Think of Europe as a megaclub with lots of different rooms. Sure, not all of them are good. But isn't better than the fights when a dozen clubs all chuck out at the same time?
My new song genuinely came to me in a daydream, while I was trying to tune in my faulty DAB radio. I heard a snippet of news about this badly timed referendum* on staying or leaving the EU and suddenly it hit me hard how much I'd miss it if the UK, true to its tradition of recreational vandalism, managed inexplicably to kick itself out of this sophisticated European nightclub.
The club itself? Well it's a very complex warren of a nightclub with many rooms playing very different songs. People rarely dance to the same tune but it's the best night out. This song is basically just an attempt to make an emotional case for Mother Europe - this flawed, fantastic, potentially utopian megaclub that I've been lucky enough to grow up in.
My initial idea was to record an undercover song that could be played to xenophobes as a regular love song. I had no inkling that I was going to be writing this particular song on that day but somehow or other that's how things turned out, so I went with it. In the end I didn't want to sit on the fence so I called it I Love EU.
This song isn't about definitive political policy detail, but about the genuine friendship I've felt as a touring musician living in the EU - which, as a child of the 1970s, is all I've ever known.
In his autobiography, Tropical Truth, the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso wrote of his continued belief in the illusion of Brazil as a tropical beacon of inclusion, even when he himself had been detained in solitary confinement and then exiled by its military government, for singing subversive psychedelic Yoruba-beat pop songs in green plastic trousers.
Equally it can be helpful, despite of the real threat of an undemocratic corporate takeover, to continually imagine the parallel universe Europe of our wildest idealist dreams.
This very complex warren of a nightclub is still under construction and there are some serious structural problems and some of the speakers have blown out, but Conny Plank and Marlene Dietrich are sorting it out as we speak. The bouncer is trying to keep people out, but there's a massive hall inside that could hold a lot of those people queuing. This weekend sees the Euro Classics Weekender grace its dance floors. Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and Black Box are all playing. Abba, Brigitte Fontaine and Can and are on tomorrow. Sade, Stereolab, New Order and Technotronic play Sunday afternoon, while Andy Votel and Mina Minerva are preparing a season of Baltic electro for next month. Picasso is on visuals. Ibiza is the outdoor section, where the smokers and vapers seem to congregate.
Nobody in their right mind wants to leave, but like any paradise there are flipsides.
Current management are trying to charge people for drinking the tap water - but it's conceivable that the membership can arrange a takeover in time and share it out. It seems to be worth it in the long term - when there was a bunch of separate clubs in town there used to be a lot of fights at closing time, and now we can share the costs of door security and the beer supplier.
Listen, don't get me wrong - I can see there's lots to change about the lack of transparency and democracy of the current elitist EU nightclub. There are bullshit VIP rooms where our elected representatives are not let in. I've a lot of time for many of the arguments about leaving the current form of the EU for this reason, but my personal hunch is that in the throes of the current colossal migrant crisis, the Leave campaign just provides a platform of hate for those who carry the burden of nostalgia for war and empire. As long as there is leadership in the case against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and promising organisations like dIEM25 (who are campaigning for a democratic Europe by 2025), it seems to me to be worth pursuing with this ambitious postwar plan to rid the continent of war and fascism.
As a writer of dumb rhymes, this song is my meagre contribution. I'd love my kids to continue to experience the full diversity of Europe. The problem for any golden age is to recognise itself. Time usually does the trick, unfortunately we've only got till 23 June. I Love EU.
* David Cameron arrogantly and recklessly set the June date for this referendum in the face of protests from the first ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who are all in the middle of their own election cycles and in Wales's case - with no thanks to the aforementioned prime minister - facing a further catastrophic collapse of industry. When extreme governments like the current one are in power in Westminster, the EU seems like a comparative sanctuary of sanity. The largely progressive Celtic bloc have made alliances throughout Europe with other smaller nations that were once near suffocated by the monocultural outlook of the colonial era. From this perspective (which is true for me), the EU is also symbolic of liberation and co-operation.
Watch my video for 'I Love EU' below.
This blog post first appeared in the Guardian here.
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