I rarely buy The Sunday Times, a British newspaper with as many sections and supplements as Joseph’s coat had colors. It is an unwieldy journal to read, about as convenient as riding a bicycle in an airplane.
I bought it the other day, though, and as usual admired the consummate skill with which its editors manage to pack so little into so much space. It requires a certain ingenuity and brazenness (as well as advertisers of everything from holidays in Croatia to stair lifts for the elderly) to fill so many pages every week.
I turned to the section called Culture, on whose cover I saw staring out at me the face of a man called Liam Gallagher, a former pop singer. The title was “Still a Rock ’n’ Roll Star.”
His face took me back a few years to when I was what might be called the vulgarity correspondent for a British newspaper that shall be nameless. When it came to vulgarity, this newspaper faced in more than one direction: In theory, it was against it, but in practice it actively promoted it, thus getting the best of two readerships.
As for vulgarity correspondent I was sent wherever, at home or abroad, British youth gathered and behaved unattractively—which, of course, was more or less anywhere it gathered. They sent me to Glasgow to see Liam and his brother Noel perform.
This was the second pop “concert” the newspaper had sent me to. The first was by an act so horrible—the “artists” urinated over the nearest members of the audience and repeatedly addressed it as “you motherfuckers”—that the council of a town repeatedly voted as one of the worst in England (where the competition for the title is exceedingly great) had banned them from appearing on a municipal stage. Their music sounded to me like a perpetual car crash; their language combined banality with extreme offensiveness, and I was surprised to see that many middle-class enthusiasts so desired to be insulted and urinated over that they brought their 6- or 7-year-old children with them to witness it. I suppose they couldn’t get babysitters for the night.