Monday, 27 December 2010

Ole, tarantula

Went to see 9 lessons and carols for godless people, and boy, it was worth it, even for the long-running late late set on a freezing cold midweek night.

It was all a bit of a blur, to be honest - a skeptics paradise featuring stellar names like Stewart Lee, Josie Long and Adam Goldacre,Simon Singh doing a 5 minute Q&A about the universe and electrocuting a gherkin, Matt Parker geniusly showing how easy it is to mislead given enough data, Adam Rutherford tearing the Alpha Course to shreds rather elegantly through powerpoint slides ["a homophobic death cult"] and Mitch Benn nailing the problem most atheists have with religion by rewriting Genesis (I paraphrase - Abraham: God, I know you were messing when you asked me to kill my son, because then your followers might believe you want people who don't stand up for what they believe is right, but who suck up to you so much, even if it involves murdering innocent people. God: Yes, only kidding. Imagine what a fucked up world that would be!) And Al Murray pub landlord celebrating the indomitable British bulldog spirit by making everyone sing Incy Wincy Spider (with hand movements).

In the middle of all this, Robyn Hitchcock (hippy/punk Softboys veteran) came on, with lots of girl backing singers with beautiful voices and the house band, Martin White's Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra and did Ole! Tarantula, which I hadn't heard before, and it was truly magical. The audience was spell-bound.

I googled it at home, his usual eccentric lyrics, but I implore you to read them. Here is what I found:

CK: ..The quote in the press kit says the title song, "Ole! Tarantula," is "about where babies come from" RH: Yeah... it's all to do with how people feel about what brings them into existence - how some people kind of recoil from it and some people are delighted by it, and some people are just shocked that they exist at all. I think I'm in the last group. A lot of my songs are about the shock of existence, so I suppose this is another take on it, if you like.

I get it now, I understand why they included this song, and it was perfect for this evening. Atheism can sometimes seem an "anti" stance, with nothing positive going for it, but this night was all about celebration. This song gives you the image of tarantulas being born, as a metaphor for life and birth - some people could find this a repellent image, but he is saying how beautiful, what a shock and what a miracle life is."If he don't please you, Well you just can't be pleased..." To me, religion and the myths of religion are a scrim or a screen to shield people from the harshness of life. And atheism can be a positive thing, not just a reaction against. But this song put the point across more gently, with more wit & humour than I could ever hope to express.

Someone was filming it - I hope, hope, hope it will end up on Youtube, I will link it here for your enjoyment.

Update: I asked Robin Ince on Twitter if it was filmed but he said it wasn't. Never mind, it existed for a brief beautiful ephemeral moment, which is fitting.


  1. What a good night out - glad you had a chance to celebrate this time of year!
    I have personal experience of the Alpha Cult and how malicious it can be - when an evangelical curate brought it in to the church I attended (just like shit on the shoe). He used it, I think, to try and persecute our much-loved gay choir director/priest. He failed. Hah!

  2. Good! How bloody annoying. I wish you could have heard this talk Arabella, it was funny and so incisive. He blogged about it in the Guardian, if you are interested: