I love potatoes and I love Barry Manilow. I bet that Barry loves potatoes too because his mother was Irish, and I have yet to meet an Irish person who does not hold a solemn appreciation for the potato. Mind you, Barry doesn’t have the figure of a man who enjoys his spuds; he is the cut of someone who exercises strict portion control when it comes to buttery mash. I saw and heard him (at last) this week in Glasgow, and beneath those drainpipe trousers and shiny sequined jackets, he looks as though (as my Nana would have said) he could do with a ‘good feeding up’.
I like to think I am not afraid of much, however, there have been three things that have deeply troubled me over the last couple of years: first, climate change; next, the cold, solidified porridge that my brother cut into strips and fed to his child; and finally, the possibility that Barry Manilow was not going to make it to Glasgow to play his twice-cancelled gig at the OVO Hydro.
Yes, I love Barry Manliow and I am embarrassed by loving Barry Manilow. I am also frustrated by my embarrassment. I feel like Peter denying Jesus. I know it is time to own the fact that I am a Fanliow, nevertheless, I remain self-conscious about my dedication to Barry to the point of feeling ashamed. It is time to come to terms with it, time to dispel my covert shame and veiled mortification, time to recognise my shame for what it is: feelings sustained by entirely unjustified, groundless, and hypercritical social pressure often applied by people with no taste, bad taste, or taste inferior to mine.
So what if I am obsessed with having a cup of tea with Barry Manilow – and maybe a cherry scone or a salmon sandwich, even though I know he’d pick at both. So what if my dream is to quietly, politely, and reverentially ask Barry to write another song to make the whole world sing. So what if I like his fluffy, wind-tunnelled hair and oddly smooth complexion. The world needs anthems, the world needs joy, the world needs sing-alongs, the world needs Bermuda Triangle, and for all of this, the world needs Barry Manilow.
My father called him ‘Barely Man-enough’ – and this was despite my father (another Barry) liking him. Then why the teasing name? I was young when I first heard it, and I struggled to get my head around it. Man enough for what? To win Olympic gold like Daley Thompson? (Daley won the decathlon gold on 9th August 1984. I was twelve. I loved Barry Manilow when I was twelve.) Man enough to go a bout with Barry McGuigan? (Another favourite Barry of mine, he won the world title on 8th June 1985. Did boxer Barry’s dad sing that year? I bet Barry Manilow would do a fantastic rendition of Danny Boy.) Man enough to wrestle Big Daddy to the ground? (I saw Big Daddy at the tennis courts in Portrush one summer, let’s say it was 1982. He and Giant Haystacks bellowed at each other, then charged like bulls and bounced off each other’s bare chests. Either would have broken Barely Man-enough in two.) Thompson, McGuigan, Big Daddy – all man enough, but in no way can I imagine them finding their way around Mandy.
I love you, Barry Manilow. Thank you for coming to Glasgow and singing the old songs for us this week, how happy you made me, oh, Barry.