Friday  May18th


This week has mostly been spent dealing with automated bureaucracy and their desire to charge me late fees on bills paid on time or decide, for no obvious reason, they want to charge me more for using less of their service. These late fee charges I understand as being necessary-in younger days I left every bill to the very last minute-but having them charged when the bill has been paid on time is ridiculous. When talking to one of the customer care agents-why the word care is used to describe these people is beyond me as this is the one thing they so obviously don’t do- I had it explained to me in patronizing, whiny tones how sometimes it can take several days to process. In this day and age with computerised systems and when cash is used as payment? Yes, I was informed before they drifted off into their scripted dogma and I into a coma. The automated responses I had to endure before actually getting through to speak to an actual person belied considerably more human emotion then the real thing.

Actually two out of the three calls I made this week were successful it was only by the third when my patience snapped unable to tolerate any more and just hung up  mid-sentence before I lost my temper and ruined both of our days. The one charge which fascinated me  most involved Scottish Power deciding that although I had used considerably less energy overall in the last year it was still necessary to increase my payments by £30 per month. Apparently the reasoning for this was as there was a £50 outstanding debit on my account-which more than balances itself out over these so-called summer months when even less power is required- and somehow this necessitated me paying an extra £360 a year. Although not a mathematics scholar even I could work out who was getting a better deal there and it wasn’t me. I very politely informed them there was no way this was happening and I would continue to pay my agreed amounts and within the next two months I would be in credit and they could then start paying me. I am now wandering around in layers of winter clothes and using candles as a means of proving my point.

Actually I am hoping this run of bad weather- more typical of an Edinburgh August- is an indication that we are having out Festival month of rain and wind a little earlier this year. I attended the launch of the revamped Assembly Rooms last night and was intrigued to learn the Spiegeltent will this year relocate to George Street with the surrounding area resembling a boulevard. The success of this does rely somewhat on the unpredictable Scottish weather-which is not really that unpredictable is it?- and if it comes off will actually involve the town centre in the Festival rather than sidelining it in favour of the old town as has been the case over the last few years. I am not sure how much the residents will appreciate even more disruption along with the trams fiasco but it is Edinburgh’s biggest earner and at least the retail industry –other than the tartan gift shops of the Royal Mile- will benefit from having the extra footfall this time of year inevitably brings.

The sad news of Donna Summer’s death after battling cancer came yesterday and with it arrived an array of tributes some focussing on her importance as a disco diva who along with Giorgio Moroder -the real musical genius behind her most influential works- changed dance music forever and as a totem of an era of gay liberation whilst others focussed on some alleged homophobic remarks made in the eighties after exploiting this market to her own ends and financial gain. Personally I think it is a clouded issue and audiences often adopt an artist or performer and transfer their own agenda onto them as wishful thinking then feeling let down when they don’t live up to their –often unreasonable- expectations. Donna Summer never asked to be a figurehead for the gay rights movement and I cannot imagine her getting ready for a night out in leather chapps, clutching a bottle of amyl nitrate and ready for a night of heavy fisting with a moustachioed stranger. The mistake of assuming the performer is like their public image within their private life is prevalent and whilst often there are similarities between the public and private personas there are nearly always vast differences also.

John Lennon may have advocated peace, love and universality to the rest of the world but at home he was a wife beating misogynist who neglected-and later rejected- his first child whilst singing ‘All You Need Is Love’ as a message the rest of us should adhere to. He also sang of the damage his parents splitting up and abandoning him had done in ‘Mother’ when virtually at the exact same moment he was doing the same thing to his own child.Similarly Bob Marley may have sung of ‘One Love’ but as an aggressive encounter with journalist Nick Kent in a recording studio recalled in Apathy For The Devil this did not extend to foppish, effeminate guys in make up. Marilyn Monroe may have presented a vision of beauty and success to the world but behind the lidded eyes and sensually parted mouth was a deeply sexually unsatisfied woman with a history of mental illness and depression.

The blurring of identity between what is real and make believe is hard to fathom after it has been through the  rigours of the publicity machine designed at creating a public image necessary at keeping the artists profile raised in the public eye. Often this causes conflict not only amongst the audience but within the artists themselves and the list of those who can no longer distinguish their own self and get lost in the mire of publicity and hype is endless. Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and most recently Amy Winehouse all fell prey to this and sadly are no longer with us. Lennon who had overcome his own inner dichotomies and fought his demons to find some peace unfortunately had his  life  snuffed out by an attention seeking loner, who unable to reconcile  the differences inherent in his former hero, responded by shooting him at point blank range .

None of this detracts from the legacy of the work left behind however and Donna Summer never fell victim to her image but instead spoke out against it. Whether this was a wise move is arguable but it didn’t really affect her standing or record sales drastically. At the end of the day ‘I Feel Love’ is one of the greatest and most important records ever- in many ways its arrival in 1977 the summer of punk is fortuitous as this one record is as significant as that whole cultural defining movement- and can still pack out a dancefloor any time at any location in the world. Thirty five years on from its release it still sounds like the future.

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