Until the sky falls down on me
It's an advert. But that doesn't mean it's worthless, and it doesn't make it any less beautiful. I'm not taking any advice on social responsibility or ethics from an aggressive smoker, so Bill Hicks can piss off.
Obviously one of the things I like about this unusual take on what was previously a godawful boyband single is that it kinda ties in with some of the stuff I was saying here, because it showcases another positive aspect of football that isn't always obvious. Many years ago I remember reading a piece by someone comparing American sport to "soccer" as a spectator experience (I thought it might have been the late lamented Steven Wells, himself a scary-looking skinhead, discussing violence, but it turned out not), and one of the things they found most remarkable was the communal singing.
Spontaneous communal public singing is something that men just don't do in Britain, and one of the oddest things about football is the way that songs will suddenly find themselves overnight being sung in stadiums by thousands of people without anyone ever officially deciding or publicising the notion that, say, it would be fun to bellow "Doe, A Deer" from The Sound Of Music, with the unchanged original lyrics, at Scotland international matches.
I suppose that deciding whether you find that the intimidating appearance of thousands of rough-looking drunks singing at you belies what's actually being sung, or the other way round, tells you a lot about what kind of person you are. But more on that in a minute.
Another thing about the clip is that it reminds me of why I love cover versions. I collect interesting ones (I've got hundreds and hundreds of the things, and shelves full of bad singles that I bought for a cover version on the b-side), and what makes a cover interesting is when it takes the original melody and lyrics and turns them into something with a completely different feel just by presenting them in a new way.
It's a tribute to the infinite subtlety of expression that humans are capable of when someone can take a song like "Firestarter", not change the melody or any of the words, and transform it from a menacing nosebleed-techno death-threat into a chilling, mournful lament of terrible regret just by slowing it down a bit and playing it with different instruments. Sometimes covers are so amazing that they can turn something ostensibly artistic and creative, that's nevertheless so cynically manufactured and sanded down and airbrushed until it's free of any kind of genuine emotion that it's a hideous, anodyne mockery of mankind's easily-exploited suggestibility and weakness, into something that's genuinely moving and beautiful even though it's been made with the sole purpose of selling overpriced training shoes.
There's one more fascinating aspect of the clip too. After the ever-diligent John X forwarded it to me I showed it to another friend of mine, a sensitive sort who loves this feelgood sort of stuff (his favourite video ever is the ridiculously heartwarming Dancing Matt), and was surprised when he said "I don't like it. It looks like a bunch of football hooligans, skinheads and NF members – there's one black guy."
And indeed, almost any still you take from the clip looks like a BNP meeting. But in fact there are at least six black men in the crowd of roughly 40, which is about 15% and a very considerable statistical over-representation. (In the last UK census in 2001, just 2% of the population identified themselves as Black Caribbean, African or Other, and modern-day estimates put the current figure no higher than 3%.) Yet the mere setting and the presence of some stereotyped working-class white men has seemingly made them invisible, even though a couple of them are right in the middle of the picture.
You don't need WoSblog to spell out the important lesson this teaches us about the human mind, do you, viewers?