Today I popped along to the protests seduced by nostalgia as much as any legitimate intention to change the world, for you see there was a time that within the truculent mass was where I was at my most happy.
The first protest I attended, I think by accident – I was too high to truly engage in activism, was the Liverpool Dockers protest in 1997. I was lured from a humid underground carriage into a furore of ricocheting protesters and mounted coppers. To me, that day, adolescent and in perpetual internal revolution, the spectacle of a horse galloping up Charring Cross could only have been trumped by the presence of a marauding dinosaur piddling up Nelson’s Column. It was exiting. Afterwards I learned about the circumstances of the protest and the poor treatment of the Unions but my interest was initially piqued by the chaos.
From then I nurtured my curiosity in activism, too personally ambitious to be completely submerged in a culture that eschewed the pursuit of personal stardom but sufficiently idealistic and enamoured of agitation to become hooked.
On Mayday 2001 I found a way to align my attention seeking with the anti-capitalist movement when I stripped off in Piccadilly Circus on the steps of the statue of Eros until, at the point of total nudity, with my Che Guevara Y-fronts about my ankles the Metropolitan Police Force did the decent thing and nicked me. My incentive that day was a combination of youthful idealism and personal exhibitionism – although as exhibitions go it was a bit rubbish until the point I was arrested. It was a striptease with all the erotic appeal of a frazzled bachelor undressing for a prostate exam with the deluded hope that a student nurse might think him a bit beefy.
Once the police folded in around me though the show developed momentum. I was dragged off, feigning an epileptic fit – a tip I’d likely acquired from a leaflet off an anarchist while a crafty plod surreptitiously issued clandestine pinches to my twitching body.
The sincere aspect of my attendance to these carnivals of disobedience is my instinctive mistrust of authority and innate belief that whilst we are different we are all equal and have a social culpability to care for every member of our society. That, ultimately we are one, that separation is an illusion and that none of us can be content as long as there is neglect and suffering among the weaker of our number.
The distinction between the man I am now and the giddy hedonistic whirling slash of febrile discontentment I was the last time I was flung in the back of a police vehicle is two-fold and obvious; firstly, I no longer drink or take drugs and secondly, I am now famous.
On approaching Threadneedle Street I heard the numinous roar. The concerto that’s unthinkingly composed wherever the rowdy congregate, a chant that would be animal but for its wordless articulacy, for no congregation of beasts can emit such raucous harmony. As I met the throng, the incongruous mass that occupied the Square Mile – making it, for once a Hip Mile, I breathed in the banners and chants and the sweet youthful purpose that prevailed from those present regardless of their age – the Sixties refugees all tie-dye and ganja seem younger somehow than the black-block adolescents in their secular hijabs of hoods and scarves.
Brief though the moment was as for every protester now there is an attendant news crew and photographer – I know I had one – but at the Bank of England at noon we were all Puff Daddy – Limos, demos and bimbos replaced with ASBO’s, DEMOS and symbols and as I sought to subtly submerge myself into my former home – the crowd, I was suddenly clad in a full media jacket, like I was the prettiest girl at the ball and I’d just popped a cigarillo between my perfect lips and instantly the air around me is ablaze with Zippos. But instead of flames it was all flash bulbs and microphones and on-the-scene reporters.
An antagonistic prig from Sky ushered me towards his prerequisite idiocy – “You’re live on Sky – what are you angry about?” In my mind I answered “Well primarily being live on Sky and needing a wee.” But I issued naught from my gullet as I didn’t fancy the gig. I overheard him finishing his clunking link “Russell Brand there – unusually tight lipped” in that moment I wished for a language that could incorporate micturation then I’d’ve delivered a streaming gold quotation right into his smug-dish – “there! Cop for that, there’s my opinion splashing across yer brow – I only wish I still ate Sugar Puffs.”
I’ve spent so long trying to distinguish myself from the crowd that now I cannot rejoin it. Except at Upton Park; when the Hammers roll out they’re the only show in town, I could stand in the Chicken Run noshing off Whitney Houston on a Wednesday night against Stoke and no one would mutter a word unless her flailing limbs obscured a corner but today on the precipice of a riot I could not take a step without incessantly legitimising my presence to the inquisitive pack.
Well here it is. Capitalism has failed us. All of us, even people who’ve recently become well off, like me. The system has failed because it’s created disparity and discontent because it is devouring the planet. It is irresponsible and unaccountable and it will forever cyclically fail so we need to look at an alternative.
I’m sure you won’t be astonished to learn that I, Russell Brand, the stand-up comedian have not dreamt up a viable replacement for the Free Market between gigs and joyless trysts but I know all over the world, in the face of incredible obstruction and resistance, people are inaugurating economic systems that are founded on fairness and egalitarianism. Worker run factories, villages without currency and even in Blighty, council estates bulk buying shopping to make benefits go further.
With the support of central government and an accompanying ideology that encouraged collectivism imagine what we could conjure.
This lovely French journalist harangued me as the conflagration heated up – “people over there are being arrested – you should go over and use your fame for good.” Quite. “By the power vested in me by Big Brother’s Big Mouth I command you to release that anarchist.” Of course I’d like to harness my celebrity for altruistic ends but in the field, at that moment I don’t know what legislative authority I have as a result of my appearance in the film “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. “Officer – I played the part of Mickey the Room Service waiter in the Disney movie Bedtime Stories and as such I command you to let us cross this line”.
Interaction with the police is another troubling aspect of these affairs. Once pressed against the thin blue line in the white heat of a Reclaim The Streets conflict I observed that the accents formed behind the plastic shields and helmets were far more familiar to me than the ones muffled by bandanas. Today I met a Peeler who stopped me as I passed to tell me that he was called Russell and came from Grays in Essex, where I’m from. I squeezed his shoulder in acknowledgement and noted that beneath his uniform he wore body armour like a chunky thick Toblerone between us and I felt worried for the poor fella.
Then there was the other type of policeman that we all know and love, that arbitrarily used his power for a momentary personal buzz and denied me the right to cross a line to use a loo while others freely wandered through, his decision based on a mechanism that I could not perceive as it whirred and clicked in prejudicial bliss beneath his badge. So the Met today in my experience presented one affable chap and one twit which is pretty good odds in a tricky situation.
In the end I prematurely departed, unable to find a place, too conspicuous for the crowd with people wanting interviews and autographs so I left and felt a pang for the anonymous loony I was, the sweet and tender hooligan and inveterate show off who saw these days as a valve for all the maladies accrued up till then.
These protests are important, it thrills me to see people putting aside the relentless tyranny of the self and acknowledging in action community and oneness but more significant will be the umpteen Wednesdays to come, where no direct action is prescribed, a continuing process of change based on simple spiritual principles, more than an outlet for our rage we need a structure for our love.
Tolstoy said everyone speaks of changing the world but no one speaks of changing themselves, ironically given my Olympian solipsism, I am going to have to focus further on myself, on becoming an individual worthy of utopia then, regardless of my notoriety, I will be equipped to participate in our revolution.
Strange us not all being together for a couple of days. I didn’t see it coming, but quickly felt exposed without family Brand, like I’d woken up in one of those ‘naked from the waist down dreams’ in the middle of Sydney airport. Sorry Russ, I’ve just realised that might be a slightly insensitive analogy considering recent events.
As you know we’ve all split for a few days holiday having finished in Oz with some scintillating gigs. In fact, I’d say the first night in Melbourne was one of his best ever…..adlibs and vocabulary pouring from him like a burst dam. Very proud we were.
Obviously with the schedule we’ve been keeping everyone, particularly Russ was due a bit of time off. However, the group goodbye on Sunday seemed laden with a surprising poignancy, like the end of summer camp. Don’t worry it was still littered with typical innuendo and fart jokes, but if I’m not mistaken even ol’Russ had a slight glaze in his eye. I know we all did.
It must be the intensity of the experience and the lack of hiding places that’s galvanised everyone. Each person diligently managing their aspect of the operation with a respect and understanding for the others – all pulling in the same direction. Inspiring.
See, despite the prolific speed at which he’s been rising, Russell’s success is built on solid foundations. A set of foundations he has built himself. For a man who confesses to using his “mental illness for a job” he is a cunning judge of character and a very motivational leader. “Hello, ‘Cult Awareness’ how can I help you?” “Yeah it’s about my boss…”
Nah, what I’m saying is that the people he surrounds himself with are testament to him. Because now I’m home alone in a foreign city I’ve realise the stability the network around you provides. It’s tricky now, because while on tour certain elements of your regular life are taken care of so that the show can be the main focus. When I was this week confronted by the simple task of collecting baggage and finding a taxi my bottom lip dropped and I cried for my mummy.
I guess the danger if you’re not careful could be a weird detachment. Something that must be avoided at all costs. I recently heard that Bono’s wife makes him stay in a hotel for an extra 2 weeks before he’s allowed home from touring so he can readjust to family life. I guess this came about after he phoned his 5 year old daughter for room service and then offered his teenage son the pick of the groupies. Naughty Bono.
I’d laugh if when Russell arrives home there is a note on his front door signed off with a paw print stating: “Until you realise that cats can’t make double expresso you are booked into the Dorchester. Kind Regards Morrissey.’
Perhaps it’s best we’ll all just live together from now on.
by Producer Jack
Today I return to London from Langkawi, Malaysia, a beautiful island where nature and luxury vie to be foremost in my experience. One of my nouveau riche glitches is a hankering after fine hotels and senseless indulgences. I’m proud to say that after a relatively short period of wealth I now recognise the insufficiency of personal privilege in a world with so much poverty –“Does that mean you’re going to give away all your money then?”- I imagine someone who dislikes me yet who has mysteriously found their way onto my website saying, and the answer is “Yes.”
I don’t know when and feel under no great obligation to elaborate, I suppose when I’m ready. The mind is in many ways a problem-solving machine, the problems my mind focussed on primarily were – 1. Make people laugh for a job and 2. Stop being poor. I have done considerable work in these areas and have found only more problems. I suppose the environment for which the mind evolved dealt with problems like “Get food” and “Don’t die” and only moved onto “paint on this cave wall” when enough sabre-toothed tigers had been butchered to demonstrate they weren’t a real threat. Having sabre teeth and then going extinct must be a real embarrassment to their species and a real pat on the back for the conventional tiger, who with relatively small teeth that could never be described as sabre-like or converted into phosphorescent weapons for Jedi to duel with, have continued to live on for millennia, leaving their goofy cousins to peer at us sheepishly from natural history books. “Sorry about these bloody sabres” they seem to be saying – “they seemed like a good idea at the time”.
Those days were apparently strewn with mammals that were slightly different to our high-tech modern variety with only one or two daft distinctions that appear only to have hastened their demise. The Woolly Mammoth was just a big, hairy elephant and I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t ensnared by tiny cavemen and dragged down like a fat, hirsute Gulliver to a Snuffleupagus death.
The animals of Langkawi take evolution seriously. The monkeys I’ve mentioned before seem to be prematurely planning some “Planet of the Apes” style post apocalyptic dystopia even as I dish out free mango. You can see them earning in action the pre-fix “cheeky” with their every move in the accompanying photos. What is less obvious is the suspicious, snidey look they unfailingly issue every time they ungratefully snatch treats from my twitching hand. “I’ll have that, you bald, gangly loon” they appear to imply as they stare right into my human eyes. The apes elicit excitement. Through their high-octane “King of the Swingers” be-bop rooftop jitterbug they are creatures of the now, materialistic, randy, bickering treetop twerps that would shiv you in the shower for half a sixpence if Harry Grout deemed it a jolly.
Contrast this with the silvery maritime swirls of consciousness that I encountered yesterday while pootering about on a boat.
Me and Nik went off with beloved Praba and a couple of mercenaries with the intention of snorkeling. It was not to be as the sea was all a grog with disturbed aqua muck, stirred up by a mischievous storm. For a while we traversed the twinkling cellophane hoping for a perfect beach, but to no avail. The one we chanced upon was inhabited already by a burly fella and his family and, less discernible but equally present, his theological belief that we couldn’t see his missus in a bikini; ne’er more did I crave a glimpse at some fabric than as we politely left that shore. I don’t know what manner of faith it was that prohibited me from seeing that man’s wife but I do know that boundaries engorge my will. I wonder if she loved him or felt Alcatrazed there and secretly yearned for the sea to bring forth a hero to liberate her from the asphyxiating affection of her husband and his puritanical sky-boss.
Paradise is now scarred and one wonders how many “Earth hours” it’ll take to ease the blemishes that assault the purity of this region. Impeccable bays, each a testimony to an obvious God, who cares not for nudey wives and dogma but instead renders the divine in every atom, cascading odes to the sublime form the perimeter of these islands that gurgle and sprout green, voluptuous life. Every beach we saw however was dotted with litter, bottles, bags; unwanted mementos of a world I want to forget; brands and packaging is redundant when you have actual beauty, not a hijacked, consumer version. The marred isles looked like Robinson Crusoe had been hit with a surprise visit from Mikey Carroll. Man Friday all wonky and forlorn and reeking of skunk wearing a “Damn Seagulls!” baseball cap and an expression of bafflement.
As we made our way back to the opulent penitentiary, glumly silent but for the raging outboard racket, a dolphin was sighted. At first it is exciting like when you see a cheeky monkey “look a dolphin!” someone’ll say. Then ensues an age of uncertainty where every breach in the surface is pointlessly leapt upon “there’s one!” it is not one. It is a packet of Discos. “What about that?” it is some polystyrene. Then as you begin to question whether or not the initial sighting was just attention seeking, out from the deep, a lithe and glistening exclamation mark of pure mammalian life punctuates the void with the resolute music that silently scores all wonder. “That was a fucking dolphin!” “Yeah, I saw that one!” we give chase and draw near and soon the distant dance becomes an omnipresent carnival. We slice in our vessel through the ocean’s emissaries, they lead us and flank us, they follow and mirror. All about us these shimmering angels of the sea communicate through motion. The excitement is replaced by awe. We can hear them ripple and breathe, scorching grey, liquid flames they are, born and reborn with each emergence. I’d always questioned whether or not dolphins were actually any good or just one of those things that everyone assumes are great without really questioning it; like the Dalai Llama or blowjobs, but they are; burgeoning marble ghosts that embody grace. Among them we all became silent and transfixed, somewhere between a funeral and a firework display. These are the moments where one feels proximity to truth, where the supernatural becomes tangible and the pleasure pledged by five star luxury becomes accessible to all.
When my Mum first got cancer I must’ve been around the age Jade’s eldest son is now. Too young, in fact, to properly comprehend what was happening, only old enough to sense the tingling presence of fear, the averted looks, the stifled, thin lipped sympathy and muddled, neighbourly compassion. My Mum, Thank God, did not die and whilst her cancer returned several times; each time more frightening for me as my innocence waned to be replaced with dread, she lives still, so I can but imagine the sad confusion of the two bereaved boys.
I knew their Mother, Jade Goody, not especially well, but Jade’s defining characteristic was her easy warmth that ingenuously enveloped folk, so perhaps like many people I felt more engaged by her than normal and feel more saddened by her death than I ought. I dislike the fetishisation of grief that accompanied the death of Jade’s forebear, The Princess of Wales, it makes me uncomfortable as I query its sincerity. Sentimentality is often called the unearned emotion and intrusive carnivals of public mourning unsettle me. In the case of Jade Goody however it is understandable to feel morose, she was a young mum from an awful background who got a break and shrewdly capitalised on it.
For a time we shared management and we met when she came to see several shows of mine at the Edinburgh festival about five years ago. We all hung out, me my Mum, Jade, some people from the agency and a few of my mates. She was a right laugh, she joined in with everyone and created a garrulous giddy vibe in bars and cars that elevated the perfunctory time between shows into something which retrospectively seems more special now than it did then. Most of all though I was impressed with how she formed an immediate and genuinely sweet bond with my Mother, chuckling and chatting with the effortless intimacy that strong yet tender women frequently conjure and which has umbrellad me from anxiety throughout my life. She also came on a few of my dopey TV shows in later years where she filled the room with her ebullience and wicked laugh connecting with the audience in a way that most skilled showman can only dream of.
One of the charges often levelled at Jade was that she was just a normal girl with no trade or practiced skills. Well people didn’t care and our heroes are not prescribed to us, we have the right to choose them and the people chose Jade. Fame has long been bequeathed by virtue of wealth and birth and this was the first generation where it was democratically distributed by that most lowbrow of modern phenomena – Reality Television. She was a person who, I think due to her class always had the propensity to irk people. When Big Brother 3 made her famous she was vilified in the paper and bullied in the house but through her spirit she won people back round and became a kind of Primark Princess with perfumes and fitness videos and endless media coverage – because people were interested in her. They remain interested. One of my best friends, a woman in her mid twenties is genuinely heartbroken at the death of Jade, herself a Mother from a working Class background she obviously connects with this sad narrative in a way that she doesn’t seem to with J-Lo or Jennifer Aniston or Posh Spice most likely because of Jade’s authenticity and accessibility.
I was working on a Celebrity Big Brother spin off show when Jade returned to the house and through unschooled social clumsiness blundered into a whooped up race row. As I said at the time, the incident where Shilpa Shetti was poorly treated by a group of young women was not an example of the sickening scourge of racism but simply a daft lack of education. Jade was a tough girl but utterly lacking in the malice upon which true prejudice depends. The slick of spilled newspaper ink and the cathode conveyed H-bomb that followed this innocuous event was the real crime. Jade was made the focus of a debilitating wave of righteous loathing and condemnation, a gleefully indignant storm of trumped up wrath that served the cause of racial harmony not one iota; but that was never it’s intention. The intention was sacrifice. Well now Jade Goody is no more. Claimed by cancer, a disease often brought on by extreme stress. When my mother was sick someone unkindly informed me that her illness was my fault, induced by my bad behaviour and for a long time I believed it.
I’m glad that Jade’s death has been handled with saccharine mittens by the papers, she lived and died in the glare of their interest and doubtless benefited from it hugely at times. I recall her tearstained face pegged across some rag as she endlessly sought to be forgiven by the media her misconstrued conduct had so incensed and it made me a little angry. She wanted to be accepted, loved, redeemed, and now through her early death, she is. I hope some of the lessons of this modern Fairy Tale are learned, that the people who aspired to be like Jade observe the price she paid. I hope her sons are ok and that on some imperceptible level contrition is felt by the media that gave Jade Goody everything.
And I mean everything.
I’m still on holiday with Nik. I’ve “gone native” in several ways. I have become firm friends with Praba who attends my every need, the hotel refer to him as a butler but as we all know butlers have to be played by Stephen Fry and Praba is a diminutive, adorable, cheeky Hindu gent who has no discernible chemistry with Hugh Laurie. He brought his son, who is four months old, in to see me. The beautiful chap survived meningitis and now throbs with robust health that only those who’ve cheated death ever attain. I fantasise about liberating myself from the tyranny of luxury, the shackles of room service – which we all know is satisfying – but so flimsy, unlike the satisfaction of a soaring ribbon of incandescent light dancing through your heart, connecting you to all other life and God herself.
As you can tell I feel spiritually awake and as a result have taken to wearing a sarong. I’d say that my sarong is a harbinger of enlightenment, a quickening. If I tie a scarf about my head we can probably establish a utopian-socialist, one-world super-state in time for elevenses’. The monkeys in my garden are a source of great joy. They turn up on a whim, when I asked when I’d next see them Praba informed me that it is “difficult to predict the monkeys roster”. He is a good man so I overlooked this insubordination. He is a fella who conveys a great deal of love and through either his culture, faith or some genetic accident seems closer to truth than me; his ego being merely a utensil that binds the elements of his being, rather than a bloated overlord burping out sulphuric demands. The monkeys and their tiny hands make me chuckle. When they see me with a banana they clock it and tentatively approach. In rapid motion they resemble nothing I’ve ever seen, demonic, rustling deities in the foliage, inviting worship with their grace and valour. When they are still and fingering a fruit this magic evaporates and they are like us, greedy little idiots with jittery eyes and nervous thumbs with no aim but consumption. Praba tells me they sometimes come in the room and nick things they cant possibly need – like mobile phones. That is a senseless crime in anybody’s book – who they gonna call? Ghostbusters? I’d hate to return to the room and chance upon a skittery ape, wearing me jim-jams and screeching down the blower at my Mum, who far from being baffled would likely nod at my newfound articulacy. Atavism is the fear I have of a monkey in my room. It is for this, the ancient recall of discarded instincts that Tom and Jerry’s housekeeper lived in such terror. Actually I don’t think she worked for them directly – Jerry hated her and Tom didn’t have the means to meet her, doubtless insultingly low, wages. That woman should be paid a kings ransom for the shit she tolerated from them stupid pair of dickheads. Particularly Tom who when he invariably got his thumb whacked would scream in a man’s voice. Cats don’t yell like that, or have thumbs. In fact, now that I think about it Tom and Jerry was riddled with inconsistencies and half-truths. The dog next door could talk. Frankly I’m considering disregarding it as a lifestyle guide until someone at Warner brothers gives me a bloody good explanation.
Nik has taken some photos of me which will appear here soon, I look a twit so be gentle and I have written a piece about Jade which will appear here later. God bless her.
Now, I’m off outside for some monkey magic and possibly to turn back the evolutionary clock to a time where we weren’t so hung up on the little things like inter-special love-making and dressing up monkeys like little prostitutes and forcing them to do a chorus line. And they call it progress.