You Can't Sting The Haze
(First published in Planet Magazine, 01aug1995)
Introduction by Laura Bond
In a 1987 Village Voice article, writer Howard Hampton aimed a poison pen at Gordon Sumner, known to most of the world as Sting. Entitled "Bring Me the Head of Gordon Sumner," the article branded the musician's use of lyrics dealing with "serious" topics insincere, and claimed Sting only wanted to cash in by exploiting all facets of the human condition under the guise of a sensitive musician. Hampton offers Hasil Adkins as an alternative to the plasticity of Sting, er, Gordon. "If Sting is the disease, then Hasil Adkins is the cure," he writes. "Hasil Adkins has more life in him than Sting ever had or ever will." Sting obviously read the article. And he reacted, well, sensitively. What follows is his response to Hampton as it appeared in the Voice letters page, November 24, 1987 (reproduced by permission of The Village Voice):
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 [sic] 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 thingI'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 eitherit's just that the only way you can get any
attention in the big world is to threaten to smash my head
against your wallmusic 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. [Editor's
note: Rupert Murdoch has not owned The Village Voice since July
"Punchy, Wunchy, Wicky, Wacky, Woo."
Who knows, when Ollie is Prez, you could be the new
Goebbels. You're perfectyour 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 my how baad they are.
And so Herr Hampton, if we do indeed have a date and you
want my head splattered against your wallfirst you have to kick
my arseunfortunately, you just ain't baad enough.
Bye for now. Love,
P.S. I do hope this letter makes you famous.
"I do hope this letter makes you famous."
What a twit. If I've ever read writing that drips with "hysteria," it's Sting's own vitriolic letter.
During a 1995 interview, I asked Hasil Adkins to comment on Sting's attack.
Hasil claimed, "I don't know, they wrote so much, man, I don't even get time
to really to look at what you say half of it. I got half of it to go yet! I get letters from all over the world & stuff & it takes
a lotta time, you know, to go through all that."
I tried again.
"You know who I'm talking about. Sting. From The Police."
But Hasil wouldn't play Sting's game. "Yeah, I know what you're talking about. I didn't see that, though. I know what you're talking about, though. I didn't get to see it."
And that was that. It's worth nothing that the booklet from Hasil's CD Look At That Caveman Go! (released two years prior to my interview with him) features a photo of the
Wild Man at homea photo that clearly shows Howard Hampton's Village Voice article taped to the wall right behind him! It's possible, of course, that Adkins read the article but really didn't see Sting's nasty rejoinder in the following issue. Probably more likely is that Hasil Adkins is too much the Southern gentleman to respond in (un)kind.
© Deuce of Clubs
Update: A 2002 article about Sting by a Sting fan has this to say about Sting's ugliness toward Hasil Adkins:
Critical appraisal of the album [The Dream of the Blue Turtles] was mixed; and while that itself wasn't particularly noteworthy, Sting's response to the criticism was, perhaps reflecting his state of mind in light of his mother's death and father's illness more than anything else. In response to a negative review by Howard Hampton in The Village Voice, Sting was given equal time by the alternative New York paper, which he used to level a variety of charges against Hampton: [. . .] you [are] a eunich [sic] 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. You hate music and you hate people. You dipshit fascist simpleton. 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."
Considering that all Hampton had done was criticize Sting for (as Hampton saw it) his vapidness and habit of trafficking in various causes as commoditieswith no pro-fascist statements, nothing hateful towards people, no glee at history's atrocities, no mentions of wanting to harm Sting or his children (or anybody, for that matter)it can be seen that Sting clearly was not in a good place during this period.