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Old 04-11-2004, 08:23 PM   #1
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Mel Gibson made me a pop star - Bono & Ali related Article

Mel Gibson made me a pop star

Neil McCormick was quietly recording a few songs for an album when he got a phone call from Los Angeles

This week, in time for Easter, Universal records have released an album entitled Songs Inspired by The Passion of the Christ. With liner notes by Mel Gibson, the album is intended as a companion piece to his film, featuring (and I quote here from The Passion's official website) "great artists of our day" performing songs personally selected by Gibson (with music producer Lian Lunson) to "take the listener on a journey akin to the journey of emotions in the film".

The highly eclectic compilation includes performances by Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and me.

The song is called Harm's Way, the artist is The Ghost Who Walks, and the composing credit (sandwiched between Presley and Cohen, with Dylan bringing up the rear) is Neil McCormick. It represents such an auspicious setting for my first major-label release, I am seriously considering quitting while I'm ahead.

I was a musician before I was ever a critic, albeit of the variety whose profession is usual preceded by the adjective "struggling".

As many of you will know (indeed, some consider it the only notable entry on my CV), I went to school with Bono and the other members of U2, although my career curve was pretty much the opposite of theirs. They played Wembley Stadium; I made it about as far as Wembley Coach and Horses.

I played in bands for 15 years, with only one independently released single to show for my efforts. Unable to convince the world of my genius, I eventually gave up on the music industry (several years after it had given up on me), and, following the unsolicited advice of so many adults I had encountered on my travels, got a proper job (if that is what you call this).

But the truth is you don't just stop being a musician. To me, music is one of the greatest joys life has to offer, a release from all the constricting emotions and petty frustrations of everyday existence.

I never stopped writing and performing songs, I just became a little more discreet. Sensitive to accusations of The Daily Telegraph's pop critic straying from the realm of gamekeeper into the terrain of the poacher, I operated as The Ghost Who Walks (a name from an old comic book). But, over the past year, it feels as if the ghost has been coming back to life.

An album I was quietly recording began to get a reaction from the few who heard it. Bono sent me a fan letter, saying: "Heard your CD. It's extraordinary. Not a dull tune on it. This is as good as it gets."

And Sting wrote to me, suggesting that, if I ever tired of writing about "ageing rock stars", I should give the music another shot.

The very same day that letter arrived, I was sitting in my basement office, working on my column, when the phone rang. It was Mel Gibson's office, calling from LA, to ask if they could use one of my songs in connection with his (at that point still unreleased) film The Passion of the Christ.

"How did you get to hear my music?" I wanted to know.

"The Lord moves in mysterious ways," my caller replied. To which all I can add is: He certainly does.

I should probably confess here that my own relationship with my Maker has been somewhat difficult. I grew up in Ireland, a staunchly Catholic country, and experienced a real crisis of faith while being schooled by Christian Brothers who seemed to think they were put on earth to beat the fear of God into little children.

Later, at the more liberal Mount Temple Comprehensive, I became the bane of true believers in my class, eventually being thrown out of R E for spending my time flipping through the Bible, seeking out anomalies and contradictions with which to torment my teacher.

Yet my enduring friendship with Bono has, in some respects, been a 30-year conversation about God. As well as being a great rock star, Bono is a committed Christian whose profound faith is manifest in his actions.

I, on the other hand, have been a spiky sceptic. Spiritually, I would describe myself as neither atheist nor agnostic, rather as just another seeker after truth, veering between the extremes of existentialism and awe in the face of faith.

Harm's Way was not, for me, a song about God. It was written in the studio, just as my album was being completed. I was thinking about a friend who had been through a rough time with drugs and was finding it hard to walk the straight and narrow. What emerged was a kind of prayer for the ones I love, because life is hard and fraught with risk.

But part of the beauty of songs is the way they open up to personal interpretation. Mel Gibson has commented that he was drawn to Harm's Way because it "sounds like a plea from every mother and father to their child. That's how I heard it."

And, frankly, despite all the controversy, I am utterly delighted to be associated with such a spiritual work of self-expression as Gibson's powerful film of Christ's final journey.

And I'm particularly pleased that room has been found for me on an album alongside that old Jewish Buddhist Leonard Cohen, occasionally blasphemous spiritual warrior Nick Cave, and Jewish born-again Christian Bob Dylan - artists whose work demonstrates that in music, as in life, faith is a little more complicated than religious fundamentalists would have us think.

It turned out that my mysterious benefactor was Bono's wife, Ali, who played my song down the phone to Lian Lunson while she was compiling tracks for the album.

"Here's the funny thing," Bono told me recently. "Ali didn't even know who The Ghost Who Walks was! You should have seen her face when I told her it was you.

"And the crushing irony that the first song released by you on a major label is from The Passion of the Christ! Come on! And you say you don't believe in God! It just proves that He has a great sense of humour!"

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Old 04-12-2004, 01:24 AM   #2
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Great article. I didn't like the movie much, but I wanna hear this song!

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Old 04-12-2004, 03:41 AM   #3
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"you should have seen her face"

great article! thanx flavia
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Old 04-12-2004, 09:21 AM   #4
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You can listen to that CD here
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Old 04-12-2004, 10:31 AM   #5
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What a cool story! Thanks!
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Old 04-12-2004, 11:00 AM   #6
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Re: Mel Gibson made me a pop star - Bono & Ali related Article

Originally posted by Niamh_Saoirse
"...And you say you don't believe in God! It just proves that He has a great sense of humour!"
He sure does!

......great article, btw! Thanks for posting Niamh!
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Old 04-12-2004, 11:11 AM   #7
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Great article - thanks again for posting it Flavia

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