60. Maradona

Tapehead no 60 

These days, nothing makes such dramatic or sensational impact on our lives as genius in football or pop music. The only thing as thrilling as watching such talents rise is watching them self-destruct.

Then again, the price of such high-octane fame is something the rest of us can never comprehend (meaning we can never earn the right to judge them), they become the ones we want to condemn most harshly.

Lie a cross between George Best and Michael Jackson, Diego Armando Maradona is one. But as True Stories shows, he is undaunted. 

“I have to live with myself 24 hours a day…I couldn’t care less what people say about me. They will never reach the heights of happiness or the depths of sadness that I have.”

True Stories provides an extraordinary insight into the pressure cooker that, for years, has been Maradona’s life, in Spain, Italy, and Argentina. From peasant life to high life, his has been quite a life.

In the Buenos Aires slums where he grew up, we meet the scout who discovered him (“he was a natural, he did it all”) and the boys who played with him at 10 (“great memories”).

At 16, dreamy and gorgeous, as he started winning Argentine championships and national caps, he was already saying, “Life is giving me too much.”

He nobly led lost causes like Napoli and Argentina, but from the fascists in Buenos Aires to the mafia in Naples and the bosses at FIFA, displayed a veritable genius for making powerful enemies. Most of them exacted their revenge.

His team-mates and the supporters who love him have always stood by him. 

“All that mattered was the happiness I gave (to Naples) – no one can take that away form me.”

Forza Napoli !

During the last World Cup he swayed from national savior to a fall worthy of Icarus (thrown out for taking the anti-decongestant, ephedrine). 

His torment was total: 

“My limbs are numb, my soul shattered…I don’t want to dramatise,” he cried. “But they have cut my legs off.” (Not good.)

His controversy-laden management career has been much the same. Banned from the touchline, he is filmed as a caged beast, suffering still more. 

“I have to speak out,” he insists as his relegation-threatened underdogs have their best player sent off.

At the final whistle, he calmly walks out to the referee and, less calmly, berates him, “you have no balls. You are a thief and a liar.”

Forget the Hand of God, watching him describe the exhilarating second goal (shown in glorious slow-motion), and you realise people like Peter Reid and Terry Butcher were privileged to be on the same pitch as him.

Poor Maradona: passionate, over-emotional. Idealistic and blessed, the curse of his genius is plain: he can’t exist in football or without it.

Someone else who has to live with herself 24 hours a day is Courtney Love (Later With Jools). Courtney could probably relate to Maradona better than most, as the world watches them both crumbling beautifully, magnificently, before our eyes.

Marianne Faithfull, beaming away like Courtney Love’s kooky auntie, also plays, but it’s Courtney, croaky and cool, tantrums always pending, who steals the shoe.

After The Look, their brilliant series about the fashion industry, Gina and Jeremy Newson’s new series, The Music Biz starts by examining contract clauses like the one that states that record companies own the finished product even though the costs of recording it are taking out the artists’ royalties. If any new formats are invented in the future artists’ royalties will again be significantly reduced – even though they don’t know what those formats will cost yet.

People like Matt Johnson (“my songs were given away for perpetuity”) whinge about the unfairness of it all (the sad fact is, Matt, no one wanted to cover your songs anyway) and the likes of Billy Joel, Michael Hutchence, and Jon Bon Jovi join in the chorus of complaint – which is as unpleasant to hear as any record by them all would be.

Personally, Tapehead can’t help but think that after all the rubbish they’ve inflicted on us, people like these deserve to be ripped off.


Later With Jools: Sat, 11pm-12.05am, BBC2

The Music Biz: Mon, 9.40pm-10.30pm, BBC2

True Stories: Thu, 9.30pm-10.50pm, C4