By Luke Haines
My girlfriend went to a gig by The Blockheads, the other night.
I don’t normally bore the internet with the minutiae of my life – it’s why I’m not on Instagram – but in this case the story has a little more to it.
About three songs in, lead singer Derek Hussey (who replaced front man Ian Dury after his death in 2000) decided to dedicate a number to “…someone who’s been a bit of a naughty boy… Phil Spector!”
If you think that’s a weird dedication from a band that never worked with Phil Spector, and who didn’t then play one of Spector’s songs, you’d be right. Spector hasn’t been in the news lately, there was no reason to bring him up, plus… y’know… he’s a fucking murderer.
There’s a long list of artists that have made great art whilst being terrible people in their private lives – even confining ourselves strictly to rock and pop; John Lennon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry… all did things that varied from “bad” to “horrible” when it comes to women. This can make their music morally awkward, but even then, none of them are in Spector’s league. None of them murdered a woman in a fit of temper. None of them held women prisoner the way Spector did. None of them once built a coffin as a prop to threaten their wives with.
Phil Spector isn’t just a “naughty boy.” He’s a misogynist nutcase who shot an innocent woman in the face and then lied about it in court.
Hussey, however, wasn’t done with his tribute. “Sure,” Hussey said, “he shot his girlfriend. But he invented the Wall Of Sound, for God’s sake!”
Perhaps the Blockheads’ descent into semi-obscurity has done them some favours, here. Certainly, if Harry Styles were to tell fifty thousand people that O.J. Simpson was an okay guy, really – and a hell of a football player! – you would have read about this already.
Still, just to be clear, it’s 2017, and somehow, we still have to remind old white men that women aren’t disposable entities that someone can be forgiven for murdering as long as they produced enough decent albums.
It’s an inevitable fact of life that rebels tend to sell out. But there can’t be much sadder a fall from grace than a band with a punk ethos that shrugs off the callous actions of an old millionaire towards a less powerful member of society.
And on a personal note, Blockheads?