The Amy Parable
I've been talking about Amy Winehouse on a few radio programmes since Saturday. Having opinions about music is my job, and in a situation like this, I try not to be mawkish or phoney. Nor should I pretend to know more about the artist than I have reason to.
William Crawley rang me on behalf of Sunday Sequence. I was on the forecourt of a service station in Draperstown, just down from the cold Sperrins and a day of the Glasgowbury Festival. When the news broke on Saturday, we had all jabbed at our phone screens and supposed it was one of those festival moments when a dumb rumour gets misrepresented. But by early evening, the worst assumptions were true and Katy Richardson gave Amy a namecheck from the Eagle's Rock Stage, the audience murmured in unison, glad to acknowledge the moment.
During my days at the NME, I'd been tasked with editing the obit issue of Kurt Cobain. I'd also written the farewells to Richey Manic and some other casualties. On each occasion, there was a bit of a moral quandary about the colliding demands of grief, respect, commerce and cash-in. Where was the line? And how to discern it?
So when William Crawley asked me if there was some kind of a parable that the Sunday Sequence people could work with, I remembered some of those old notions. About the myth of Prometheus, the original fire-starter. Or those guys with the waxy wings that melted in the sun. Or the archetype of Ziggy Stardust, who made love with his ego, and then sucked into his mind, man.
But on the chill Sunday morning, I couldn't think of any redemption in the Amy story. A couple of albums, a mass of headlines, an addictive temperament, some bad tattoos and maybe an underlying illness. The same old song, or maybe a similar refrain. We've lost another one.