Sinead O’Connor singing
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered –
that’s what did it. I mean, I was
a fan already – I loved those first
two records, the big hits and
the lesser-known album cuts. It all felt
so different – I remember
watching a late-night TV concert. Mesmerised
by what I could only then
see and hear as a kind of
very special madness.
It was thrilling. It was
almost scary how good she was.
I saw her sing Black Boys on Mopeds
and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
for the MTV unplugged show. Wonderful.
Amazing. So good. But I still think
the real magic was hearing jazz standards.
It showed me that she cared
as much as me,
and probably a whole lot more,
about the songs that had
been built long before us.
The songs that paved the way, built their
own cathedrals, created churches, kept us
O’Connor’s third record is a collection of
standards and show tunes; the songs she
was raised on – and it’s beautiful. Her breath
was formed from these songs and you can feel
and hear it returning those tunes to life, filling
the lungs of dead songs to make them dance
Then to TV to promote the album
and changing her mind about a song,
she covers Bob Marley’s War instead,
takes its theme of anti-racism and bends it
to address the sexual abuse of children.
She holds a picture of the pope
as she says the word ‘evil’
and then tears it to pieces
on the cue of the tune ending.
She says “fight the real enemy”
in that fine Irish lilt.
It still takes my breath,
that room so full
with stunned silence.
She wasn’t wrong.
And the fight continues.