As her 60th birthday approaches, 16th August for fact fans out there, Madonna could be forgiven for being a little reflective. She would be well advised to pick up new release The Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain to see the impact she has had on the world.
A story about a young gay kid in the north west of England, The Madonna of Bolton is an emotional and uplifting story of his journey through life starting out, as many of us do sadly, with horrific bullying at school to finding himself and realising that he ain’t all that bad.
I was lucky enough to chat with Cain about this “The subject matter of this book is bullying and how it marks somebody and shapes who they are for the rest of their lives. I wanted to explore this theme, I wanted to get it in by stealth. It’s still a light fun frothy read but I have some heavyweight subject matter in there, almost like a Trojan horse”
You can’t help but love Charlie, a kind, generous soul who struggles with his place in the world whether it’s his hometown, in his family or on the gay scene, which many of us have a love/hate relationship with. You don’t have to be LGBT to understand this book however and this is another element of Cain’s success which is to be applauded.
It has taken ten years and over thirty rejections for it to hit the shops. “The interesting thing is that publishers have done very literary, very high brow (LGBT) fiction. Those books do sell but they labour under the misapprehension for commercial paperback fiction in supermarkets, for housewives who buy their cans of beans, they won’t want to read about a gay character. These same people watch Corrie and Emmerdale and EastEnders which all have key gay characters with romantic and sometimes sexual storylines. I think it is wrong and that is what I want to prove”.
It is a fight that you can’t help but think Madonna would be appreciative of, she is well known for taking high art and repackaging it for a commercial audience, knowing full well that is the best way to enact change.
She is copping a lot of flak at the moment for simply being older which Cain thinks is ridiculous “Madonna was old in the first place, she didn’t have her first hit until she was 25. In pop music terms that’s very old. If she was in the X Factor she’d have been in the overs category. She’s already proved the point invalid”.
I can’t recommend this book enough, whether you love Madonna or loathe her, we have all felt at least one of the themes in this book and as well as being a totally fun read, it is the kind of book you put down with a smile and dig out The Immaculate Collection and your cone bra and dance around the living room….oh that was just me was it?
Matt Cain on Madonna Ciccone
- Favourite song
I can’t do a favourite but I can do a Top 5, Hung Up, Express Yourself, Oh Father, You’ll See and Open Your Heart. If I had to choose one I’d say Open Your Heart because it was the first song I saw her perform live when I was 12 for the Who’s That Girl tour.
- Favourite album
I have three Like A Prayer, Ray of Light, Confessions on a Dance Floor. But if had to choose one it would be Like A Prayer. It’s the most perfect album, it’s when we saw her as a musician and an artist, she suddenly became really interesting and revealed this emotional depth for the first time.
- Favourite tour
Let’s say Confessions, I remember being really excited that she was huge and cool again and she was dancing so much after Guy Ritchie had held her back and had her playing the guitar. The fish nets were back on, it was great.
- Favourite video
I’ll say Vogue , it’s a fucking amazing video, so well made. Because we didn’t have any internet in those days, we didn’t know about the Harlem drag music hall, walking the balls, I knew it was inspired by drag sub culture of New York but I didn’t understand how explicitly it was her celebration of this sub culture. Quite incredible.
- Favourite film
I have a huge soft spot for Who’s That Girl is an underrated classic, I love that film. Evita. She surprised a lot of people in that.
To read my full interview with Matt, click here.