(c) Rolling Stone
I have resisted the temptation to take a peek (or as they say in Scotland, a keek) at footage of the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which was held the other day in Glasgow. This is because, from the snippets about it I’ve read in the news media, it was a bit of a cringe-fest.
For example… Susan Boyle forgetting the lyrics to Mull of Kintyre, a ballad so simplistic I’d always assumed a monkey would manage to knock it out after a couple of days of being shut up in a room with some sheets of paper and a typewriter… Battalions of wee kids running around, pretending to be Tunnock’s Teacakes… John Barrowman being, well, John Barrowman… The Red Arrows dousing the sky with red-white-and-blue smoke, the colours of the Union Jack, and discreetly not omitting the red smoke – because that would leave only white-and-blue smoke, the colours of the Scottish saltire, and with the referendum on Scottish independence just two months away the Ministry of Defence didn’t want to do anything that might encourage Scottish nationalist sentiment.
(Oddly, during the Iraq War, the MoD was happy enough to put the saltire on leaflets distributed among the locals southwest of Bagdad when soldiers in Scotland’s Black Watch regiment were stationed there. This was in the hope that those soldiers might be perceived as being different from unpopular American and ‘British’ forces. So the MoD’s thinking regarding the saltire seems to be: use in illegal wars mounted by Tony Blair and resulting in 100,000+ deaths – GOOD; acknowledging Scotland at a major sports competition, held in Scotland, where Scotland competes as a separate country – BAD.)
Courtesy, P. Smith
To be honest, the uninspiring but tourist-friendly, a-bit-crap-but-cheerful tone that seems to have pervaded the ceremony (again, from the bits I’ve read about it) was as much as I’d hoped for from the powers-that-be in Glasgow, a place that seems to have been under the dominion of the Scottish Labour Party since the late Bronze Age. My expectations were low because: (1) the Labour city fathers of Glasgow were never going to attempt anything too rousing or imaginative – on the scale, say, of Danny Boyle’s opening for the 2012 Olympics in London – for fear of giving Scottish people ideas above their station and, again, tempting them to vote for independence in the referendum; and (2) with its few remaining ‘big hitters’ like Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander based down in Westminster, the gene pool of the Labour Party in Scotland is pretty shallow these days. (I mean, have you heard Scottish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont try to construct a coherent sentence, let alone a coherent argument, in TV interviews recently? Jesus Christ…)
Still, I’d have thought that no one involved in organising the ceremony would be so numpty-ish as to wheel on Rod Stewart to sing at it. But they did. Rod Stewart. Rod bloody Stewart!
Now I’m not going to go into matters of Rod’s ethnicity and question his right to perform at the biggest sporting event held in Scotland in a generation. He was born in London and whenever he opens his mouth he sounds like a dodgy geezer involved in a complex heist operation in Bethnal Green in a Guy Ritchie movie. But his dad was from north of the border. And even if he had no Scottish ancestry at all, if he wants to call himself Scottish, that’s fine by me. However, there is the inescapable truth that, for a good long time, his music has been rubbish. Lowest-common-denominator, soft-rock-singalong rubbish.
Sure, he was great between 1969 and 1975 when he was the frontman for the Faces, but there was never any chance of Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones joining him onstage in Glasgow for a Faces reunion – especially as one of those guys is now dead. But since the mid-1970s his career has been woeful in terms of quality, even if he has managed to shift ‘product’ by the lorry-load and made a fortune, which I suppose is what matters to him. If the masses want endless, raspy wave-your-cigarette-lighters-in-the-air dirges like Sailing or You’re in my Heart, then Rod is the man who’ll happily provide them. “Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart, rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so fully,” commented Rolling Stone magazine in 1980, rightly.
The nadir came in 1978 with Rod strutting around to a vaguely disco-y beat and singing Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? The answer to that questioningly-titled song is, of course, an emphatic two-letter word. The same two-letter word I would fire at Vladimir Putin if he stood up at a karaoke machine and started singing Don’t You Want Me, Baby? Or at Imelda Marcos if she stood up at one and started singing Let’s Spend the Night Together.
That said, although I can’t stand Rod’s rendition of it, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy can’t be that bad a song in itself. For there is at least one version of it in the world, sung by somebody else, which always brings a smile to my face. Here it is:
Now why couldn’t they have had him singing at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games?