Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What's Wrong With Our Rock Stars?

You glorify the past when the future dries up.

Always one to be overly aware of the distinction between the golden ages of yesteryear and the musical culture of today, my nostalgia has never appeared more grounded than it has over the past week thanks to the contrast of reading Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff – ‘selected writings on the most gifted and self-destructive talents in rock history’ and simultaneously being exposed (unwillingly) to what society and the media today wish to promote as ‘rock n roll stars’ or ‘rebels’. Never before in the history of modern music has there been a time where a marketable image has taken precedence over anything else; where we don’t just have manufactured music, but manufactured people (dare I refer to them as 'musicians') living manufactured lives.

While I hate to bring him up or even give the franchise the time of day, I feel that in this instance it would be an utter waste not to draw upon the example of this year’s X Factor contestant; Frankie Cocozza. Through no fault of my own, I became aware of this poor, lost little boy this week thanks to various media coverage, and articles screaming out such headlines as "Frankie’s F-word Meltdown" after he - heaven forbid – swore on television. Having then made the regrettable decision to lightly scratch the surface of the charade that is this factory built mass-produced specimen, I stumbled across his shameful performance of Primal Scream’s Rocks Off from last weekend and well, found the whole ordeal to be just too repugnant for words. For anyone else unfortunate enough to have witnessed his (and the X Factor publicity circus’s) attempt at mixing the insultingly simplistic ingredients of a few tattoos and a cocky demeanour wrapped in a parcel of skinny jeans in order to build an image of rebellion and create a; ‘wow, that Frankie sure is a mad one’ reaction, you will know what I mean. To anyone who wasn’t aware of his existence til now – I apologise, but I must offer you this delightful quote, just to give you a clearer idea as to what this joker is all about;

“To sum up my life I’d probably use the word; mental. If you came out on a night with me, you’d probably wake up wondering what happened last night.” – Cocozza, F. 2011

Alas, this is not the only example of the mockery currently being sold to today’s youth in a nice little package titled; this is rebellion - thus providing a very misguided view as to exactly what ‘pushing the boundaries’ means, as I discovered when walking past the magazine section in my local shop. “Sarah Harding urged to go to rehab” and “Sarah Harding reportedly sought rehab after ultimatum from other members of Girls Aloud” screaming out at me from the front cover of every glossy magazine and tabloid: is this news? Is this what the ‘rock n roll’ image has been reduced down to, packaged neatly for every teenage girl to read in from the confines of their Justin Bieber adorned bedrooms, whilst trying to perfect their take on Cheryl Cole’s latest hairstyle? 

Rebellion for the itunes generation in five simple steps.

As if to add more fuel to this farcical fire, a friend of mine recounted a story this week highlighting the despicable decline in rock musician etiquette, and I think it serves to prove my point of image above substance quite perfectly. Whilst being stood at the side of the stage at Glastonbury festival a few years back, he was approached by the bassist from Scottish indie-nothing band ‘The View’. Having initially asked whether there were any beers going spare (a little ironic perhaps, seeing as they were the ones with a spot at Glastonbury), he then went on to enquire as to whether my friend had a cigarette he could have. Any attempt at appearing cool or respected at this point then began to crumble pitifully for the 21st century wannabe as, when presented with a pouch of tobacco and some rizla, he had to sheepishly admit that he couldn’t roll and ask whether my friend would mind doing it for him. A bit of a contrast to past musicians who’d learn how to shoot up before their eighteenth birthday, however perhaps not surprising from a band whose idea of rebellion is having the same jeans on for four days.

I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to justify this argument any further by giving examples as to how previous generations could put these deluded souls to shame. However, I would recommend Nick Kent’s book to anyone who wants to remind themselves of what the true spirit of rock n’ roll was all about. Recounting tales as to how Syd Barrett and Brian Jones lost their minds to one too many acid trips, or how Lou Reed lost ten years in a heroin haze, it brings a bit of perspective to what the media today will have us believing a trip to the joke-worthy concept of ‘rehab’ is all about. The simple fact being that anyone who needs to go on about how much of a mess they are, is wasting too much time caring about projecting this image as a marketing tool, and not enough time practicing what they preach.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that we need all of our musicians to be fixated by the glint of the needle or chained to the mirror of their razorblades, however unless they really are truly living out the lifestyle of someone who is that way inclined, then I would rather not hear about their lame, over-publicised attempts at being “mental”. Why don’t they just admit that they get their kicks from reality TV and get their rocks off to the latest Coldplay album, and leave the rest of us in peace.

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