Duke Special haunts Dublin’s Olympia theatre tonight… so, apologies to all his fans (and I know they are legion), but I’ve got to say, the guy terrifies me rigid. I know it’s terribly unfair to seem judgmental about someone’s looks but, seriously, the man wants to be scary to those who have the power to resist. Those eyes, lined to look like the walking dead from some nightmarish MR James passage; the hair, a cross between a gorgon’s half-starved serpents and a clump of crabgrass after a dose of Weedol; the clothes, like some sinister travelling fairground magician, summoning lost souls to be damned to benign theatrical whimsy for all eternity; and then there’s the music….
Anyone who spent the 1970s or ’80s watching the ITV children’s TV series Rainbow will be familiar with the music of Rod, Jane and Freddy – simplistic, jollified, sub-vaudevillian singalongs, specifically written with the extremely young in mind. There is a split hair of a difference between their musical “style” and that of Mr ‘Special’. Both induce winces of the sort only a London taxi’s brakes, the trailing of a nail down a blackboard and the notion of having your testicles slowly crushed between two bricks can conjur to mind. The only thing that makes Rod, Jane and Freddy relatively acceptable is that they never once, by virtue of being on Rainbow, asked to be taken seriously. I’d expect someone like Duke Special to turn up on a Phoenix Nights Halloween karaoke contest, not at the Olympia theatre, packed to the uppers with paying customers.
What worries me more is that grown ups will actually play this music to their children. Have they forgotten, or perhaps never actually read, Grimm’s fairytales? How are they going to cope with the subsequent night terrors? How will they cope with their little ones’ spectral visions? Cackling apparitions of George and Zippy bopping along, while the shadowy, beckoning, dandified vagrant whinnies sinister melodies from the corner of their room, like the Pied Piper of the dark side? Brrrrrr…..