Every time a great artist dies I think about how much duller our world would have been if they'd never stepped forward, or had given up after just a handful of bad gigs or another publisher's rejection letter, what if they had never made their presence felt? Just think what The Specials or 2-Tone or the ska revival would have been without Terry Hall? If someone else got that gig. What if we'd never got to hear the haunted and powerful voice of Sinead? What if we'd never heard her vitally real and necessary voice of protest?
This week I've thought about what those Sex Pistols records may have looked like without those brilliantly scorching and shocking sleeves that Jamie Reid designed, a style that conveyed the angry beauty, the aggressive colours, the cut-ups that defined a movement, an era, and most contemporary culture to follow. I wonder about what horror cinema would have been like if someone else had made a film based on William Peter Blatty's best-selling novel about demonic possession. I think of a cinema without William Friedkin's 'The French Connection', 'The Birthday Party' (an early and underrated classic) or 'To Live and Die in LA'. And then there's '...the greatest protest singer and songwriter that most people never heard of ...' but you've heard of Rodriguez now haven't you? , you've watched 'Searching for Sugarman', surely?
And then, as I've listened over and again to The Basement Tapes, Music from Big Pink and The Band's eponymous album this week and watching 'The Last Waltz' I've thought about The Band without Robbie Robertson, of a world without 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' or 'Up on Cripple Creek'? (I'm also partial to Robertson's solo stuff and, I confess, the Neil Diamond album he produced). Would there have been a band (or Band), without him? I've watched that great clip of 'I Shall Be Released' from The Last Waltz, with all of those immense talents on stage, I watched Dylan and Robertson at the center of it all and I cry. Every time. Imagine a world where that didn't happen.
I know that this is just an extension of the '...what if Paul McCartney hadn't gone to Woolton College Fete and seen John Lennon perform with The Quarrymen' game. Life would have gone on, the huge cultural jenga would not have collapsed, and there would have been something else. But, as I go back to re-reading Kundera and Martin Amis, I know that whatever that something else would have just been so much duller.