Thursday, 15 December 2011
“All I want for Christmas is a No 1. I like the idea that a group of women singing in a church with a speccy choirmaster is Simon Cowell’s greatest threat. I’m sure he’s quaking in his boots.”
Those are the words of Gareth Malone, the nation’s favourite choirmaster, in an interview to be published in ES magazine tomorrow.
And I reckon he’s right. As Simon Cowell sits in the LA sunshine, he must be stunned that a choir of 100 military wives from two Devon army bases look set to turn the tables and scoop the top spot at Christmas.
With four days to go, everyone I know is rooting for the Military Wives’ single, Wherever You Are. It’s already the bookies’ favourite to beat X Factor winners Little Mix and Amazon says the track, a moving love song composed from letters written by servicemen and their wives during a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, is the most pre-ordered music product of all time.
Twitter is buzzing with support for the wives (you can follow them at @Milwiveschoir) and Chris Evans has been playing the song for weeks on his Radio 2 breakfast show. “We’re having to give out mascara warnings every morning – ‘it’s your five-minute mascara warning... don’t put on your mascara yet,’” he says. “It speaks love, it speaks care, it speaks magic and it speaks massive emotion, all the right things at the right time.”
Like millions of others, I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait to get my hands on it on Monday (December 19). Because the Military Wives’ story is a triumph all round. It’s helped a fabulous group of women discover their voices (in every sense of the word), raised loads of money for the Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help and shown that Simon Cowell doesn’t always get his own way.
Sunday, 13 November 2011
It seems another world now but my first job in journalism was as a reporter for a small weekly newspaper in the West Country. Golden weddings, flower shows, parish councils, you name it, the news team had to turn the comings and goings of country life into scintillating copy. Well, do our best, anyway.
After two years I escaped to London and became a feature writer on a women’s magazine. Friends assumed this would involve writing cosy stories about shopping, cooking and babies, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. The magazine was keen to attract a younger, hipper audience and I was instructed to interview as many up-and-coming rock stars as I could. While other writers rushed round the world meeting the likes of Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise, I set off in pursuit - metaphorically speaking - of stars like George Michael, Paul Weller and Morrissey.
The reason I’ve been thinking of those heady days was that Morrissey is back in the news again this week. Why? Because he has allowed John Lewis to use a cover version of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want for their Christmas advertising campaign. One outraged fan complained: “Please, Please is our hymn about longing and unrequited love. No way on earth should it be used to sell household goods or clothes.” Incidentally, the ad, which features an angelic young boy counting the days in the run-up to Christmas, has reduced thousands of viewers to tears. For some reason, even though I cry at virtually anything, I don’t find it heart-rending in the least.
But to get back to Morrissey, my abiding memory of him is his wonderful turn of phrase. I interviewed him over lunch at J Sheekey in Covent Garden and despite his dour, tricky image, he was charm itself. He told me how his mum always believed in him (even when he decided he wasn’t cut out for work) and that as a child growing up on a Manchester council estate he far preferred staying in listening to Billy Fury records than going out to play with the other kids. And even then, he refused point-blank to settle for mediocrity.
“It sounds quite dramatic but I would never be content to straggle midstream,” he told me. “I always felt that if I couldn’t have what I wanted, I would rather have absolutely nothing at all. Perhaps that’s why I always thought that I would be impossibly successful or incredibly inconsequential.”
PS: As The X Factor gets more annoying by the week, 15 year old singer Jasmine van den Bogaerde, alias Birdy, shows the rest of them how it should be done. The great niece of actor Dirk Bogarde has just released her debut album (above) and it’s stunning. Her version of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal sends shivers down my spine.