My de­gen­er­a­tion: Why old rock­ers love Brexit

The New European - - Agenda - STEVE AN­GLE­SEY’S

One of the great (and sadly apoc­ryphal) sto­ries of rock con­cerns the mo­ment Bono si­lenced the crowd at one of U2’s megagigs and be­gan slowly click­ing his fin­gers.

“Ev­ery time I do this, an­other African child dies,” he in­toned. To which a man in the front row is said to have shouted, “stop do­ing it then”.

Brexit makes for strange bed­fel­lows. For sev­eral rea­sons, their leader’s epic pom­pos­ity high among them, I be­long to the camp which re­gards Bono’s mob as sixth-rate chancers in­ex­pli­ca­bly el­e­vated to the demigod sta­tus de­servedly earned by the likes of The Who. Yet place the singer’s state­ments on Brexit next to those made re­cently by Roger Dal­trey and you have to ad­mit that this is a rare oc­ca­sion on which U2 ac­tu­ally are even bet­ter than the real thing. Or, in­deed, even bet­ter than the Real Thing, the 1970s Liver­pool soul band whose Can’t Get By Without You out­shines With Or Without You any day of the week.

On stage in Belfast the other night, Bono told the au­di­ence it was “still a great Euro­pean city... al­ways and for­ever. What­ever hap­pens, whether there’s a hard or soft or no bor­der at all, more than ever, we need to trust each other on this small is­land in the North At­lantic Ocean. It looks like some rough weather ahead but it’ll be a lot less rough if we nav­i­gate it to­gether.”

Char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally hokey, but far more im­pres­sive than Dal­trey’s re­cent as­ser­tion that the EU is a “gravy train soak­ing us dry”. This was pos­si­bly the most ridicu­lous thing to come out of his mouth since the open­ing lines of the ti­tle track on his 1977 solo al­bum One Of The Boys: “He speaks with a ter­ri­ble stam­mer, so he don’t have much to say/ But he can spit fur­ther than any punk, so no­body gets in his way.”

I am no great fan of Queen ei­ther, but read Brian May’s quotes from this week (“I get up ev­ery day and put my head in my hands about Brexit; I think it is the stu­pid­est thing we ever tried to do”) and the whole be­ing “caught in a land­slide, no es­cape from re­al­ity” thing be­gins to make some kind of sense.

Of course, com­ing out as a Brex­i­teer can­not and should not di­min­ish the im­por­tance of your past work. No-one will delete Baba O’ri­ley or Won’t Get Fooled Again from their Spo­tify playlists sim­ply be­cause Roger Dal­trey be­lieves that all Brexit will mean for mu­si­cians is “a bit more pa­per­work on this side of the Chan­nel”. The great­ness of Ringo Starr’s drum­ming on Rain and Some­thing is undimmed by his be­lief that leav­ing the EU is “a great move...

I think, you know, to be in con­trol of your coun­try is a good move”. The shiv­ers still in­duced by John Ly­don’s voice on God Save The Queen and Pop­tones have sur­vived his Coun­try Life ad­verts, and will sur­vive his calls for “a truly bril­liant Bri­tish exit”.

Turn­ing to the crown­ing achieve­ments of peo­ple from my home­town of Manch­ester, Mark E Smith of The Fall’s decades of mag­nif­i­cent out­put will out­live his thoughts on Brexit (“I thought it was great, still do”), while How Soon Is Now? will still be danced to long af­ter Mor­ris­sey’s hate­ful­ness is for­got­ten. And when our mem­o­ries of Noel Gal­lagher telling Re­main­ers to “fuck­ing get on with it” have fi­nally gone to that cham­pagne su­per­nova in the sky, peo­ple will look back fondly on how well he once kept the In­spi­ral Car­pets’ gui­tars in tune. When mu­si­cians we ad­mire turn out to sup­port Brexit we can be dis­ap­pointed but we shouldn’t re­ally be sur­prised. Starr is 78, Dal­trey 74, Ly­don 62, Mor­ris­sey 59, Gal­lagher 51 and Smith was 60 when he died in Jan­uary; plac­ing all in age de­mo­graph­ics which went for Leave. All hail from the white work­ing class, an­other happy hunt­ing ground for Leave (“the work­ing class have voted and I sup­port them,” said Ly­don last year). All, in vary­ing de­grees, see them­selves as the cham­pion of the or­di­nary guy against The Man, a per­sua­sive Leave mes­sage. All are self-made, liv­ing lives in­volv­ing lit­tle com­pro­mise or ne­go­ti­a­tion. All be­gan as equal parts of groups be­fore go­ing solo or as­sum­ing con­trol.

And all have al­most cer­tainly spent the last few decades sur­rounded by peo­ple who are un­likely to ever tell them that they are talk­ing com­plete and ut­ter bol­locks.

Though per­haps some­thing else en­tirely led Dal­trey to Brexit. It may have been that, cu­ri­ous about the sub­ject and ea­ger to re­search it, he in­no­cently en­tered a web­site con­tain­ing dis­turb­ing pro-brexit ma­te­rial.

But then who would ever be­lieve an ex­cuse like that?

SAY WHAT? “We haven’t played all the cards in our arse­nal” - Brex­i­teer An­drea Jenkyns be­wil­ders the Ques­tion Time au­di­ence as she shuf­fles her pack of guns SAY WHAT? “There’s bil­lions of peo­ple in the Empire, let’s get back to be­ing a Bri­tish Empire again. That’s what it’s all about, you know - it’s about be­ing a Bri­tish Empire” - An at­tendee of Nigel Farage’s Leave Means Leave rally in Har­ro­gate tells Sky News he’s look­ing for­ward to the re­turns of colo­nial­ism, slav­ery and gun­boat diplo­macy

Photo: Getty Im­ages

FOOLED AGAIN: The Who front­man Roger Dal­trey

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