Eddy Says

Eddy Says: Fail miserably… achieve greatly

By | Published on Monday 13 June 2011

John Kennedy

Playing tracks by artists discovered by John Kennedy while standing in for him on ‘X-posure’ recently, and the reaction that he and I generate by doing so, got me thinking about the unique way that in this country (in many areas, but I’m talking about music here) success is deemed failure.

John told me that when he first played The Ting Tings, he’d never had a stronger and more positive reaction to a record. Within six months of playing this demo of ‘Great DJ’ he was receiving nothing but hate mail for playing the same tune.

I witnessed this myself with bands like Snow Patrol, Kasabian and Scissor Sisters, all of whose demos I was the first person to get behind, and I’m thinking, with some dismay, that by the same token, it’s probably only a matter of time before I start getting vitriolic emails about Fenech-Soler.

“Fail miserably… achieve greatly!” exclaims John F Kennedy in one of the hugely entertaining zombie levels of ‘Call Of Duty: Black Ops’. I’m not altogether sure what he means and what the correct context of that quote was, but I apply it to this examination because it reflects something I think most of us, if we’re honest about it, have felt in the past.

Perhaps it’s just something that comes with the territory of being a teenager, of being insecure, but we all know that those feelings don’t always seep away, and are not always replaced by the wisdom that comes with age.

My own experience is still vivid in my mind. If we rewind the clock to the beginning of the 80s, and the first band that I fell in love with, to the point of rupture, was Japan. I remember the joy of feeling part of a special gang, I suppose the feeling of exclusivity, almost superiority, was intoxicating. They were MY band. Well, mine along with my mates Andy and Bruce. I remember how our joy turned to despair when ‘Ghosts’ suddenly appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’. I had a feeling of emptiness, of abandonment, like I’d had a kick in the nuts from my mum on her way out of the door for the last time.

It didn’t take me long to feel ashamed of begrudging my favourite band their moment of success. It wasn’t long before I was in a band, and in a position to appreciate things from the other side.

I’ve talked to many other musicians about this and there seems to be a general consensus that it’s a ‘British’ thing, that success is actually failure. Viewed from one angle, its a character trait that I find quite endearing, that we are a nation that loves a loser. America loathes losers, they are a nation that breeds winners, and drums into their kids from an early age that winning is the goal, the aim, the reason for being in the race.

When I was at school, while competitiveness was encouraged, so was a more rounded ethos of ‘it’s not the winning it’s the taking part’, a concept that has always fascinated me, and why I called my production outfit and now band, Losers. Losers are just glad to be in the game, not allowing their happiness to be dependent on the outcome of anything. Adopting this name was a reaction against the George Bush politics of the day and against the loathsome, money-obsessed individuals I’ve worked with or been friends with in the past.

In my life, I’ve become wary of my happiness being dependent on an outcome, it’s one of the reasons I’ve ended up so unerringly positive, and a state of mind I’d recommend to anyone.

But this grossly negative outlook of sneering at success, is it really a uniquely British thing? I’d welcome some input from other cultures and countries, to see if this is more to do with age than geography. Is it maybe a northern European thing? We get less light per year and its been proven that our endorphin levels are lower than our counterparts somewhere like Spain, and consequently our outlook is darker and more cynical.

Like I said, there is the positive side to it, the love-a-loser ethos that sets us apart from our transatlantic cousins, but this healthy celebration of the underdog is just one part of a complicated equation. I think that, if were honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that begrudging the success of someone we love, is more of a playing out of our own insecurity, than an assessment of their failure.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could love the loser, but then not have a problem if that loser becomes a winner, in some way?

If an underdog beats a favourite, in say the FA Cup, this success is celebrated, so I know it’s within our sphere of experience to be and to act bigger. So when, say, Auction, that amazing five-piece from Croydon who played live on ‘X-posure’ on my last day holding the fort for John Kennedy, when they become hugely successful, and they will, just remember they haven’t changed, and neither should we.

X eddy