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Music Monday: Hooligan

While I was reading up on Sergei Esenin recently (in connection with Shalamov), I was alerted to the song ‘Hooligan’ by Max, Kevin Mooney’s post-Adam and the Ants band, here in a great performance at The Clarendon, Hammersmith in, I believe, 1985:

[‘Hooligan’ on YouTube]

Reliable sources who were there at the time inform me that this song is about Esenin. That certainly sounds about right, but if anyone out can confirm it or fill in the details, I’d love to hear from you.

In the hooligan persona he cultivated, his short-lived marriage to Isadora Duncan, and in particular his suicide, complete with farewell poem written in blood, Esenin’s self-image certainly resonates across cultural boundaries. Many of his poems have been set to music (here is one of many versions of ‘Letter to my Mother‘), and have inspired other artistic responses, such as this animation of his hallucinatory poem ‘The Black Man‘ by Alex Popugaev. So perhaps it’s not surprising for him also to turn up in the context of eighties punk.

For more on hooliganism as a cultural phenomenon in Russia, see Joan Neuberger’s seminal 1993 study, Hooliganism: Crime, Culture, and Power in St Petersburg, 1900-1914. It contains only a very brief discussion of Esenin (p. 151), but is a fascinating examination of social change and class dynamics in the pre-revolutionary period. Whilst reading it recently, I had a strange realization that it represents the point where all my research interests intersect.

More Music Mondays soon!

Update (6 July 2012)

A 2004 interview with Kevin Mooney by Richard Cabut for 3:AM confirms the Esenin connection:

‘There, the finger is firmly on the fast forward button of desire and disaster while chatting about, for instance, Imaginist poet Sergei Esenin, death and lost love that screams silent like a supersonic whistle.’

Thanks to John Levin for alerting me to this interview.

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