Thursday, 11 March 2010

Momus, the Pop Imp

When you think of the musical icons of Scotland, you think of Franz Ferdinand, Texas, Belle and Sebastian, The Proclaimers, Annie Lennox, Simple Minds, The Average White Band, The Bay City Rollers, The Skids... but probably not of Paisley-born pop imp Nick Currie, who works under the stage name Momus, after the Greek god of satire.

Yet Momus is up there as one of my favourite musicians, ranging across Europe, Japan and the universe specialising in ditties of life as inconsequential but penetrating as a stilletto. Gaunt, aescetic, one-eyed, dirty-minded, with a formidable absorption rate of obscure trends and a voluminous output as a cultural critic, Sharleen Spiteri he aint.

My favourite Momus story regards his song 'Walter Carlos' from the 1998 album Little Red Songbook. Walter Carlos created the landmark sixties album Switched on Bach. Soon after this he had a sex change, becoming Wendy, and setting about erasing all official references to Walter. (I have at home both the original Walter Carlos Switched on Bach LP, and the new Wendy Carlos Switched on Bach CD box set).

Album cover for the Little Red Songbook:

So for Momus to write a song mentioning the forbidden Walter, and to make a typically perverted Momus suggestion that Wendy goes back in time to marry him, was all too much. Wendy sued Momus for several million dollars. They settled out of court, with Momus reissuing the Little Red Songbook without the song 'Walter Carlos' but including several other songs of equal merit. There remained only the problem of Momus' legal fees. $30,000 was a lot for a musician on the breadline. To resolve this, he opened shop: he would write a song about each person who donated $1,000. Thirty songs later he had a new album, Stars Forever - 'Jeff Koons' being one of my favourites.

Go to go now, but more Momus later...

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