Saturday, May 19, 2007
Jonathan King: Sex, Eurovision and Gordon Brown
Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for ... Jonathan King. The former pop mogul re-entered my head as I watched this year's Eurovision and I thought: It's time I had a conversation with this strange, hugely talented/flawed, tainted loved-down ex-colossus of the pop world (and Eurovision).
The Guardian's Jon Ronson put it like this in 2001: "King's had a hand in almost every musical movement since the mid-1960s - psychedelic, novelty bubblegum pop, alternative pop, Eurovision, the Bay City Rollers, 10CC, the Rocky Horror Show, Genesis, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, the Brit awards, and so on."
Then The Fall in 2001. He was sentenced to seven years in jail for sex with boys aged 14 and 15. He was released in 2005. I'll say no more - see his website for re-acquaintance, click here.
Jonathan King! I hope you're well! Naturally you came to mind during the latest Eurovision - I understand you were in Helsinki for the event. Would it be true to say the great UK public who voted for Scooch know fuck all about music? Should the UK abandon TV democracy in choosing the song for Europe?
Well, it was me who a) brought in public voting for the Song For Europe/Great British Song Contest AND b) who changed Eurovision to make it public phone votes instead of juries... I sometimes wonder whether it was the right thing to do (especially as the corruption scandal of phone vote charging escalates) but my genuine intention was - find a truly popular entry. We did with Love City Groove which brought in younger fans and ethnic music lovers (most played track on Kiss FM in London during Eurovision week, I was very proud of that), Gina G (I still think that was our best ever UK entry) and Katrina - so I think no, let the fans choose, but give them decent choices to select from (I'm still hugely proud of getting a song called Yodel In The Canyon Of Love into the contest).
Eurovision was always camp (Abba), then it became kitsch (Katrina), now it seems exceptionally queer (Serbia, Ukraine, France, UK etc etc) - would you agree? Feel free to disagree ....
I agree and don't like it. There's something unpleasantly homophobic about entries like Drama Queen. Camp is fun, so is Kitsch and both can be art. Gay caricatures offend me. Drag can be fun too but only when done with tongue firmly in cheek. Whilst some may find over-the-top caricatures amusing, I tend to find them mildly (and probably unintentionally) offensive.
What must be done about block voting?
Nothing. I'm all for it. It's cultural, not political. I found it hugely refreshing when Croatia gave Serbia 12 points. Eurovision achieved something that brute force never could. Before I won with Katrina, block voting was blamed for our 16 winless years. I said no, a hit will win. I was wrong (Love City Groove; Gina G) - it needs a hit AND a great performance. Block voting will not bring a winner. Serbia was, in my opinion, this year's best entry. Finland was last year's best performance (though I thought Russia's song was better and Dima Bilan was fabulous). Greece won before that.
Enough of this whingeing about block voting; it's like the Lib Dems going on about proportional representation. If you are the best, you will probably win. Yes, Cyprus will always give Greece 12 points but the eventual winner will probably get 10. And of course Ukraine understands Russia and Latvia and Portugal understands Spain. The UK have the biggest advantage of all anyway (again, one of my rule changes) - the language of English; I have no problems with block voting - it's just an excuse for those who don't understand music to moan.
Georgia should have won Euro 2007 - I love Sopho. Please adopt her ...
I thought the Hungarian woman had a fabulous voice. I did like Georgia. No hits in this year though whereas last year had several (Tornero by Romania should have been a global club smash).
Tell us something of the journey to Helsinki such as how are people with you in the cabin or at the airport ... do you have a staff who book your hotel and flights?
It's great. Never believe tabloid world. I've been out over 2 years now and the vast majority of encounters have been supportive and positive.
This is the reality. 99% don't recognise me (98% of the people in London are from Eastern Europe these days anyway). Of the 1% who recognise me, 99% think "that's a familiar face" without knowing quite who, and smile and nod as a result. Of the 1% who do know who I am, 99% think Everyone's Gone To The Moon or Entertainment USA or Eurovision or Una Paloma Blanca or whatever. Of the remaining 1% who remember the court case, 99% seem to feel I was stitched up and treated unfairly - they are the ones who shake my hand or say something nice (which happened 16 times in Helsinki - and not one negative). 100% of taxi drivers over the past two years have been positive. And of the final 1% who seeth with hatred for a Vile Pervert, 99% keep it inside and simply scowl.
I notice you championed the Arctic Monkeys ... even your sworn enemies would say you have had an extraordinary influence on and prescience about pop music for 40 odd years ... give us a snapshot of the current pop/rock music world and what's the next big thing ....
Yes I love the energy, enthusiasm and originality of the Arctics. The big problem at the moment is - the major music corporations are (rightly) dying in this download world and the thrashing of their death throes means we are being force fed crap which is their top priority but no good. However, the good news is... it's easier than ever for truly talented musicians to emerge via internet and other sources. That's how I found ORSON (No Tomorrow) after the industry had ignored them for 8 years.
I listened to your Vile Pervert track on You Tube, about a guy called Joe Meek who appears to have been reviled for his sexuality ... forgive my ignorance of him - is that right? This is from an album?
Ah; Vile Pervert is not about Joe, it's about the media, especially the tabloids, who love caricaturing people. The Joe Meek track is called He Stood In The Bath And He Stamped On The Floor (also on You Tube) - he was the greatest UK record producer in the 60's (Telstar by the Tornados; Have I The Right by the Honeycombs; Just Like Eddie - Heinz; Johnny Remember Me - John Leyton).
If you're a VERY good girl/boy I'll send you a promo copy of EARTH TO KING, the new collection. Albums are over; collections (and mine includes a second DVD with TEN HOURS of video autoblogs on it, very useful for insomnia) are the new "thing". Just give me a mail address.
Have you ever consulted a clairvoyante/other seer? What would you like most in the next life (if any)?
No, I've never done so. As for the next life, if it could be as happy as this one has been, I'll be totally content.
Tell us something of your life now since prison release ... you seem to be very busy - would you say you're making a journey back to the centre of the music industry, or is that impossible?
I've never left the centre of the music industry (2-3 visits a week in prison from MD's etc asking advice) and fully intend to remain useful to it if I can. Mind you, I am now VERY VERY OLD! Life since prison is exactly the same as it was before and during; I tend to adapt to fit the parameters with the greatest of ease. Not lost a single friend, still hugely busy socially and professionally.
And your health?, please be frank ....
Well, Madame Arcati, apart from now being Type 2 Diabetic (from prison food or lack of exercise or perhaps simply age... so many friends have found this late onset thing) and therefore having to watch diet and lifestyle, I'm fine thanks. Never smoked, never really drank much, never did drugs... Had lots of very satisfying, (totally consensual and always with mature teenagers) sex but now, at 62, I'm delighted that's in my past, not present or future.
May I ask about your criminal conviction for having sex with underage boys ... have any of these now middle-aged men been in touch since your release from jail? All these years later, have you reflected that you may have made a mistake; or do you think society has yet to comprehend the nature of your sexuality?
I've never intentionally had sex with anyone who didn't want to have sex with me. I happen to be innocent of the convictions against me and am still battling through the Appeal process to get them quashed.
The police tried to force down the ages of the teenagers who made false claims against me and generally failed to do so (the dates were changed to later - in one case two and a half years later - AFTER my defence was finished). They didn't even bother to go down the "no consent" road since there were so many return visits which rather implied they were enjoying themselves (which they were - often because we WEREN'T having sex).
I have to suspect I was targetted as the ages of consent were equalised TWO DAYS after my arrest (my entire philosophy, as a bisexual, was that it was ludicrous that a 16 year old girl could fall in love with me but a boy could not until he reached 21).
Remember, when I was a teenager, ANY gay sex was a criminal offence.
However, having said that, this entire brilliant experience has opened my eyes to the possibility that sometimes my seduction technique may have chosen to assume they were capable of dealing with future questions when I had not taken into account that changing social attitudes might create circumstances hard for them to accept.
I hope I never caused problems for anyone. Certainly I never intended to and a huge amount of past friends and lovers got in touch when all this started to express love, affection, support and sympathy.
My accusers ranged from the totally false (some I never even met, including one of the convictions and the man who started all this and only brought my name into it some time after other allegations about other people were ignored, on the advice, I believe, of a famous Public Relations person) to those who exaggerated enormously (met: yes, sex: no) and those who exaggerated slightly. Who knows why? There was a load of cash reward in it (especially adding in media fees); genuine delusion; revenge; desire for attention or sympathy; explanation for failures...
I re-read Richard Ellman's Oscar Wilde recently, brilliant book - have you read it? Jail didn't break you ....
No, but Stephen Fry has become a good friend.
I liked Jon Ronson's 2001 piece in the Guardian on your trial and conviction [click here] - was it fair?
No, not at all. I hated it; he failed to mention that all his intervewees had had their claims thrown out or abandoned (or I was acquitted in a second trial - conveniently ignored by the media). When I asked him why he didn't interview the 5 men from my convictions he said it was because he hadn't believed them! I like Jon and admire his writing but he was way out of his depth and got suckered by the police.
Is there anyone in your life now - love/sex/companionship? Tell us more ...
The same great love there has always been... my mirror.
Whom do you loathe and love most?
I love dozens - family, ex lovers, friends. I loathe nobody; it creates bile and negativity.
Are you happy?
Yes hugely; always have been. I've been incredibly lucky in my life; the variety of experiences has been amazing. From smash hits as a singer, writer, producer to hit TV shows, hit national weekly columns, from winning Eurovision to salvaging The Brits, from travel all over the world (256 Concorde flights)... the best hotels, food, lovers of both genders... great friends... and the recent fascinating world of miscarriages of justice, corruption, prisons, media demonisation - it could not have been more interesting and rewarding! Lots more to do.
As PM Gordon Brown will .... [complete sentence as you wish]
continue to bite his fingernails.
Thank you Mr King!
You're welcome. Let me know if you want any more and let me have a snail mail addie if you'd like an EARTH TO KING!
JK (delighted to see you, too, are not a Jasper Gerard fan)...