Elton John’s peculiar new book Love Is The Cure: On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS spends most of its time rhapsodising nostalgically about Ryan White. What few pages that aren’t devoted to that are peppered with fossilised pleas for brotherly love and self-congratulatory reflections on star-studded fundraising galas. Christian goodwill and shitloads of cash won’t “end” AIDS. Individuals (particularly gay male individuals) choosing actions that all but negate the ability of the virus to spread will but, you know, just try telling them that.
Anyway, the great book about how AIDS gathered enough momentum to set itself into perpetual motion is And The Band Played On, written by the immortal Randy Shilts. A journalist who covered the early years of the epidemic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Shilts documents how all stakeholders - including and especially various gay cliques - stuck stubbornly to their own preset agendas while the apocalypse unfolded in front of their eyes.
I’ve read And The Band Played On at least ten times and I’ll certainly revisit it many times more. Give it a go - browse copies here.
Or if you’re a fan, browse copies of Elton’s book.
Alternatively, watch and listen to my idol, noting if you will his clarity, lack of bias in any direction and faith in researched or readily observable fact - what a supreme journalist he was:
MARK ADNUM: Why do you think Elton John’s been so narky lately?
MARK SIMPSON: I could be nasty and say it’s down to The Change. But I think it’s probably more to do with the fact that he’s fed up playing the Queen Mum role. It got him what he wanted - acceptability and even a certain amount of respectability - but I think the penny’s finally dropped that he doesn’t really want those things after all, or at least that they’re not what they’re cracked up to be. Especially when they come at the cost of being regarded as some kind of perfoming penisless penguin.