Smash Hits (June 21 - July 4, 1984)
By Ian Birch
OSCAR WILDE 1854-1900
Victorian wit, novelist, playwright and poet.
"My mother, who's an assistant librarian, introduced me to his writing when I was 8. She insisted I read him and I immediately became obsessed. Every single line affected me in some way. I liked the simplicity of the way he wrote. There was a piece called The Nightingale And The Rose that appealed to me immensely then. It was about a nightingale who sacrificed herself for these two star-crossed lovers. It ends when the nightingale presses her heart against this rose because in a strange, mystical way it means that if she dies, then the two lovers can be together. This sense of truly high drama zipped through everything he wrote. He had a life that was really tragic and it's curious that he was so witty. Here we have a creature persistently creased in pain whose life was a total travesty. He married, rashly had two children and almost immediately embarked on a love affair with a man. He was sent to prison for this. It's a total disadvantage to care about Oscar Wilde, certainly when you come from a working class background. It's total self-destruction almost. My personal saving grace at school was that I was something of a model athlete. I'm sure if I hadn't been, I'd have been sacrificed in the first year. I got streams and streams of medals for running. As I blundered through my late teens, I was quite isolated and Oscar Wilde meant much more to me. In a way he became a companion. If that sounds pitiful, that was the way it was. I rarely left the house. I had no social life. Then, as I became a Smith, I used flowers because Oscar Wilde always used flowers. He once went to the Colorado salt mines and addressed a mass of miners there. He started the speech with, 'Let me tell you why we worship the daffodil'. Of course, he was stoned to death. But I really admired his bravery and the idea of being constantly attached to some form of plant. As I get older, the adoration increases. I'm never without him. It's almost biblical. It's like carrying your rosary around with you."
JAMES DEAN 1931-1955
Moody movie idol of the '50s who died in a car crash aged 24 after making only three films, including Rebel Without A Cause.
"I saw Rebel Without a Cause quite by accident when I was about 6. I was entirely enveloped. I did research about him and it was like unearthing Tutankhamun's tomb. His entire life seemed so magnificently perfect. What he did on film didn't stir me that much but as a person he was immensely valuable. Everything from his birth in a farming town to coming to New York, breaking into film and finding he didn't really want it when he had enormous success. At school it was an absolute drawback because nobody really cared about him. If they did, it was only in a synthetic rock and roll way. Nobody had a passion for him as I did — for that constant uneasiness with life. Even though he was making enormous strides with his craft, he was still incredibly miserable and obviously doomed. Which is exactly the quality Oscar Wilde had. That kind of mystical knowledge that there is something incredibly black around the corner. People who feel this are quite special and always end up in quite a mangled mess."
BILLY FURY 1941-1983
Born Ronald Wycherly, made name in late '50s as tough rock and roll rebel (Britain's answer to Elvis Presley). Re-emerged in film That'll Be The Day in '73. Died of heart trouble.
"Billy Fury is virtually the same as James Dean. He was entirely doomed too and I find that quite affectionate. He was persistently unhappy and yet had a string of hit records. He was discovered working on the docks in Liverpool. was dragged to London, styled and forced to make records. He always wanted to make very emotionally over-blown ballads but he found himself in the midst of the popular arena. He despised almost every aspect of the music industry and was very, very ill from an early age. This album is the rarest I have. It was his first. Albums made in those days were thrust out to appeal to a mature audience. Thev talked about 'chandeliers' and 'cocktail dresses'. Singles were for teenagers and I'm afraid I always preferred the singles. I was the kind of child who'd bound out of bed on a Saturday, leapfrog down to the local shop and just stay there inhaling the air for hours and smelling all the vinyl and caressing the sleeves. I'd leave about mid-day and go to bed and consider that a completely successful day. I was really quite poor so whatever record I could buy was like a piece of my heart. Something I couldn t possibly exist without. Billy's singles are totally treasurable. I get quite passionate about the vocal melodies and the orchestration always sweeps me away. He always had such profound passion."