Cultural Meanderings: Plagues, Car Crashes and Bo Diddley

‘Miss You’ – What a fantastic hook; it’s enough to have you dancing around the room chanting, almost religiously, wa wa wa-wah-wa-wah-wa, or something like that anyway. Of course, it’s far from the only catchy riff Keith Richards’ guitar has given the world – I’m thinking ‘Satisfaction’, ‘The Last Time’ (the two stand-out tracks on ‘Out of Our Heads’ – incidentally, the track ‘Hitchhike’ on that album has EXACTLY the same opening as ‘Here She Comes Again’ by The Velvet Underground; there’s a courtcase in there somewhere), ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, etc., etc., etc… But ‘Keef’ is a funny chap (peculiar, not ha ha). In two separate interviews I’ve read, he has claimed that Norah Jones is the most promising artist in the world today. Odd, very odd.

On the other hand, he’s a big fan of play-it-like-you-would-a-drum guitar maverick Bo Diddley, who had the wonderful habit of referring to himself in the third person: “Now Bo Diddley didn’t stand no diddle_bo_bodiddley_102b.jpgmess / He wore a gun on his hip and a rose on his chest”. (From Bo Diddley Is A Gun Slinger”.) Another Bo Diddley admirer is, apparently, Chuck D of Public Enemy fame (who now seems to occupy his time supplying first-class punditry on basketball games).

But enough dalliances into sport; with the possible exception of ‘Fever Pitch’ (and I mean possible), there has never been a good book written about football. Actually, that isn’t quite true – Brian Glanville’s history of the World Cup is excellent, even if he does describe every other player as “little”. The link between football and literature is a tenuous. The only half-decent example I can think of is that of smokin’ existentialist Albert Camus (Cam-oo) who played in goal so as not to “wear out the leather” on his shoes (until he got TB). As he himself said: “All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football”.

While everyone heads for ‘The Outsider’ or ‘The Fall’, Camus’ ‘The Plague’ is also well worth a read. Set in a town beset by a plague of Biblical proportions, it is the story of a doctor who tries to save the population, and is also an analogy for the German occupation of France during World War Two. Not as existential, cool or detached as his most famous works, ‘The Plague’ is still a vivid parallel, and, like ‘The Outsider’, uses the format of the novel to best dramatic effect. Not to be confused with ‘Nausea’ by Jean-Paul Sartre, one of Camus’ best mates (does that term really do their professional relationship justice?) Of course, they famously fell out when Sartre became a communist and refused to pull his head out of his arse (as demonstrated by his refusal to accept his Nobel prize for literature).

Camus died an unfortunate early death in 1960 when he was in a car accident during a drive back to Paris, an incident speculated upon in J.G Ballard’s shock-fest ‘Crash’, about couples who have sex while fantasising about car crashes. The main character, Vaughan, wonders whether Camus’ genitalia was speared by the steering column, and whether, during his final few seconds of life, he enjoyed being impaled by burning, twisted steel. But the novel is not simply about perversion; it is about the fast, sleek, dark world we have created for ourselves with motorways and varnished veneer dashboards; it is about an intimacy with the sterile, untouchable beauty created with a designer’s pen. It is about speed, pain, a closeness to death (think Michael Hutchence “asphyxi-wanking”* himself to death) and secretions – the intermingling of semen and leaking engine coolant. Alright, so it is largely about perversion. But it is also a vivid depiction of the modern world, and shares some qualities with Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’, especially the opening track, ‘Airbag’: “In a fast German car / I’m amazed that I survived / An airbag saved my life”.  Anyway, I think that must be the end – we’ve covered plagues, car crashes and Bo Diddley. Next week, I’m going to start with one of my favourite ever films, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, starring the brilliant Bob Hoskins.

*Quote Luke Dedominicis 2006

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Filed under Books, Cultural Meanderings, Hashmark Books, Hashmark Music, Music

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