So, Stephen Gately is dead at 33.
In dying, he has completed his apparent mission in life to do nothing original. This is a man who was part of a manufactured boyband constructed to emulate the success of Take That but without original songs or the barest emergence of engaging personality. Boyzone sang cover versions of songs from the 70’s that were *just* obscure enough to slyly convince their brainless audience that they might be written by the potato-headed band themselves. The arrangement of these songs was a lifeless faux-orchestral swill which raised an octave in the last verse to lazily impose some intensity upon a group who were a dull sham and attractive in only a provincial sense. Upon splitting, Gately attempted a solo career, failed, and ended up performing in some faltering West End musicals right in that era when producers realised that integrity made them less money than casting an ex-soap star or manufactured band second stringer in the lead role. And now he’s dead, like many people before him. Death is singularly the least original thing a person can indulge in (although David Carradine at least proved there are still original methods) and is, seemingly, a fitting end to the life of Stephen Gately who did nothing original or interesting.
I’m aware of how cold-hearted and boringly provocative that last paragraph was and I should say that his death is, indeed, a tragedy. He was far too young and one shouldn’t make light of the impact such a horrible situation will doubtlessly be having on his friends and untalented former bandmates. I’m not mocking the valid grief and sadness of those who knew him.
It’s this modern construct of reinvention through death which bothers me. Gately’s death is sad because he was a young and, by all accounts, very nice chap. However, I will angrily refute the notion that we have lost a great talent here. That somehow music has lost out. This was Gately’s first appearance…
7 years later, post-Boyzone, with the investment of millions of record company pounds, stylists, songwriters, pop producers and session musicians, here is the zenith of his solo ouvre…
We have not lost anything even resembling a talent worth comment. Yet, this is the tragedy of the week and anyone financially connected to the back catalogue and licensing of Boyzone will be wiping away the tears with a very healthy looking projections sheet for the last business quarter of ’09. Doubtless their ‘greatest hits’ album is alreadybeing frenetically pressed for the Christmas rush and someone somewhere has been tearing their archival department apart trying to find the masters of Gately’s failed solo album New Beginning to slam into immediate production.
This is my point. This is not real grief. This is a highly commercial and sickening rush to profit from actual sadness on a human level. Why is it front page news? Even the bulk of ex-Boyzone fans don’t CARE about his death beyond a passing sadness for a stranger who had somewhat featured in their pre-teens. Most of the country have no interest in the man whatsoever – this is obvious from his failed attempts at a career post-Boyzone. Yet his death interests us? No. We only discuss it because of it’s prevelance. And it is only prevalent to make rich people richer. The tabloids have already turned it into a soap opera, each promising exclusive revelations that will doubtless sell more newspapers because people want to be kept abreast of whatever everyone else is going to be talking about. These same newspapers are owned by the companies and people who own the big TV stations who are doubtless planning tributes and documentaries which will be heavily plugged and generate them HUGE advertising revenues.
Do you remember the general public perception of Michael Jackson before he died? People hated him – he was seen as an obvious peadophile who had ‘got away with it’. He was basically bankrupt. His last albums had underperformed drastically compared to his previous form and the press conference in which he had announced his planned London residency had been regarded as a freakshow. Yet, he dies and becomes absolved of it all. ‘Weird’ becomes ‘troubled’, ‘failure’ becomes ‘tragedy’ and buying a Jackson album goes from being a strange and somewhat shameful venture to being a public display of respect and memorial. For someone that two weeks previously was a baby-dangling, kiddy-fiddling hasbeen? A week ago, did you hear anybody saying ‘I wonder what Stephen Gately’s up to, he’s so talented and brilliant’?
It is horrible and underhand mass media manipulation engineered to generate profit.
A fleeting glance at the obituaries page on the Guardian website tells me that in the last few days alone we have lost Barry Letts – the producer of Doctor Who in the 70’s who cast Tom Baker in the role. Shelby Singleton – owner of Sun Records also died, although he didn’t start the company, he was instrumental in pushing it’s catalogue out across the world and himself produced a bunch of hit singles including Walk On By. A week earlier, we lost iconic photographer Irving Penn, Robert Kirby – a musical arranger for the likes of Nick Drake, Elvis Costello, most of Fairport Convention, Vashti Bunyan and The Magic Numbers. We also lost ‘the best drummer in Britain’ Bobby Graham – who played on a long list of 60s songs the beats of which are ingrained in the whole nation.
And that’s just the people from the arts. Every one of them a fuller life and a more valid contribution to culture than Gately’s, yet our loss of them becomes mere footnotes. Gately dominates the front pages. And this is just from the entertainment sector of society.
Everyday we lose campaigners, political heavyweights, writers, archaeologists, architects, intellectuals, charity workers, scientists… people whose lives deserve to be publicly acknowledged, whose passing deserves to be mourned, whose legacies deserve to be noted and explained. Whose lives we can learn through and take something from.
But these are real people, not attractive street urchins from some crappy little town who had been transformed into the most empty version of celebrity. These are people who did something and lead amazing lives. These are people whose lives had no inherent commercial value.
This appropriation of private sadness and manufacture of public grief stems, no doubt from the cash cow of Princess Di’s death. The Daily Express still seems to be entirely financially dependent on it. It is tasteless and exploitative and just another notch in the bedpost of the syphilitic old whore that ‘journalism’ has become.
Print media is dying – as it rightly should – and the next generation of journalism will be online and egalitarian and so fractured that the millionaires who currently own the ‘free’ press will never again have the power to influence on such a scale. It’s about time their power is questioned and rather than be fearful of their influence, those in the public eye speak out against conjecture, opinion, advertising and propoganda masquerading as journalism. I was heartened this week to see this clip…
The White House head of communications Anita Dunn finally telling it like it is in regards to FOX. The corporatised media shouldn’t be allowed to get away with what they do by people fearful of their power. You should never be scared to call bullshit. That’s how they got so corrupt and powerful in the first place.
Rather than waste time fuelling the profit-making of another celebrity death, why not watch this documentary……