Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Layer 538 . . . The Closing Ceremony

First of all we need to know who was responsible for doing precisely what to a Closing Ceremony which was meant to be a proper tribute to an amazing two weeks of sporting endeavor. Or did someone decide beforehand that Team GB was bound to end up with 'null points' a la Eurovision, or something similar, so we might just as well produce a Eurovision-style crass "spectacular" which would be tantamount to a tongue in cheek statement of how 'awful' we really are, a la Kenneth Williams or Dick Emery? Come to think of it, this song was surely worthy of inclusion in the horrible mash-up we were presented with in the Olympic Stadium: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUn0n9Yu7Vw

Was it Stephen Daldry, "head of the Olympics ceremonies" who bears ultimate responsibility for hiring the people who came up with the "vision" and the "concept" for this ceremony? Did he lay down the guidelines and the parameters himself? Was his personal taste in any way imposed on the whole thing?

It’s a proper show. It’s got all the bizarre, surreal, funny, camp and moving elements you could want from a really good piece of Sunday night entertainment,” Daldry is quoted as saying.

According to Wikipedia, the ceremony's Music Director David Arnold said: “It’s going to be beautiful, cheeky, cheesy, camp, silly and thrilling".

Beautiful, funny, moving and thrilling we like. Who the hell asked for bizarre, camp, cheesy or silly? Cos that's exactly what we got. Which hardly does justice to either the games themselves or to Great Britain. [Alright - you can argue that the majority of Britain's contemporary culture is indeed bizarre, camp, cheesy and silly - but that's not something we should feel proud of or wish to advertise throughout the world.This is pretty much what we have, it's true, thanks to the likes of David Arnold, Simon Cowell and Kim Gavin.] Can you guess which one of the characters in the satirical TV spoof "2012" would have come up with this particular recipe for a camp, bizarre and cheesy closing ceremony? That's right - all of them. Especially Shiobhain and her folks at Perfect Curve.

According to my online dictionary "cheesy" means "cheap, unpleasant, or blantantly inauthentic". Sounds about right, except in the financial sense: rubbish as lavish and overblown as this doesn't come cheap. It's what they aimed for, and it's what they gave us.

Something like this was bound to happen when you hand the overall production of a Closing Ceremony to a marketing 'creative' like Kim Gavin ("who usually produces shows for the likes of Take That")  -  a slick, trashy, overblown attempt to advertise and 'sell' the 'best of British' to the rest of the world, and possibly to ourselves. It was inevitable, and it's what we've dreaded since the incomparible opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2008. Oh well - maybe it actually said something as truthful about Britain in its way as Danny Boyle's opening ceremony said in his own way.

Here's the crux of the matter. Kim Gavin has the business sensibility of someone who's content to spend his days marketing the likes of "Take That" - a fucking awful and forgettable musical confection with no artistic merit whatsoever - to a gullible public who prefer pretty boys and girls singing simple-minded pop ditties to anything that's real or interesting or important.

Danny Boyle, although not one of the world's best artists or directors, uses artistic insight to tell us things we didn't know or had maybe forgotten about ourselves. That's what proper art and decent entertainment is supposed to do. That's what you spend £80million on - not some useless flashy garbage that has absolutely no artistic merit.

None at all? No. None. But weren't the dazzling lighting & sound effects and the fireworks wonderful? Well - put it this way. We have some brilliant people who can do amazing things with light and sound and pyrotechnics. But what's the point if they're in the service of something that's so leaden yet so vacuous, overblown yet trivial, flashy yet dull, sentimental, cheesy and silly - just as the man proudly described it?

Weren't there any good bits AT ALL? Well of course there were. In any scatter-gun approach to entertaining the masses for three hours (as opposed to creating a worthy closing ceremony) there are bound to be some valid elements.

Eric Idle is a true Brit. "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" is a work of genius. Anyone who can stand up in front of millions wearing a silly costume and sing "Life's a piece of shit - when you think of it" - is worthy of inclusion in a celebration of genius and Britishness. We Brits are known for our earthy sense of humour. [Though we could have done without "a skit featuring nuns on roller-skates, Morris dancers, Roman soldiers and a comedic entrance of Punjabi bhangra players and dancers before a human cannonball crossed the stage". - Wikipedia]

What else?

A film of John Lennon singing "Imagine" - no countries, and no religion too. Excellent. [And let's just be thankful there was no appearance at any time in these proceedings by McCartney, which many of us were dreading.]

A version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" performed by Nick Mason, Ed Sheeran, and pals. Definitely a Desert Island Disc. Pity there was nothing from Dark Side of the Moon, though there was a track from it in the opening ceremony.

A track by Kate Bush played on the PA system – "Running Up That Hill". Superb.

Russell Brand singing "I Am The Walrus" from the top of a bus. Not great, but quite funny. I think Lennon would have approved - in the way Lennon would approve of most of our Russell's challenges to bourgeois sensibilities.

Anything else? Not really. No? Surely The Who?

Mmmm - no. Two of the three songs they performed were from Tommy - a thoroughly bad album with rubbish songs. Even Pete Townshend must know that by now. Had they just come on and cranked out a dynamic version of My Generation they'd have been OK. As things stood, it felt like they'd just sold out to the likes of Stephen Daldry, David Arnold and Kim Gavin - who presumably think The Who's "Pinball Wizard" is a great song, since they got the Kaiser Chiefs (more sell-outs) to perform it here. They probably think the concept of a deaf, dumb and blind boy being a world champion pinball player is like really cool. Maybe they'll reprise it for the paralympics.

And speaking of reprises - did we really need to hear crappy songs like Parklife, West End Girls and What Makes You Beautiful not just once but TWICE? What was that all about? Prior to Sunday evening I'd never even heard of the boy band called 'One Direction', and I don't ever want to hear them again. It seems they were manufactured for a programme called The X Factor, and they didn't even come first in that ridiculous talent contest. Third place was all they could manage, for very good reasons, obviously, yet there they go into the closing ceremony! On the back of a bloody lorry! What's THAT all about?! It's not the boys' fault of course - what the hell do they know? As for their name, they should change it to One Dimension, to indicate their complete lack of breadth and depth.

Ray Davies was another disappointment, which quite frankly he has been since the Kinks rocked us with You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the Night. I don't really go for whimsy and sentimentality. Back in the beginning the Kinks were one of the most powerful blues-based bands around, and it was annoying that they couldn't maintain that basic simplicity and build on it, like the Stones did. And let's face it - Ray can no longer even hold a tune.

George Michael? Perleeeease! Mr Sleaze certainly dressed for the occasion.

Freddie bloody Mercury? Let him go! ["We will not let him go!"] Brian May - half man, half sheep, totally crap guitar licks. Wake up people! Queen were only ever camp, cocky, pomp-rock, cheesy, sleazy, silly pop nonsense. And if you want to argue, then try explaining what the hell Bohemian Rhapsody was all about.

A David Bowie collage of photographs with snatches of his tunes. Why? Even Bowie admits that he's not done anything original or anything of value since Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust - before he got into the drugs and the whole fame thing took him away from the real world. Still - that's all he ever really wanted - to be famous. Someone else who started out brilliant and ended up stuck up his own arse. Such a pity. He had something good happening there for a while. No point in him dressing up in platforms and makeup and trying to make a 'comeback'. [Though he did make one decent guest appearance a few years ago to sing 'Arnold Lane' with David Gilmour and the Floyd. "Oh Arnold Lane, it's not the same . . ." The voice wasn't great but it was a nice novelty turn. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwyEqSZz1uM]

Beady Eye? Liam Gallagher??!! Wonderwall? Another piece of complete pop piffle. Noel's better off without him, that's for sure.

Take That? FFS. More manufactured pop nonsense.

Annie Lennox? Good voice. Not very interesting. Silly presentation.

And so we come to the Spice Girls. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. How delightfully symbolic to see them all standing atop individual black cabs covered with flashing lights, the mundane together with the showbiz flashy trash - so very together and yet so very separate. And long may they remain so. RIP.

Emeli Sande? No real opinion as yet. Deeply unmemorable, even though her song was also reprised.

Jessie J? Great legs. Sorry - but they are. She can sing OK too. I notice her website proudly displays lots of photos of her as featured in the Sun, the People, the Star, OK magazine, etc.

Muse? Completely horrible. Who the fuck are these people?

Madness? Great when they were young and whacky. Going off them rapidly. Our House was fine at Buck House for the Jubilee, but I've had enough of it already. Never a great song.

And last and VERY least (cos I can't be bothered to go through the whole lot of them) . . . . ELBOW!!!!!!!!!!!  Somebody is having a laugh! What a fucking awful band!!!!  According to Wikipedia, which I needed to consult in order to learn something about these tossers, "Elbow have cited a number of influences on their music, including Genesis (in particular the progressive rock years featuring Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett), Talk Talk and Radiohead." Which just about tells us all we need to know about these "progressive rock" exponents. Such dire bilge I have never heard in my life, and never wish to do so again. Not ever.

So there we have it. What a complete bloody failure. What a very sad ending to what had been a very memorable and enjoyable two weeks. Damn!


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