As William Blake famously once enquired of a Tyger, “Did he who made the lamb make thee?” We might similarly ask of “Godstar”, “Did he who produced ‘Hamburger Lady’ produce thee?”
There’s always something fascinating about creators who turn out something different to what you’d normally expect them to do. Pat Boone’s heavy metal phase is a particularly shining example of this practice, as is Alfred Hitchcock’s one and only musical, Waltzes From Vienna. (It’s even more fascinating when the attempt doesn’t altogether succeed, as these cases didn’t.) And so is Psychic TV’s 1984 single “Godstar”.
Psychic TV emerged in 1981 from the smoking ruins of Throbbing Gristle, who emerged with punk in the mid-1970s but who were, in their confrontational way, more punk than punk. As much, if not more, of a performance art project as anything else, TG invented industrial music, combining dubious visuals and dubious lyrics into what most people would probably consider a bloody horrible racket (sample lyric: “I hate your little tits, I hate your little clits”).
Psychic TV, starring TG’s main character Genesis P-Orridge, went on to do similar things, pioneering the now ubiquitous art of body piercing and later acid house and techno, as well as being the only band I know of to have their own occult order (Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth) attached to them. As an example of their style, consider their 1983 album Dreams Less Sweet which, along with a few actual songs, also encompassed an aggressive dog, Tibetan bowls recorded in a cave, and the sound of one of the band members getting a tattoo.
Then in 1986 Psychic TV unleashed “Godstar”, which the single cover called the theme to a film about Brian Jones (“the one of the Rolling Stones”). Apparently the film was never actually made, but we still have the song, a heartfelt and somewhat bitter ode to Brian:
Where were all of your laughing friends
Where were they at the bitter end
They started to steal your glory
They never even told your story
Featuring a marvellously atonal middle eight (not a million miles removed from the Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On”), “Godstar” is one of the most outstanding pop songs of the 1980s. It sounds nothing like Throbbing Gristle, and arguably not much like Psychic TV either.
Frankly, there’s something wrong about the idea of a world in which Genesis P-Orridge is a chart-topping pop star. Still, “Godstar” should have been a gigantic hit, if for no other reason than the glorious irony of the situation. Sadly it was a minor one at best, charting for two weeks at a highest position of 67. It’s still out there somewhere, though, and well worthy of your acquaintance.