In 1997 Pat Kane asked Momus to write a regular column for the Glasgow Herald.
The pilot edition, about the art world, is here. Below is the first printed column.
'Things Can Only Get Better'. The M People hit is on repeat play. It's spring 1997.
'We won,' I murmur, shellshocked. The scowl I've been wearing since school, the scowl of a person condemned to eternal opposition, turns into a smile.
Spring turns to summer and summer to autumn, and my smile inexplicably fades.
It's inexplicable because things really have got better. There's a sense of enormous relief, of vindication. Talent has been recognised. The wait has been worth it.
I compare the bad old days with what The Guardian tells me we should refer to as New Britain...
THEN: I sign as Momus, satirical pop singer, to Creation Records, a shabby one-room office on Clerkenwell Road. Scot-in-exile Alan McGee and his wife Yvonne man the phones. Edwyn Collins and I sell about ten records apiece.
NOW: Alan McGee, 'the man who discovered Oasis,' is a multi-millionaire, and Creation one of the biggest record companies in Britain. I see McGee hovering, a discreet eminence ginger, behind Tony Blair the day Noel Gallagher is received at Downing Street. Edwyn Collins also enters the millionaire bracket when his song 'A Girl Like You' becomes a hit all over the world.
(First warning sign: Edwyn says in an interview 'Being a bit of a perverse old bugger, I'd say my success has made me if anything marginally less happy').
But I keep counting my blessings.
THEN: Apple is pioneer, the advanced computer embraced by an embattled minority of creative people. Bill Gates' Microsoft is the enemy, an evil empire based on shoddy standards and the pigeon-like conformity of unimaginative office culture.
NOW: Bill Gates ensures Apple's future by buying $150 million worth of stock. He also proves his commitment to research by purchasing large chunks of the city of Cambridge. Taking a leaf from Labour's book, Apple UK rechristens Macintosh 'New Macintosh'.
Lazarus (who knew Christ was coming, but just couldn't wait) is raised from the dead.
Apple people all over the world are relieved, yet we find ourselves suffering an identity crisis. Apple founder Steve Jobs is back at the helm, but he's a different Steve Jobs. He tells us we are no longer allowed to hoot at hate figure Bill Gates. So who exactly are we now?
The rock stars are right. Sudden, unexpected success messes with your head, man. Lazarus, waiting all his life for New Britain, has been warmed up too soon. Someone just stuck him in the microwave. Now he needs counselling and lots of post-op therapy.
Like Lazarus, I just couldn't wait for the upturn. I didn't believe it was going to happen. I left for Mitterand's Paris in 1994. In 1997 I said goodbye to Chirac's France and came back to find London cooler than it's been for years.
THEN: Arts budgets cut left, right and centre by the Tories.
NOW: Lottery money floods in. Sadlers Wells is rebuilt. A new cinema and gallery complex, the Lux, opens on London's ultra-trendy Hoxton Square. A generation of young artists finds success. David Bowie interviews Tracey Emin for Modern Painters magazine. There are queues round the block for the launch of Damian Hirst's new coffee table book. Even the staid old Royal Academy extends its blessing to BritArt with its wildly successful Sensation exhibition.
The old outsiders become the new establishment. They relish their new-found power and profile.
But, like Mao Tse Tung, maybe they think from time to time with wistful nostalgia about their Long March, their time in the wilderness. A time of hardship sweetened by a precise knowledge of who you are.
Perhaps the Scots and the Welsh will shortly be thinking wistfully of the time when they could say: 'We are not the English, who oppress us by imposing governments we never voted for'.
There will be a much more complex, ambivalent, and shifting sense of identity. There will be endless infighting, accusations of sell-out, brother turning on brother. The collapse of our common enemy brings with it the collapse of our own identity.
Those of us without cabinet positions will schlep about like disoriented zombies at the end of a Spike Milligan sketch. 'What'll we do now?'
In the 80s I was depressed. You could say I have been depressed since school. Slowly I learned to live with my depression, to see it as normal. I became a pop satirist, and started to make money from my savage portrayals of gory old Tory Britain. I was succoured by the sense that there was a sizeable minority of disaffected people just like myself, people who couldn't express themselves politically, and therefore turned to things like pop music to give them a voice.
Did the upturn come come too late? Did the wind change one day and fix the sulk on my face? Why am I still a melancholy bastard? Is it because I have no-one to satirise any more?
What about 'Labour sleaze'? Will it be as easy (and fun!) making songs about that as it was being the Hogarth of the Humping Tories? Will Labour MPs ever be discovered with stockings on their heads and oranges in their mouths?
I doubt it.
Now a fine tracery of fissures appears across the glaze of the social structure, and we discover that our 'alternative world' Ð the indie world, the opposition Ð is in fact many small groups, some of them destined for power, others destined for an odd limbo beyond the pale of the new liberalism.
I find myself in a corner with a motley collection of rampant, manic individualists, people who hate the idea that a nation should be united by anything, even good policies like the return to public transport.
Can it be that, like a newspaper cartoonist, I have to attack whoever is in power? Must I mock the good intentions of the new millenarial ethos even when it looks as if we're living in the best of all possible worlds and are about the build Jerusalem all green and pleasant?
Who would kick Lazarus now he's up and running?
Quick, find a new enemy!
The Royal Family? On their last legs. Chris Evans, Danny Baker and New Lads? Already on their way out, consumed by irony.
All right then, practise spelling the word 'accommodation'. It might happen to you one day.
But what if all this Ð the general decency, the ultimate vindication of the talented, the caring and the concerned Ð is just tokenism, a splendid firework display, the last gasp of humanism on the brink of the century of the post-human?
(The ghost of Theodor Adorno whispers this to me, his bittersweet weltschmertz somehow reassuring like the voice of Humphrey Bogart).
What if the next century belongs to the Chinese with their milling millions and their indifference to the notion of human rights? What if the new society takes the hardest elements of capitalism and communism and merges them into something platinum-plated, super-efficient, and merciless?
Unimaginable biogenetic collisions between species and species, scary biomechanical alliances between humans and machines: we are about to be post-human. Humanism is not an appropriate response. It's too late for that.
It's going to feel euphoric at Greenwich on December 31st 1999, with the Millenium dome behind us. But maybe GMT will no longer be a relevant measure of the time.
We should take the opportunity to set our watches to Chinese time.
It's the 21st century, Lazarus. Wake up and smell the coffee!