The Return of Britpop Week… Er, Day

Photo by Andrew Currie
How’s this for promptness? All my Egypt photos have been uploaded. Through the magic of Flickr.com, you can view them all here:

www.flickr.com/photos/raywat/sets/72157603684519941/

And since Andrew takes better photos than me, why not look at his, as well?

www.flickr.com/photos/andrewcurrie/sets/72157603590575829

Yes, I’m still sick and miserable, but I’m making the best of it by working from home, uploading my photos and updating this blog! Stay tuned, because I will soon upload all the little videos I took in Egypt, as well, and they’re a lot more interesting than the photos!

So, on my flight from London to Ottawa (in which I had a bad back, head cold, jet lag and insomnia and was stuck in the middle seat!) I was forced to read the in-flight Air Canada magazine, something I desperately avoid, if at all possible. (I don’t like the idea of advertisers having me trapped.) But my PDA, laptop and headphones had all burned through their batteries, and the in-flight movie was the freakin’ Nanny Diaries, so I was desperate for some low-tech distraction.

In the magazine was a throw-away article by National Post entertainment columnist Shinan Govani. (I’ve met Shinan a number of times –being that we’re both urban Canadian brown dudes– but I’m sure he wouldn’t remember me. Few do.) The article was light and flip, but strangely reinforced something I’ve noticed far too often: the seeming fairy tale disconnect of British “celebrity” life.

See, if you’ve never travelled outside of North America, you probably don’t realize that there are “star” systems totally separate from Hollywood. The indigenous Chinese film and recording industries cater to a huge and specialized audience. The Indian movie industry –Bollywood– is bigger, in some ways, than Hollywood could ever dream of. The South Indian industry, out of Chennai, might even be bigger than Bollywood! And, as I reported earlier, the Arab world has its own celebrities. Not every country is clinging to the latest misadventures of Britney Spears, or tracking the number of bunks in the growing Brangelina dormitory.

But Britain has always been a special case. Its cultural and historical links to America are so deep that we often interchange pop references. British actors compete for the Oscar in the mainstream categories, not the foreign film categories. And for the longest time, you could never tell that a rock band was from Britain, because they always sang with American accents.

And yet Britain enjoys its weird little set of domestic mega-stars who remain completely unknown outside the island, in the worlds of both film and music. If it weren’t for his one big single, for example, no one on this side of the Atlantic would have ever heard of Robbie Williams, though the man has been a transcendant star in the UK for years.

And I, like Shinan Govani, think that’s great. Pop culture is the most easily accessed layer of society; and it’s gratifying that the pop cultures of the world are yet diverse, despite global forces threatening that diversity.

Which brings me to today’s semi-regular installment of The History of Britpop, here on Deonandia. See, there was a band out of Manchester that was huge back in the day, and were possibly the godfathers of Britpop, but who remain pretty much unknown in North America. They were the Stone Roses.

I won’t bore you with the history, except to say that this band’s history makes for some hilarious reading, considering how unbelievably huge they once were, and how it all got fracked up due to a combination of catastrophic bad luck and some very poor business decisions. Their first hit was a poppy little tune called “Sally Cinnamon” (the lyrics to which are supposedly still posted in the Man United playing grounds.) After they made it big, their record company released a video for “Sally Cinnamon” without the band’s permission. It was a pretty crappy video, and you can watch it here. How did the band take it? Well, they sprayed the record company’s offices, the owner, his girlfriend and his car with paint. That was the beginning of the end for them.

The Stone Roses’ lead singer was Ian Brown, also known as “King Monkey” ’cause he looks and moves quite apelike. Not particularly attractive. Here’s a taste of the Monkey Man in more contemporary times, when old age has added to his apelike demeanour:

But my favourite Stone Roses song will always be “Love Spreads“, which was their last stab at glory, after 5 years of nothing. Apparently, anticipation of the song was so intense that it was hand delivered to the BBC, who were permitted to play it exactly once before the CDs were sent to the stores. Here’s the crappy video for an excellent song from a crappy second album of an excellent bad with crappy common sense:

One of the coolest bits of Stone Roses history is their 1989 appearance on a live broadcast from the BBC. Apparently, they exceeded their “noise quota” for the building, and the power was automatically cut, leading to some hasty damage control by the show’s host. Ian Brown, ever the classic English yob, started yelling, “Amateurs!” at the BBC staff. Brilliant stuff. Watch it here:

Lastly, if you peruse the Egypt photos, you will notice that I’ve put on some weight lately. Sigh, it’s true. I’m now a stuffy 180 lbs, made worse because I can’t work out due to my bad back. Time for a soup diet, no? Anyway, this is what I look like when I’m at home blogging:

So ladies, if you need some plus size lovin’, you know who to call.