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15 January 2009

The pop star who crashed to earth

By Aloysius McDowell

When we drew up a slightly whimsical list of those who have been accused of causing the financial crash for our Christmas issue, candidates varied from the obvious (Enron, Alan Greenspan, bankers) to the less likely – militant atheism, hormones, and even the Isle of Man.

The most outlandish candidate to be the architect of our misfortune, however, has just been named by the Today programme’s Evan Davis: step into the dock, David Bowie. “He’s always been a trendsetter. But could David Bowie have caused the latest fad sweeping the nation – the credit crunch?” asked Davis in the Mirror.

Now one might feel that charges of one or two crimes of a musical nature could legitimately be levelled against Mr Bowie, whose otherwise admirable oeuvre also includes the 1967 “novelty single” – oh, dread words – “The Laughing Gnome”. Yet to accuse him of causing the current financial turmoil seems a little strong.

It turns out that Mr Davis, a former BBC economics editor, bases his thesis on Mr Bowie’s decision to sell his future royalties in return for a lump sum 12 years ago. “Back in 1997 he did something called ‘securitisation’,” explains Mr Davis. “It meant he no longer had the money coming in but instead had a lot up front. It was a good deal all round. And the banks were catching on to the idea.”

If only for entertainment, one must encourage Mr Davis to continue this novel form of pop economics. We eagerly await the next instalments: “How Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven caused the Great Crash of 1929” and “Revealed: the Nolan Sisters – their part in the Winter of Discontent”.

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