In November of 1987, shortly after the release of Sting‘s second solo album, …Nothing Like The Sun, a scathing article about the musician (titled, “Bring Me the Head of Gordon Sumner”; reprinted here) was published in The Village Voice, written unflinchingly by critic Howard Hampton. In it, Hampton described Sting’s latest music as, amongst many other things, “perfumed gunk,” compared it unfavourably to the output of Hasil Adkins, and later called Sting himself “contemptible.”
Within days of the article’s publication, Sting responded furiously with the following letter. It was published in the paper’s next issue.
Note: Sting misspelled “eunuch,” and was actually incorrect about Rupert Murdoch in one respect — he hadn’t owned the paper since 1985.
(Source: Donald Houghton; Image: Sting, via.)
Oscar Wilde—”The school of criticism wherein the worst is championed as the best, and the best as the worst, is merely a form of autobiography.”
Mmm…maybe you’ve got a point there, Oscar; let me try and explain this to Howard Hampton.
Oh Howard, why do I see you so clearly? The curse of psychic powers wedded to the transparency of your writing reveals you as a eunich at a Lester “Gang Bangs” masturbating dryly over pictures of war atrocities, wallowing in the squalid enormities of History’s charnel house. Nothing beautiful can be tolerated in your world because without hatred you feel nothing, you love perversion and despise life. I’m so glad you despise me.
You patronise Hasil Adkins because he is inept (not necessarily a bad thing—I’m no critic). Because he’s inept, he doesn’t threaten the fragility of your self-esteem, your tenuous but essential feeling of superiority over the rest of the human race; you hate music and you hate people. This isn’t Hasil’s fault either—it’s just that the only way you can get any attention in the big world is to threaten to smash my head against your wall—music criticism in the Fourth Reich.
If as you say the average fascist scumbag wouldn’t be in the least offended by my work, then how come it got up your nose so successfully you dipshit fascist simpleton?
As far as “feelings, politics, hope, all [being] traduced into commodities”—let’s try and forget that The Village Voice is owned by Rupert (every writer has his price) Murdoch. At this rate Howard you could end up as editor and be even more helpful to him in his worldwide crusade to depoliticize the populace by supplying them with meaningless, mind-numbing garbage.
“Punchy, Wunchy, Wicky, Wacky, Woo.”
Who knows, when Ollie is Prez, you could be the new Goebbels. You’re perfect—your writing has all the hysteria and self-loathing of the child molester, the sickening, rhetorical violence of the neo-Nazi.
So I’ve filed you away with a select and thankfully small group of psycho-sickos who want to torture my children or take a razor to my face; on and on they rant in a closed loop of unspeakable fantasy, repeatedly grabbing their crotches and telling me how baad they are.
And so Herr Hampton, if we do indeed have a date and you want my head splattered against your wall—first you have to kick my arse—unfortunately, you just ain’t baad enough.
Bye for now.
P.S. I do hope this letter makes you famous.