The best part of a week has passed since the news, but we just can’t stop ourselves talking about him – the man whose restless, bewildering, epoch-defining and culture-shaping perpetual reinvention of himself sums up the way we live now and the story of our times.
I refer, of course, to David Cameron. The rise of this obscure figure from the deprived backstreets of Peasemore is an extraordinary one. Gripped by public performance from the start, his earliest musical influences were Eton-crafted boating riffs and raucous Bullingdon-style chanting, before graduation to the then troubled Conservative Party label – pausing only for a inspired sabbatical of mime study under the tutelage of supreme conjurer and illusionist Tony Blair.
It was a brilliant signing. The label had boomed during the 1980s with the operatic performances of Margaret Thatcher, who achieved three top singles in succession, but had later fallen on hard times. A disastrous experiment with punk rock under shaven-headed, pint-swilling Billy Hague was followed by the big military band sound failure of Iain Duncan Smith – who was later to emerge, ironically, as a huge administrative success under Cameron himself as a dogged stamper-out of concert ticket fraud, though his groundbreaking Universal Credit admission system has admittedly been subject to a series of delays.
Not even a partial revival under Welsh-born, Tom Jones-influenced crooner Michael Howard (at whom elderly Tory ladies had a habit of hurling their underwear) was enough to turn the label round. 2005 found the Tories in deep trouble. But, backed by Steve “Laughing Gnome” Hilton and Major Tom Strathclyde – a lost peer doomed forever to circuit the British constitution in outer space – Cameron achieved his first great hit, “Change to Win”.
This snappy breakthrough was soon succeeded by the gentle, syncopated, hippy-flavoured rhythms of “Big Society”, “You melt my ice-cap” – in which session drummer Greg Barker drove Cameron onstage in a husky-drawn sleigh amidst a blizzard of dry ice – and “We really, really heart the NHS”. Then came the glam-rock acoustics of “Hug a Hoodie”, in which Cameron, swathed from head to toe in designer robes loaned from top hip-hop artist Camilla Batmanghelidjh, would leap from the Westminster Village to embrace non-voting members of the public.
“The A list” saw the completed transformation of “David Cameron” into the ethnically ambiguous and sexually androgynous “Dave”. Everywhere and anyhow he was busting fusty taboos about identity – as when he bicycled behind his chauffeur-driven car, wore a wind turbine on his head and shocked the nation by miming fellatio live on stage on ageing rhythm-and-blues trombone maestro Rupert Murdoch. The Hilton-crafted “Let sunshine win the day” was a national sensation. Was Cameron a Nietzchian Superman?
Then came disaster. Cameron dramatically announced to a screaming Party Conference that “Dave” was dead. The next year saw him enter his A Lad Insane period in which – egged on by Havant-based keyboard wizard Dave Willetts – the funky, snarling, in-your-face beat of his new album, “Close the Grammar Schools”, bombed with his traditional fan base. The withdrawal of “Cast Iron Guarantee” for technical reasons saw Cameron plumb new depths of unpopularity. Only a pledge from lead guitarist Ozzy Osborne of a new hit single, “Lower Inheritance Tax”, was able to turn things round for Cameron. At the time of writing it has still not been released.
For all his flair Cameron had not yet topped the charts – and was able to in 2010 only with the aid of yellow-faced flautist Nick Clegg and his piccolo-wielding sidekick Danny Alexander. With his backing band rebranded as The Quad, Cameron proved he was on his way back with the Osborne-assisted hits “We’re all in this together”, with its wheedling saxophone tones, and the get-down-on-the-dancefloor bop of “Fix the roof while the sun is shining”. But Cameron was already preparing for a radical shift. His physical health and mental stability shaken by a power addiction of staggering proportions, his latest persona, the Thick White Duke, was portrayed by his critics as an austerity-fixated zombie.
“Kitchen Suppers” flopped. And the calamitous “Omnishambles” open air concert of 2012 was succeeded by a bold but ultimately unsuccessful tour of Libya – and, consequent upon it, the sudden cancellation of his “Bomb Assad” Syria gig in 2013. Meanwhile, Hilton had walked out after the rejection of “Post-Bureaucratic Age”, his trance-futurism concept album proposal. Something had to be done. Cameron packed himself off to Mrs Merkel’s clinic in Berlin where he promised to wean himself off power: indeed, he swore to hand most of it over her.
Back on stage again, he experimented with Tin Ear, a tentative experiment in collective responsibility, only to fold it – and junk the subtle orchestration of in-the-groove bassist Andrew Cooper for the back-to-basics rock and roll of antipodean trumpeteer Lynton Crosby. “Barnacles off the boat” got Cameron back in the hit business. It was swiftly succeeded by the plastic soul of “Hard Working People”, “Security” and “Playing by the Rules” – though some observers thought Crosby went over-the-top with his growls and hefts during “Fling a dead cat on the table”. “Green Crap” thrilled the fan base.
At Number One under his own steam at last, Cameron, ever the shape-shifter, nicked the retro funk of “One Nation” from Boris Johnson, and is currently applying the finishing touches to his long-delayed “EU Referendum” Rock Opera. It is rumoured to feature a mind-bending first even by his standards – a track, tentatively titled “Renegotiation”, that will contain nothing at all. The scheme’s working title is “Cashes to Ashes”. From the start, Cameron has been assisted by a loyal support team who maintain a discreet silence about his plans. It includes gangsta rap artist Craig Oliver, glamourous backing singers Kate Fall and Camilla Cavendish, hard-toiling tour organiser Liz Sugg and glockenspiel specialist Ed Llewellyn.
The project has reportedly been dogged by problems. Moneyman Sajid Javid and venue security supremo Theresa May are said to be dubious. And not a whisper has been heard from Cameron’s stage ventriloquist, Michael Gove. However, the Syria tour is back on, though the original lyrics to “Bomb Assad” have been comprehensively rewritten to the words “Bomb ISIS”. What is certain is that Cameron, ever the master and at the top of his game, is none the less contemplating his own mortality. Seasoned Cameron-watchers detect a new experimental edge to the coming release, though a planned June launch is apparently dogged by legal disputes. He has promised to quit by 2020, but who knows what he will do next? After all, you’ve got to make way for the Homo Superior.