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Violence in Genoa, visiting a legend in London and Bono’s odd choice of friends
Eamonn McCann, 02 Aug 2001
What an intriguing scene it was on the BBC News, Sir Bob Geldof, Bono and Tony Blair standing sternly together on a terrace of some sort in Genoa during the G8 summit.
The voice-over told that the three men were at one in condemning ‘the violence’. The reference was to the violence of anti-capitalist demonstrators, not the more serious, lethal violence of the State forces defending capitalism.
This fraudulent use of language is a vital element in propaganda designed to persuade us not to regard violence by the State as violence at all, but to reserve the word ‘violence’ for actions by those the State sees as its enemies.
There was a great hoo-ha in Britain a few months ago about violence which many anticipated in London on May Day. In the event, 6,000 police assembled, clad in protective helmets and body armour and carrying clubs and other weapons, and corraled perhaps 10,000 anti-capitalist demonstrators in Oxford Circus for eight hours. Anyone attempting to leave was prevented by force – scores were kicked, punched or beaten with batons – or by the threat of force. This was the only violence used the entire day. Then Tony Blair praised the police for ‘averting violence’.
At the EU Heads of State meeting in Gothenburg, armed police drew their guns and opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, wounding two. In Genoa, they opened fire again, killing an unarmed rioter.
Afterwards, Bob Geldof, Bono and Tony Blair, attending a photo-shoot, tell the world that they are at one in condemning ‘the violence’ – of the anti-capitalist side.
At least we know now what side they are on when it comes to the crunch.
Somebody told the man who runs the Marathon that Liam Gallagher had landed and he said, ‘Who?’
The Marathon is an overground kebab cavern on the Chalk Farm Road in north London, opposite the Round House.
You can’t miss the Round House – a huge, high, yellow-brick building from the century before last, built as a workshop for repairing railway engines, rescued from demolition 35 years ago by an arts sub-committee of the Trade Union Congress which could never quite work out what to do with it, now used for fairs, festivals and shenanigans of all sorts.
It was the venue in 1967 for the Dialectics of Liberation Conference, where I was talking to Stokely Carmichael about anti-colonialism when word came that John Coltrane had died. Carmichael paused: ‘I’m talking here, I’ll have to take that later’.
Anyway. It’s because it’s opposite the Round House that the Marathon is dead easy to find. This is fortunate, because many people en route for the Marathon don’t know where they are going. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, though, they know why.
Liam Gallagher arrived Wednesday for the same reason as myself, to hear Daniel Jeanrenaud.
The man who runs the Marathon was singularly unimpressed when it was explained that this Gallagher was a mighty celebrity come to grace his emporium. But then, it’s a singular place, the Marathon. A kebab shop as it fronts onto the street, standard-issue doner-chompers in the stalls with hot meat-juice and mayo dribbling healthily along stubbled chins. A four-foot stretch of the counter serves as the bar---bottled lager, rough shorts, plonk. Through an awning and you’re into the murky back tabled room which holds about 60 and which is the Marathon, as it were, proper.
Daniel looks like a gallic Gene Vincent with additional wisdom, walks like Jerry Lee, plays his guitar like a ring on a bell. His Gibson is called Nadine on account of Chuck Berry borrowed it one night at Bill Graham’s old Waldorf place in downtown San Francisco.
Daniel is from Marseilles, moved to California in the 1980s and formed the Kingsnakes with ex-members of the Flamin’ Groovies. The ‘Snakes were among 137 (approx.) bands nominated by a magazine in 1980something as The Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World. Evenings off, Daniel jammed with Sly Stone. Went back to France in the early ‘90s, formed a new Kingsnakes with Manu Tchao, earned a rock-solid reputation as a hard-working, live band so that everybody passing through hung out with nobody else. Played en passant with Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley, Link Wray, Albert Collins, Wilson Pickett. Daniel didn’t know too many naff people. The Kingsnakes’ last show before he skipped town, at the Paris Olympia, was with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
For reasons enshrouded in enigma, he lives now in premises abutting the Marathon, does music every day: today Leicester Square tube, tonight Ronnie Scott’s, tomorrow the wedding of the daughter of somebody so rich there should be a law about it (as one day there will be), plus hospital cafeterias, festivals, juke joints and overground kebab caverns.
Daniel plays the Marathon at midnight Wednesdays and Thursdays. Classics from the catalogues of the eternally cool giants of the genre, ‘Twenty Flight Rock’, ‘Yes, It’s Me and I’m in Love Again’, ‘Lawdy Ms. Clawdy’, ‘High School Confidential’, ‘One Night’, plus a scattering of uncategorisable songs of his own. He sings with a growly chuckle, in a voice that has an eyebrow permanently arched and an edge when it hits into overdrive, chops out a assertive, jangly guitar sound that’s wholly reminiscent but you can’t exactly put your finger on it. You look around and wonder is he mocking himself or amused at the disparate audience of late-night desperadoes. And then it strikes you, that Daniel isn’t paying tribute to or impersonating Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent. He’s one of those guys. Which in an overground kebab cavern opposite the Round House the week before last was an utterly unexpected sheer joy to stumble in on.
If you ever fall out of a London pub on an appropriate night and don’t know where you’re going, consider yourself en route for the Marathon.
Association with popes, presidents and prime ministers will be the ruination of rock ‘n’ roll. Not to mention becoming hugger-mugger with the likes of Jesse Helms.
Which is to say that if Bono paid more attention to the company he keeps, he wouldn’t find himself endorsing the violence of the State.
Bono’s liason with Helms, 79, began last autumn when he accepted a lunch invitation from the Republican senator for North Carolina “to discuss world debt”. In June the singer reciprocated by asking Helms along to U2’s Washington gig. Helms – campaign slogan, ‘America First!’ – spent an hour backstage before the show talking with the band.
US newspapers reported Bono and Helms describing each other as ‘my friend’.
After the gig, Helms provided the wire-services with a selection of usable quotes. ‘People were moving back and forth like corn in the breeze...’ The senator ‘chortled’ that he’d had to turn down his hearing aid. “It was the noisiest thing I ever heard... So loud I couldn't understand what he was saying."
What fun. And what brilliant soft-focus publicity for a racist bigot and homophobe and bitter opponent of even the mildest of measures to redistribute the world’s wealth.
Helms’s most recent legislative success had come just three weeks before U2’s Washington gig. He piloted through Congress a measure making it illegal for schools in the US to refuse to hire out premises to organisations such as the Boy Scouts which refuse membership to gays.
Helms explained in the Senate that his amendment was meant to combat "the organized lesbians and homosexuals in this country of ours."
He is an opponent of affirmative action programmes, is gung-ho for the death penalty and against gun control, argued for the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, is one of a tiny number of US national representatives who argue openly against ‘mixed-race’ relationships.
And Bono is happy to be pictured with him and to describe him publicly as ‘my friend’.
In search of a different view, I consult a friend of my own from the US. A woman of intense moderation, she says:
“What kind of pig fucking piece of dog shit actually speaks in public about combating a gay agenda? What kind of right wing nutcase actually believes that homosexuals in this country have any other priority than equal rights under our laws? Boss Hog speaks these gems of wisdom on a regular basis, this is merely the most recent.
“If allowing a major organization to discriminate against citizens is a necessary component of fighting a war against homosexuality in this country then we ought to just forget about this whole civil rights thing and just write some new laws that exclude the unpopular minorities of this
country purposefully. This way we can get around those confusing sweeping comments like, ‘All men are created equal’.
“I honestly wish that Jesse Helms and the rest of the fucking republican party had something better to do than to legislate straight from the Christian Coalition's agenda. I think with all of the global warming, police misconduct, underfunded school systems, horribly flawed voting procedures, genetically engineered food, clear cutting of all of our old growth forests, pollution, corruption in the government, monopolies and oligopolies buying legislation, and inequality in this world we could all find something better to discuss and legislate than whether the Boy Scouts should be allowed to meet and discriminate on school property.
“The system of government we use is completey fucked up and backward. Our elected officials' priorities have completely been corrupted by special interest groups and the moral ‘right’. Fuck Jesse Helms, the motherfucker needs to either retire or just die and stop polluting our government with his sick, twisted mind.”
Now that, Bono, that’s rock ‘n’ roll.