DESPITE 2012 being my own ‘annus mirabilis’ (birth of daughter, Champions League triumph, Stone Roses reformation, the continuing rare ability to make money from writing) it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t start the new year with a moan.
Suitably enough this one is going to be about that annual ceremony of trumped-up privilege known as the New Year’s Honours List.
It’s been a tricky year for anyone daring to moan about antiquated feudal power, misplaced patriotism or the sheer absurdity of a system that still forces us to doff a cap to our princes and princesses (“Do you have wizards and fairies, too?” – US comic Doug Stanhope).
What started with Will and Kate’s wedding in 2012 continued with the Jubilee and then came the Olympics which made us all happy to be British again thanks to Mo Farah, Jess Ennis and George Osbourne being booed (best joke I heard all year: “Why did 80,000 people boo George Osborne? Because that's the maximum capacity of the Olympic Stadium.” Thankfully in the middle of all that was Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce’s superb opening ceremony in which a lot that was wonderful about British music played a starring role.
There was something cheeky, irreverent and rebellious about the ceremony but despite the appropriation of their music it was clear that the likes of David Bowie and the Sex Pistols felt more than a little uncomfortable about the whole shebang after turning down the opportunity to perform live on the night.
Another artist who refused the chance ‘to medal’ was Kate Bush, whose Running Up That Hill was used in one of the more affecting sections of the ceremony.
I (like a lot of men of a certain age it seems) am a huge fan of Kate Bush which is why I can’t have been the only one to have felt a slight pang of disappointment when she accepted a CBE in the New Year’s Honour List.
Of course, I’m horribly naive when it comes to all this but is it really so wrong to cling to the idea that rock n roll should be vaguely anti-establishment?
Look at the Rolling Stones for example. When the Queen said “arise Sir Mick” you can imagine what a thrill it was for the cricket-loving home counties landowner side of Mick, especially when his song writing partner Keith Richards wasn’t invited to the Palace. And why wasn’t he? The drugs probably didn’t help but the fact of the matter is the establishment have to draw the line somewhere and Keith is way beyond that line and probably snorting it as we speak.
The list of those musicians who declined honours makes for a far cooler read than those who’ve accepted. Obviously I’ll let Paul McCartney off because he was in The Beatles which excuses everything, but any list which includes the aforementioned Mr Bowie, Paul Weller, George Melly, Humphrey Littleton and Ralph Vaughn Williams seems much more preferable than one with Cliff Richard, Tom Jones and Andrew Lloyd Webber on it.
Extend it out further and you could mention David Hockney, Harold Pinter, Albert Finney and Evelyn Waugh. Not a bad fantasy dinner party list that I’m sure you’ll agree.
There’s no doubt that it's easy to sit here and sneer at the notion of Knights of the realm and Commanders of the Empire when the chances of me ever being in the position to turn one down are slim at best.
But if the time ever comes I hope I’ll take inspiration from the great Danny Boyle and be content and proud to be “an equal citizen”.