Carry on Camping

By Berkmann, Marcus | The Spectator, March 10, 2007 | Go to article overview

Carry on Camping


Berkmann, Marcus, The Spectator


Too much of my 'research' for this column is undertaken while washing up.

The other day, listening to Radio Two while scraping a particularly recalcitrant saucepan, I heard Robbie Williams's new single, a collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys called 'She's Madonna', and my first reaction was, 'This is the campest record ever made.' Apparently the video features Robbie in drag, as he continues to stoke those endless 'is he gay?' rumours, only to deny it repeatedly in interviews and talk hairily about Stoke City instead. Either he is very confused about his sexuality, or he is one of those people who will do it with anyone, including dogs and trees.

Nonethless, it's probably the campness that makes Robbie bearable. If he was as blokey as he always insists he is, he would be Liam Gallagher -- an appalling thought. When he started out, Robbie really wanted to be Rock, tried to be Rock, but his instincts, schooled in Take That and honed through a long and now rather impressive solo career, are ineluctably Pop.

While obviously taking himself as seriously as anyone does, he doesn't appear to take himself seriously at all, and we love him for it. The Pet Shop Boys manage a similar trick while pretending to take themselves terribly seriously, their entire pose being a sort of wonderful in-joke shared by the millions who enjoy what they do.

Apparently a majority of their fans are heterosexual, which doesn't surprise me at all.

Their appeal seems to me to have little to do with sexual preferences and a lot to do with sense of humour and intelligence, for they are the only current act -- other than maybe Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy -- who automatically assume that their listeners are bright enough to keep up. For Robbie to work with them is a smart move.

And the song's not bad either.

But the campest ever? There's a lot of competition at the moment; indeed, pop music may never have been more openly homosexual than it is right now. Dan Gillespie Sells, lead singer and songwriter of The Feeling? As gay as a goose. Scissor Sisters? The original row of tents. (Their current single cheerfully rips off Elton's 'I'm Still Standing', itself a camp classic. …

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