Nick McMeier: ‘Kind of a compliment, that a famous person was interested in me’
Jon Ronson: ‘You say famous. But he was JUST JONATHAN KING!’

Manipulative, quite. Predatory, exactly. Yet at the root of an accusation so late in coming , suggests one of the people Ronson interviews, is not the scar of unwanted sex imposed too young, but instead the hurt and humiliation of promises broken, the resentful fury that brews of trampled dreams. Except of course that this interviewee is a convicted abuser himself, a long-banished one-time colleague of King’s flipping unsettlingly between self-insight, self-interest and self-delusion (‘sex is usually nice’); between qualified remorse, battered dignity and egocentric derision.

‘The lid has literally been lifted on the music business. It gives everyone a chance. Anyone out there trying to fake it – anyone who doesn’t deserve it, they’re quaking in their boots. Cos we’re coming to GET YOU!!’ Thus spake Myleen Klass, college-trained musician, when the first hear’say single arrived so apparently convincingly at UK #1, in Spring 2001. Thrown together by chance or design, she and Kym Marsh apparently never found a workable rhythm, but there – at the start at least – was the percussion that should have fused it: the rolling ash between (on one hand) their shared, hungry, naive idealism and (on the other) the cynical reason not so much of the industry, but of all wised-up industry watchers, of anyone who’s ever mouthed the words “manufactured” or “hyped” or product” with any sort of contempt. The argument is that Jonathan King flourished because those around him knew, stayed quiet, were complicit. But the complicity of cynical reason goes far further than that: this is the deepest, most hateful insight of this bright, talented, unhappy, arrogant, wounded, deeply unpleasant man.

‘The one thing I have always cared about is music,’ says King still: and in his first hit (the likable ëEveryone’s Gone to the Moon’, 1965, written and recorded when he was still a slender teenager himself, long years before he sneered his looks away), there’s a deep-set tension between its of-the-times idealism ñ now we’re all free to be freaks, equal and lovely in our shared estrangement – and the overt unreality, not to say impossibility, of the title and the claim. What King came to twig between then and his next hits (and first known abuses) was that the deliberate abolition of exactly that 60s popcult idealism – the open presentation, in other words, of the industry as a ruthless enjoyment-dispensing machine that only the superior have the gumption to grasp and run and use and not be used by ñ would present, and be accepted, as a refreshing, robust, unsappy vision of the mass-culture combine unmasked. Stardom is never talent; fame is never love; only losers dream. And – as his attitude to his victims continues furiously to shout – if they believed any of those promises, they deserved all they got; if they were hating what I was doing, they were fools and knaves and liars for not saying so sooner….

Three weeks ago Kym Marsh refused to bite her tongue yet again: a filmed show for Brit troops in Oman was ‘a shameless publicity stunt’, she announced, and this time she was off and away. As she maybe threw away her last chance of celebrity escape from herself, the wised-up world crowed in near-unison: ‘Publicity stunt? What about hear’say WASN’T a publicity stunt? This silly talent-free puppet bimbo, everyone understood the contract but her…’ So how soon do we get to denounce the wised-up crowing world as King’s most-used, most-trusted, most-fooled accomplice?