Around a fortnight after Back To Black was released I heard it on my 'pod whislt walking my noble hound in the Armagh countryside. It was an epiphany no different from the moment i heard the first Roxy album in '72 or, indeed, when my uncle played me Jumping Jack Flash in '65. Here was greatness.  An extraordinary voice, fabulous retro arrangements and lyrics that Cole or Noel would approve. Yet something about her subject matter - the depravity of yearning - drew me to her. And i knew the British press would deify her, briefly, then, less briefly and inexorably, degrade her. This ode is about that conflict, and an homage to her genius.


 Your snaking tattoos, hieroglyphs of self-hate,

The ink’s under the skin, like your doe-eyed war-paint,

And your pouty lips warble, (you’re speaking in tongues,)

These kitchen sink operas of sinners and saints.

Yet diva d’inferno, make no mistake

The scribes can’t love, they prefer to hate

A shooting star with smoke-drenched lungs,

A slutty JP from suburban Southgate.

They’ll laud you now, these lazy hacks,

They might even listen to a couple of tracks,

But they’ll trawl the green rooms, offer bungs,

To capture your fall, your descent back to black.

Ha! The schadenfreude of England can’t delete your songs,

The fuckery of life, the fuckwits of the press,

Don’t hear your dark stories, only see a tight dress,

A cigarette pout, a mockney voice to impress,

But the songs are the thing, the music so, well, great,

(Not carpet burns and anorexia and facial paint)

Maybe waking alone will be your fate,

Like me, like jazz, like most of the English state,

Loaded, reloaded, my libidinous soul mate.