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Home > Culture and Society

Mad For It: The Passion of the Manc Christ

28 January 2006

This week the BBC, cheeks still aflame with transgressive glee after that whole 'Jerry Springer The Opera' brouhaha, announced plans for its flagship Easter programme. The important Christian festival has had its share of abuse, what with all those pagan bunnies and chocolate eggs; possibly even fewer gormless sticky-fingered children understand its significance than have a clue about Christmas. But the Beeb will rectify this sorry state of affairs with... is that a 'modern interpretation' hoving into view? Hallelujah!

The hour-long live broadcast 'Manchester Passion' is pretty audacious and bound to have an impact - for a start, it'll do wonders for any still-grumping BBC employees who really don't want to move there. Like a traditional passion play, it involves a procession through city streets; unlike a traditional passion play, it involves Morrissey. To the chagrin of the great number of people who hate him, Salford's favourite son is not to be crucified himself, but as near as. Recognisable Bible figures are to sing recognisable Manchester songs to make one of those brilliant new-spin-on-old-classic mélanges that are themselves getting... well, a bit old.

So, Jesus will begin by singing the favoured ditty of pot-bellied karaoke try-hards, Robbie Williams' 'Angels'. A celestial theme; appropriate. He will subsequently sing 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Joy Division. Now, this is problematic, because a) surely since Ian Curtis who wrote and performed the song killed himself, he went to hell, and thus doesn't set a very good example and b) this song and the story of the crucifixion are like chalk and genocide. No matter. There follows Jesus and Judas duetting - alas not on a Judas Priest song complete with subliminal instructions to do a Curtis - but on 'Blue Monday'. The crowd will be encouraged to sing along with those iconic '*tsst tsst tsst tsst*' drum machine shots. In fact those lyrics - 'How does it feel/To treat me like you do', and the stuff about being 'a heavenly person today' - just about get away with it. Same goes for Mary Magdalene's rendition of 'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have)?'. Kinda.

As Jesus draws nearer his place of execution and is soundly, mercilessly thrashed by Roman footsoldiers, again he sings. He sings 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', the classic nudge-nudge miserabilism anthem by The Smiths. That remarkably jaunty tune involving drunkenness, unemployment, valuable time, lovers entwined and kicking people in the eye. And Caligula. Thus by implication, horse sex. Then, face to face with Pontius Pilate, the two sing the shambling indieboy's love song of choice, 'Wonderwall'.

Bez and Ian Brown are to be present, the former playing a disciple. The Church of England, and the Roman Catholic Church are apparently both totally cool with it. Only Smiths fans are writing angry, gladioli-scented letters.

The implications?


1) Confused young people, struggling to segue moody narcotic Manchester classics with their vague concept of the purity of Christian martyrdom, begin worshipping Tony Wilson.

2) The Roman Catholic Church implicitly waive their right to ever complain about anything on television ever again.

3) A canny Morrissey re-releases 'I Have Forgiven Jesus', and goes back on 'Top of the Pops' in his vicar suit. Complaints flood in.

4) The Pope, recognising the potential of the event, makes a public appearance backed by Marilyn Manson's 'This Is The New Shit'.

5) Satirists set their clock of doom another three seconds towards midnight.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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