Tag Archives: Madonna

One Million Cows

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One Million Cows
By Manuel Rivas
Small Stations Press – £5.69

”Like an irate prophet” (‘The Sons of Luc & Fer’), the one and only Manuel Rivas writes of a great many issues throughout these eighteen, short snappy stories. And in so doing, transports the reader unto many a place of kaleidoscopic (mis)adventure.

Indeed, amid much virtuous and virulent metaphor, One Million Crows finds Galicia’s most renowned, international writer (whose previous books include The Carpenter’s Pencil, In The Wilderness, All Is Silence and perhaps one of my all time favourite books ever written, Books Burn Badly), addressing everything from the mud-flats of childhood to the redolent aftermath of suicide.

But from within this ”bell of memory” (‘Madonna (Christmas Story)’), the one story that essentially strikes home is ‘The Provincial Artist;’ which, by way of well-considered angst and periodic play on capital letters, the author writes: ”’There is in Spain,’ declared the critic Bernabe Candela, ‘nature and metaphysics, passion and biology, reflection and outbursts, and it is well known there is no beauty without rebellion, even if that convulsion is contained by the prudent nets of reason.”

There has to be an abundance of gravitas in the line: ”there is no beauty without rebellion,” which, if you really think about it, transports the rebellious etiquette of someone like Che Guevara to within striking distance a whole new tenet of thinking. Not to mention understanding; or ”the prudent nets of reason,” from where Rivas continues: ”Espina may be a wonderful symbiosis, that of the monster awaiting the end of the century.’ He read this article in the old slaughterhouse while peeling open a tin of mussels. His first reaction of complacent vanity was followed by a sense of disquiet and unease. Up until then, hardly anybody had paid him any attention.”

The above is so compact and colourful, so dense and at times, disparaging; that I found myself increasingly caught up or should I say, intrinsically lost within the actual essence of the writing itself, as opposed to that of the story being told.

Like so much of his work, the stories Manuel Rivas tells, could, for many, be construed as something of an added bonus. It’s the actual writing that’s so alluring. So attractive.

David Marx

Bedsit Disco Queen

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Bedsit Disco Queen –
How I grew up and tried to be a pop star
By Tracey Thorn
Virago/Little, Brown – £16.99

Along with the likes of Paul Weller, Jeff Buckley, Morrissey and obviously countless others, I’ve always been somewhat drawn to the music of Everything But The Girl. The British duo of Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, formed at Hull University in 1982, and whose name derives from a furniture shop in the city called Turner’s – who at the time, had a sign in the window that read: ‘’for your bedroom needs, we sell everything but the girl.’’

Having always been rather understated in their music (which I believe is part of the attraction) and inexorably silent with regards their private lives (it was never publicised that they were a couple, let alone married, let alone had three children), I couldn’t help but be instantly drawn to Thorn’s memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen – How I grew up and tried to be a pop star.

True to the music and, I should imagine, the personality of the authoress herself, the book is an exceedingly pleasant, mild-mannered and persuasive and read, which never ever ventures into a slight imprint of shall we say, Keith Moon territory. But then it was never going to. EBTG did after all, have about as much in common with the rock’n’roll lifestyle of The Who and the Stones et al, as perhaps George Osborne.

So if you’re expecting a titillating and tempestuous read, punctuated with tales of mayhem and madness, this isn’t it.

These 360 pages are a chronological overview of Tracey Thorn’s – and to a certain degree, Benn Watt’s – professional life, viewed through the prism of the relative limelight. As The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis has been quoted as saying: ‘’As distinctive and lovely as its author’s singing voice, Bedsit Disco Queen isn’t just a wry and wise memoir of a unique career; it acts as a kind of eulogy for a forgotten era of British pop.’’

I know what he means.

Could you imagine any of today’s current assembly line of charmless, faceless, gormless, talentless, witless, Botox induced slappers in heels, admitting to – let alone actually writing – any the following (from the chapter ‘Popstar Trace’):

‘’The lyrics I wrote now were almost exclusively personal, and given that every second of my life seemed so vivid and rich with detail and event, there was no shortage of subject matter. The smallest, most ‘trivial’ things could provide inspiration or an opportunity for reflection. I had no worries about whether or not these stories were too private to be of interest to an audience; I never even really considered any particular audience. I felt entirely connected to the time and place in which I was writing the songs, and so believed that those around me would feel the same as me and would understand them. Like every other new band who find themselves taken up by the press, we took the attention for granted, having no idea how precious it was, how hard to come by and how impossible to recapture once lost.’’

Somehow I think not.
Regardless of how psychologically well groomed ye current onslaught of (so-called) talent-show contestants will continue to bow down at the alter of fame and fortune.

To be sure, Thorne touches on as much later on in the book (in the chapter ‘Express Yourself’), wherein she writes of her own loss of role model: ‘’But the 1980s had become a very much more conservative decade. The female icon you were supposed to revere above all others was, of course, Madonna, and no one could have seemed more alien to me. A shiny, brash, Teflon-coated embodiment of AMBITION, she was absolutely a version of feminism but not the one I felt I’d signed up for, and the pouting and flirting of songs and more particularly videos like ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Like A Virgin’ left me cold. Manipulating men, using your feminine wiles ‘to your own advantage,’ above all exploiting a simplified version of your own sexuality was suddenly the name of the game.’’

Unfortunately, it still is the name of the game – which is why I wholeheartedly agree with the aforementioned Petridis, that Bedsit Disco Queen ‘’acts as a kind of eulogy for a forgotten era of British pop.’’

It absolutely does, which is just one of the reasons that makes it so very readable, valuable and worthwhile.

David Marx