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Home > Music

Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player

17 January 2003

On his website, Jonathan King, the
noted paedophile apologist, writes the following:

I adore the work of Dickens and Shakespeare, my idols, but I have no idea whether or not I'd have liked them in person. In fact, I suspect I would not. But that doesn't affect my adoration for their art and achievements.

What King is saying, in a slightly back to front sort of way, is: don't judge my works according to what you think about *me*. Judge them on their own merits. Which seems like a fair point.

Until you remember that King's legacy amounts to Everyone's Gone To The Moon and discovering Genesis, which is the musical equivalent of child rape, so it's a moot point.

The arrest of Pete Townshend over child pornography allegations raises the same question, but rather more straightforwardly: should any of this affect our appreciation of his music?

In their time, The Who recorded some truly brilliant music, for which Pete Townshend was largely responsible. But what exactly was Townshend thinking about when he was busily windmilling his guitar in front of thousands of fans? Fucking toddlers? What was he imagining when he wrote Magic Bus, or I Can See For Miles? Touching young bums?

And if he was, does it matter?

Even before the child-porn allegations, the relationship between the listener and Townshend's music has been troubled. For decades, Townhsend has been one of the globe's most boring, self-important, pretentious dickheads. His dreadful personality has stood there, like the angel at the gates of Eden, between us and his songs.

It is the exact same thing with Dave Stewart and the Eurythmics: great songs, written by a total shit.

Of course, this problem is not confined to music. It's everywhere. Film, TV, art. It even creeps into philosophy: Arthur Schopenhauer famously threw an old lady down the stairs, crippling her, and the great theologian Paul Tillich couldn't keep his grubby hands off his students. Should this affect the way we read their works?

Certainly not. Once the creative act is done - once the song has been sung, and the book written - the creator's work is over. Even as we sit here, quietly painting our 'Kil Pedofiles!' placards ready for the trial, the music of Pete Townshend is happily floating about in the universe - being bought at car boot sales, and listened to in Chinese bedrooms - totally unaffected by Townshend's (allegedly) dirty lusts. And we owe it to these songs not to judge them by their author.

It isn't *Tommy* having his hard-drive scanned, after all.

Likewise, we'll all be joining together with the band, and the Pinball Wizard will still be playing by sense of smell in 300 years' time, when Pete Townshend and his filthy mind have long rotted to a pulp.

(Oh, Pulp - that's another difficult one. Jarvis Cocker is an *insufferable* dildo, but he did sing a couple of nice tunes).

Which brings us to Gary Glitter...

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