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Baker's Dozen

I Don't Belong Here: Cathi Unsworth's Weirdo In 13 Albums
The Quietus , July 25th, 2012 07:17

Author and journalist Cathi Unsworth talks us through the albums that inspired her new novel Weirdo. This feature will bring dark joy to the hearts of those whose clothes are black, whose lips are purple and whose witches are red


Michael Jackson Thriller / Madonna Madonna

The Peter Pan and Mary of the Eighties, the children that refused to grow up and lured the other children away into a very dubious Neverland. These records were inescapable in the Eighties summer on Yarmouth seafront, shrilling out of the amusement arcades along with the rest of the hateful cacophony of capitalism that those rattling machines represented. Sonic death. As well as the über glossy, über Eighties production that makes these records the aural equivalent of dayglo neon lights, the songs have an edge of barely-suppressed hysteria to them, something much darker lurking underneath the MTV façade.

The other records in this collection explore politics, identity, history and other cultures with curious minds. Neither of these twin colossii of Eighties pop had anything to say but nonetheless the emptiness of their racket filled the air. Prince was vastly superior – but then, Prince is an adult. Now we can see clearly that Michael Jackson’s life was broken childhood tragedy writ large and Madonna’s legacy to the world is stripper outfits for eight-year-olds sold in Woolworths. So they are presences in Weirdo, sirens calling through the air of the seafront, giving impressionable young girls and boys bad ideas.