twenty-five -- and what are you/were you doing at 25?

I spent a long time interviewing in, and observing, the entertainment industry and among the many things I learned early was this: it eats its young. And worse, enjoys doing so.

I remember very clearly interviewing Tiffany who enjoyed a brief flirtation with fame when she covered a couple of 60s songs back in the late 80s. She was 16 -- and at the time I spoke to her she was dead tired, and suing her mother and step-father for control of her substantial earnings. Her life and dreams were unravelling and I reminded people at the end of the article of one important fact: “And she‘s only 16“.

By coincidence last night I found some articles I wrote a decade ago. Among them was a piece about Paula Yates on the death of her partner Michael Hutchence who was found famously swinging from the door of his hotel room in Australia.

As I did earlier that year about the failed and famous Princess Diana -- whom I argued had seduced the media and made the mistake of thinking she could control it -- I had some sympathy for Yates: she was just such a sad wee thing and so desperate for attention she would do anything to get it.

She told the world she wasn’t toilet trained until she was five (I blame the parents), was anorexic when she was eight, and had been initiated to sex at 12 “with an Argentinean” she said, as if his nationality added to her cachet of notoriety. She pose nude for Penthouse when she was 18.

Poor Paula. It must have been a hard haul up. But as she learned it is a remarkably fast slide down. A mother of four, she was dead of a heroin overdose at 41.

And so to Britney.

If we have a skerrick of compassion in us, this is a sad, sad story.

What exactly did this girl from small-town Louisiana -- now a mother of two -- do to deserve this, and the ridicule of many?

All she wanted was to be was a famous singer, not an uncommon desire. She seems to have worked hard and had some genuine talent as an entertainer, made a lot of kids happy, has obviously made some very bad decisions, and has grown up in public.

She was famously photographed and condemned for driving without her baby strapped in a seatbelt. Well, look out your windscreen on any day in any city . . .

Britney Spears strikes me as an emblem of our age: the desperate need to be, if not famous, then at least visible in this otherwise anonymous world; the pressures that fame imposes on people who may otherwise be very ordinary if not fragile; the delight we take in those who stumble and fall; the need for celebrity crashes to fill our news pages and smug conversation . . .

Some of the latter comes from those who are just a bit embarrassed about once liking Britney when they were pre-teens. Too cool for school these days, of course. Into My Chemical Romance now.

Britney Spears made a lot of money and that is spoken of as if it were some kind of crime. Frankly I’d prefer an entertainer who brings pleasure to millions -- and she did -- to make shiploads of money than, say, a “property developer”.

But right now I hear a cruel delight that if it had to happened to someone then she, somehow, deserved it more than . . . Me? You?

I just think it sad. And she’s only 25.

PS. The subscriber base for Music From Elsewhere rocketed last week, I guess that’s what happens when you offer free stuff. We are sliver shy of another two Important Landmarks so I’ve got goodies to give away again to two lucky new subscriber. Check it out here under Music From Elsewhere.
I’d post a Britney track if I had an album by her. (No, that is a joke, folks)

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