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God, there are some appalling musical snobs out there.

Oh c’mon, there are.

There I was, perched in front of the telly in Castle Blackula, a foaming ale in my hand, preparing to watch U2 play at Glastonbury on Friday night. The weather didn’t look too good, but even allowing for the undoubtedly swampy conditions blighting people’s experiences (and the horror of having their socks slip down inside their wellies), I had a spot of Glastonbury envy. I’ve never been, and it looked great. And I love U2.

Their set was fantastic – maybe a slight mis-step with the baffling inclusion of “Moment of Surrender” – but every tune was a classic. I really enjoyed it.

Which brings me back to my point. Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to enjoy U2.

I hear it’s something to do with their financial affairs. Or something to do with the fact that Bono is irritating and insincere. Or maybe it’s because they’re big and successful and make lots of money. Or it could be that they’re simply old… I mean, the very idea! More than 50 years of age, and wanting to be a performer!

And absolutely nothing to do with the music.

The streams of bullshit – thick and squelchy like good old Glastonbury mud – surrounding this show in the blogosphere were astonishing, even before the event. I have never read such smug, snide vitriol in my life. Curiously enough, much of it came from people who claimed to hate U2, and yet forced themselves to watch the entire show.

Who are these ball-aches?

Musical snobbery has to be one of the worst cancers affecting the arts – a predominantly white, middle class disease that oozes smugness at even the slightest opinion that dares to be in favour of popular, accessible works.

The bullying herd mentality of this rhetoric is truly appalling. People seem to be jumping on the bandwagon, looking for hate figures, rather than building arguments. In their loathing of U2, and their hand-me-down opinions, people are subscribing to the sort of blind, mindless, mobbing behaviour that would have George Orwell wringing his hands.

Don’t people realise that in supposedly going against the grain and churning out hackneyed, poorly informed criticism, they are simply subscribing to new dogma? Do you really hate U2, or are you only doing it because you think you’ll look cool?

Have a mind of your own.

It’s interesting to me that U2 are now hated for the same reasons they were championed when they first became successful; the human rights stance, the right-on causes, Bono’s outspokenness. The doubters and dullards – and take a look online, there are thousands of them – don’t see these qualities as sincere, despite the fact U2’s preoccupations have barely changed in 30 years.

U2 do pay tax. We have no idea of the band’s financial contribution to charities and human rights organisations in the past, but their sponsorship of said groups over the years must be a godsend for them.

But really, should you care? And what’s the score with all these chartered accountants suddenly emerging from the Worthy Farm swamp? Do they demand this level of probity with all artists, writers, actors or other musicians?

Perhaps we should take a look at the books for every major music star? Beyonce’s accounts might make interesting reading; she did after all play a gig for Muammar Gaddafi. I can’t see U2 doing that, can you? And yet, strangely enough – no protests at Beyonce’s closing gig on Sunday night.

With all that’s happened in the world of finance in the past four years, I find it amazing that some people are seriously getting upset with Bono and friends.

And so to U2’s frontman, then. I will concede, I’ve cracked a few jokes about his choice of trouser that night. No wonder he was walking a bit gingerly on the stage – I reckon the rain had very little to do with that.

Supposedly the root of all evil, the grinning imp in Tom Cruise shoes and John Paul II shades, people just don’t take to Mr Hewson, for a whole bunch of reasons. Ipod salesman, tax dodger, charlatan… I’ve heard them all.

But I reckon the real reason for the hate is because Bono actually means it.

To some people – usually snarks who don’t have a good word to say about anyone – truth and sincerity are frightening things. And Bono, I am sure, is sincere in his pronouncements.

He may be a little bit annoying, like the drunken best friend who feels compelled to grab you and tell you he loves you during a night out, but he does mean it. This is very difficult to digest for a lot of people I’ve read on Twitter and message boards. They are just a sound in our heads, though. No-one died because of U2.

And this brings me to the key point. It’s just music. You like it, or you don’t like it. That is all.

In seeking to criticise, having your own opinion is one thing; following an established set of contrarian opinions is quite another. Musical snobs can’t get enough of the latter.

Who sets the cultural agendas that musical snobs follow? Why is John Lennon considered cool, while Paul McCartney is considered naff? Why do people look so pleased with themselves when they declare they are into obscure or difficult music, and yet turn their nose up at a catchy, popular song?

There’s no ownership involved; you may appreciate the art, but you didn’t create it. Why be so smug over your knowledge over some Dinosaur Jr or Pavement B-side, compared to someone who’s never heard of them?

Where is the merit in this for you? Or is this posturing and pouting, as I suspect, actually all about ego, self-aggrandisement, attention-seeking and social control?

U2’s financial dabblings in my life are restricted to the money I pay for a CD, or for a concert ticket. Once that transaction is out of the way, U2 are just a sound that comes out of the speakers. I happen to like it. Others may not. I respect that, but unless that sound is made by the Waffen SS big brass band, don’t bother pontificating about whether I should or should not like a particular act.

I blame the punk generation for this hyper-opinionated nonsense. Almost overnight, attention seekers who couldn’t carry a tune or play a note began to kid themselves on that they had done something aesthetically important. Music criticism soon followed suit. All of a sudden, the bloated behemoths of the music scene were old hat.

And of course, no-one ever listened to a Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin album again.

This sneering muso tone – outright elitism allied to a nebulous notion of “sticking it to the man”, despite the people involved not having stuck it to anything other than a computer keyboard – persists today. Being popular is seen as death, unless you’re a pantomime horse like Lady Gaga or wilfully difficult boobs like Radiohead.

Indeed, the true punk spirit, if we’re kind and we assume such a thing exists, can be found in those who listen to supposedly bad music without a trace of irony. People who go down the middle of the road. Radio 2 listeners. People who get CDs from Tesco. Those who crank the volume up on music some of you might be embarrassed to listen to out loud, or sober; Cliff Richard’s Wired For Sound! Showaddywaddy’s Under The Moon Of Love! Culture Club! The Spice Girls! IRON MAIDEN!

Music is about feeling. So play it loud, enjoy it, and never mind what people think. Particularly if you’ve got some pillock in your life who can’t stop giving you hassle about the choice of sounds you wish to travel into your ears. I say, get your embarrassing tunes out, give them an airing and get them blaring. Pay no mind to the reaction; you are the maverick.

It’s only a set of soundwaves. Once they reach your receptors, that’s the only connection that matters.

Tell the snobs where to go.


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