The wrong direction

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Remember those sweet, earnest young lads canny Simon Cowell rescued from the X Factor dustbin and turned into a boy-band?

If you’re an X Factor fan and you’re over the age of 16, you’re probably scratching your head, remembering one of the One Direction line-up hailed from Donny and trying to recall their names - not that you could put a monicker to a baby face if you tried. And wondering quite what happened to them after all that hype.

Any younger, though, and you’ll know, off by heart, every mole and freckle of their face, their collar size and inside leg measurement, what their favourite colour is and what they like for tea.

You’ll be one of many; an obsessed, OD-ing One Directioner, wont to scream yourself silly and fall into faints every time you catch a glimpse of Britain’s new pop heart-throbs. You’ll think you’re in love with at least one of them - and you could be as young as nine.

My friend’s daughter, all of 14, numbers amongst them. She rang me the other night frantic to find out how to get tickets for the Sheffield City Hall leg of their concert tour

Tour? Had they even brought a record out, I asked in imperious, old auntie tones. Which probably miffed her. She lives and breathes these boys who, until just a year ago, were nobodies she probably wouldn’t have looked twice at in school. Tickets go on sale on Saturday morning but so convinced is she they will sell out in minutes, she’s talking about camping out. It wouldn’t be allowed by either her parents or, I assume, the City Hall, but still, I nearly dropped the phone in shock.

And not just at the thought of a mere sheet of taut canvas separating two innocent young girls from the hordes of drunken freshers and night club revellers staggering, vomiting and peeing all over Barkers Pool.

But at the pubescent, pocket-money frittering, trainer bra-twisting frenzy young girls are being whipped into.

And all so that record companies and merchandisers touting everything from boy-plastered pillowcases to school lunch boxes can take their money off them more easily.

Talk about stealing candy from a baby.

I love the X Factor, but cannot stand the way it hypes up the lads, transforming callow youths who probably haven’t even got beyond the kissing stage into instant, pint-sized sex symbols.

You’ll note it is much less strident in pushing the sex appeals of the girls.

Mainly, this is because the show would have safety campaigners raining down on them with accusations of sexual exploitation of minors. But also it’s because teenage boys (as many a parent will vouch) rarely allow themselves to be led by emotion. And that makes them far less easy to part from their money.

Did you watch at the weekend? Did you see the bemused, baffled expressions on the still pimpled faces of those boys as girls screamed and squealed like over-sexed banshees and stretched out their fingers just for the briefest touch of their hands?

It was scary. And not just for the lads on that Wembley stage. But for all our girls, who are so clearly being manipulated by the X Factor machine and the music industry it feeds.

Remember the Beatles, a cynic may say? Well love me do, I wasn’t quite old enough. But I’ve seen the black and white footage of Beatle-mania, so yes, I’m aware that girls are perfectly capable of creating their own mass hysteria.

However, I’ve heard the records, donchaknow; brilliant, every one of them. And you’re talking four lads who changed the world music scene forever.

Can you really say the same about Louis, Harry, Liam, thingamajig and whatsisname?

How long after the pillowcases have faded in the wash will they be making music?

And how good will it be?