Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Feature | 2 June 1990

POP WILL EAT ITSELF
PORN TO BE WILD

Neither the Football Association nor, astonishingly, FIFA's UK representatives are entirely sure who will be presenting the 1990 World Cup to the winners in Italy in a few weeks time. But they're both adamant that, despite the rumours, it will not be Cicciolina. Still, since the Pope has declared his intention to bless the stadiums
featpopwilleatitself
where the matches will be played and even attend some of the games, that's perhaps not surprising.

Cicciolina is the Italian star of scores of hardcore porn films and the editor of a monthly magazine full of her own photographs and stories of her dubious exploits. A couple of years ago, she was elected to parliament in Rome. She wasn't perceived by voters as a lunatic fringe candidate (although her call for "love parks" caused some consternation), but as a firm supporter of sound green policies. She's also the subject of the new Pop Will Eat Itself single.

"Touched By The Hand Of Cicciolina" is a brazen dance track, the chunky, funky bass occasionally reduced to a rattle, the momentum fuelled by a veritable carnival of horns and house piano breaks. There are whistles and sirens, the roar of a crowd melts into a burst of operatic singing, and the voices of football commentators rise and fall in the mix. The Brazilian commentator's infamous cry of "GOOOOAAAAL!" is unmistakable and the way that "Yes... Yes... Oh yes", "Incredible" and "Brilliant finish" are spliced together has a hilarious sexual connotation. PWEI's own vocals are limited to chanting "Cicciolina for Italia" over and over again.

•••

Pop Will Eat Itself have recently returned from meeting Cicciolina in Rome. They're now convinced she must use stand-ins for her pornographic work.

Richard: "She was just so sweet and charming that I refuse to believe she is the same person who appears in these films and books, keeping anything up to five guys entertained at a time."

Clint: "When we were doing the photos with her in Rome, there'd always be a big crowd gathered around us, but it wasn't like it would be in this country, the blokes weren't yelling, 'Go on, get your tits out'. Everybody was treating her with respect and reverence. It was weird, it was the sort of reaction people here normally reserve for members of the Royal Family. We expected to get about five minutes with her, but she stayed with us for ages. If the single does well and we get to go on 'Top Of The Pops', we'd love to try and get her over for it."

What did she think about being the subject of a pop song?

Richard: "She hadn't actually heard the track and I'm not sure that she fully understood what it was all about. Her English was about as good as our Italian."

Graham: "When we gave her a copy of the record she looked pretty chuffed. Once she'd heard it she probably regretted agreeing to meet us."

There's bound to be criticism that releasing a record about Cicciolina endorses the idea of pornography. As with the "Beaver Patrol" single a few years ago, surely PWEI could be accused of sexism?

Clint: "I'm sure things like that will be said, but I don't really care. If people can't take a joke, fuck them. I've always said that 'Beaver Patrol' was a victim of its time. It was condemned because, back then, it was trendy to accuse bands of sexism. I'm not trying to say that sexism isn't wrong – it is – or that it's not a serious issue, it's just that if it were released today it wouldn't cause the same amount of fuss it did then. After all, groups like Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets are actually lauded for their laddish behaviour. Okay, so some might say that PWEI are more blatantly yobbish, but that's a totally subjective point.

"Anyway, I honestly don't think anybody will find 'Cicciolina' offensive. They must have a lot of hang-ups if they do. Part of what's so fascinating about Cicciolina is the way that she's gone from being a porn star to an MP. As far as I'm concerned, that says a lot about the whole idea of being an MP."

Could you imagine a porn queen ever being elected to the British Parliament?

Clint: "There aren't really any porn queens in this country though, are there? I guess it's because the British are a bit too straight-laced."

Richard: "It'd be great to have some dodgy video of Margaret Thatcher surface, something shot by Rob Lowe when he took her home one night. That'd be a gas."

Clint: "Yeah, but you know what Thatcher is like, she turns everything round to her advantage. She'd somehow manage to make a dodgy video win her more votes."

Richard: "That's true. She's probably got something like that lined up."

•••

All four members of PWEI have a passionate interest in football. Graham unashamedly admits to being a lifelong Spurs supporter and the others have always followed the fortunes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, their local team. One of the numerous versions of "Cicciolina" is entitled "The Incredi-Bull Mix", after Steve Bull, the Wolves striker. They say that, although the band's heavy schedule means they don't attend as many league matches as they'd like, they've been to all of England's World Cup warm-up games. Depending on the team Bobby Robson settles on, they think England have a good chance of doing well in Italy.

Clint: "It's important to have match winners as well as skilful players in the team. I reckon Ian Botham should have been in the squad because he's exactly that sort of person. The same goes for Gascoigne, Bull and, of course, Bryan Robson, but there's no way you could say that of McMahon or Beardsley. Neither of them should be in the team."

Graham: "McMahon played like a carthorse against Denmark the other night."

Clint: "I don't suppose Bull will get a starting place because Robson always sticks with the old boys, but we've got it basically right. We played well against the Czechs, even though that was quite an experimental side, and going back to last year against Poland we were brilliant. Waddle was positively steaming. Mind you, Egypt stuffing Scotland the other night doesn't bode too well."

Graham: "Especially not for the Scots."

Richard: "The Irish have got a strong side too. They're not the underdogs that most people think. If they were English, a lot of them would be in Robson's team."

But who's actually going to lift the cup?

Graham: "You can never write the West Germans off and Italy will make the most of having home advantage. Brazil and Argentina will be hard to beat too. Did you see that documentary about the Argentinian team on telly the other week? There was this great story about them getting beaten and coming home claiming that it had been a great victory for them because they'd played the most entertaining football. People were out on the streets chanting, 'We won! We won!'. It was crazy."

What about the threat of hooliganism at the England matches?

Richard: "I reckon England may well be disqualified after the first game."

Graham: "Yeah, it could easily be a bloodbath. The continental fans think they've got something to prove against the English and I doubt our fans will be able to keep out of trouble even if they wanted to. We'd like to have gone out to see some of the games, but we know that we'd run into difficulties. If you're caught on your own you'll be in the shit, but if you hang around with other English fans you could well be with people who are looking for trouble.

"Although hooliganism is now a bigger problem on the continent than it is here, England is still suffering because we were the first country to have that culture. I'm not trying to make an excuse for the English fans, their behaviour is bad, but the situation is certainly no better in a lot of other countries. There's also the fact that violence doesn't just happen at football matches. If you took what goes on in pubs every night and magnified that to the 20,000 people you'll get at a game, you'd find there were far more fights per person down your local pub."

•••

"Touched By The Hand Of Cicciolina" is yet another different direction for PWEI, a band who began their career as insalubrious rockers and were later one of the first British acts to assimilate the influence of hip hop. If some of their records have been gimmicky and sloppy imitations of the Beastie Boys, their new single is solid groove. The ambient and acidic remixes of the track by Renegade Soundwave, a group PWEI have always admired, adds still more dimensions.

Clint: "Some of the reactions have been like, 'What happened to the PWEI we used to know and love?', but that doesn't matter because people said exactly the same thing when we did 'Def Con 1' and 'Beaver Patrol'. We've always been directionless."

Do you think that that's been to your detriment?

"Yeah, quite probably, but it's pointless and completely lacking in excitement to simply repeat the same ideas over and over again. You might as well be dishing out stamps at the post office. We've never set ourselves any restrictions or targets, we've never tried to develop a certain sound or write a certain type of song. If we'd have been more career oriented we could have cashed in on the early indie guitar frenzy sound, but we just found the whole idea of that boring."

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