David Bowie and Prince. In the past year we’ve had some true icons stolen from us.
Obviously, it’s incredibly sad that they died, but this triumvirate lived lives we could never imagine. The excessive drinking, the promiscuous sex lives, the dangerous level of narcotics, the groundbreaking fashion. Through their music and image we were allowed to glimpse into a world so unbelievably debaucherous and decadent that it shouldn’t have been allowed to exist. But it did, and legends were born.
But the real reason you should be upset is not because the Grim Reaper finally came to collect, it’s because these greats will not be replaced. The 21st century has no room or place for the rock stars that threw TVs out of hotel windows and wore bondage gear on stage in the latter part of the last century. It’s near impossible for someone to create the aura that these powerhouses did in their time, because now they don’t have the environment to thrive and grow in. No one would accept these wonderful freaks of nature in a society that’s so readily offended at minor indiscretions and so health conscious that there’s an avocado shortage; whose last major style movement was ‘normcore’, wearing fleeces and bootcut jeans in an attempt to look cool by being bland.
There’s just no more room for the traditional rock star.
Never-ending social media
Musicians’ lives are easily accessible from a very early stage in their career. A mere Google or two-minute stalk of their Instagram and you could know their jean size, mother’s maiden name and favourite cheese. There’s no possibility for myths, legends and stories to grow about them. Ozzy Osbourne is a perfect example of this: it wouldn’t have been as fun or impressive to actually see him bite the head off a bat as a GIF making the rounds on the internet. Besides, in this day and age, there would’ve been an animal rights petition set up within minutes, demanding a public apology.
Cast your mind back to the last great music myth. Yes, the one concerning Marilyn Manson which did the rounds of every school playground in the early 2000s. “Did you hear about that mosher with the weird eyes? He removed his ribs so he could give himself a blowjob”. What a rumour (and fantastic piece of marketing) that was. A man who was trying to bring theatricality to rock music in an obscene way, Manson may have since lost his edge, but the same can easily be said of showbusiness in general, within which the outrageous has become diluted at the hands of 24 hours-a-day, unrelenting social media access.
Everyone’s too easily offended
The other day Nicki Minaj posted a video to Instagram of a slightly unhinged woman ranting outside a shoe store. The backlash against her has been furious, with thousands of people saying she’s taking the piss out of mentally ill people. WHOAH WHOAH WHOAH, you guys need to be in the Olympics if you can jump to conclusions that high.
This new generation craves drama and thrives on criticising others for minor misdemeanours, so it’s no wonder they try and steer clear of drugs, excessive alcohol consumption and anonymous sex with groupies, because they end up immortalised and crucified on the web, forced into rehab until they better themselves. Put a foot wrong and the social media saints won’t let you live it down.
Kate Moss is one of the last dying rock stars (yes, we know she doesn’t make music, but she is most certainly a rock star), and she was torn apart for snorting cocaine in Mandela’s house. But why? What a story. That’s brilliant. Did it really come as a surprise to everyone? Shock horror: beautiful, rich model does drugs. Are the lives of the British public really that boring that they need to redirect their buried hate and rage towards a supermodel? Answer: yes.
On the subject of drugs, can we please talk about Pete Doherty? To be harsh but honest, his musical output hasn’t been half as good since he got off the smack. The new Libertines material is trash, and his whole acoustic troubadour getup has gotten old; there’s more heart in a Sixth Form talent show. Who’s to say if a little Class A substance might reawaken the mind behind the genius of Horrorshow and Get Along?
We don’t condone drug use of course, but if it was good enough for The Beatles...
Hoodies. Chinos. Baseball caps. When did music become so casual and highstreet? Frontmen are supposed to be flamboyant and egocentric, not looking like they’ve just popped to the corner shop for a pint of milk on a Sunday morning. David Bowie used to shave his eyebrows off and spend hours getting into cat suits and applying makeup, I’m sure whatever his name is from Bastille (he doesn’t deserve the research) could at least make the effort and throw a few sequins on himself instead of a River Island bomber jacket.
Conversely, the acceptability of extreme fashion has also made it harder for rock stars. I could easily walk in my office in a studded leather jacket and nobody would blink an eyelid, but if you did it 40 years ago you would’ve probably been sacked, as employees screamed and fainted as you passed them. It’s difficult for frontmen to stand out in a sea of similar bands without looking like some upper-class art school graduate that’s borrowed daddy’s credit card to rinse Dover Street Market of its niche branded gear.
They are far too health conscious
“Oh no, smoking is bad for you, I don’t do that, just the low-calorie prosecco will be fine!” Rock stars, you are supposed to be invincible, no one wants to see you having a God damn kale and avocado smoothie on the tour bus, we want to hear rumours of these men pouring Jack Daniels into their eyeballs so it reaches the bloodstream quicker, and, to get the gruff effect that sounds like you’ve been eating shards of glass, swapped the vape for a pack of Marlboro Reds.
I want my rock stars waking up for breakfast and pouring Stella on their cereal. I want Lemmy back, the man who was told by the doctors that if he stopped drinking his body would go into shock, that if someone else had his blood in their body they would not be breathing. Where are these heroes who could hold their liquor without running off to rehab with a hangover most university students have on a Tuesday morning?
And veganism. What is with all these musicians becoming vegan? Morrissey, Slaves, Skepta, Bring Me The Horizon. If you don’t want to eat animals or animal by-products, that’s brilliant, you’re doing your part for saving the planet. Earth is good. Well done. But preaching to and lambasting fans for choosing to have a Big Mac instead of a soybean burger* just makes you a bit of a bastard. Everyone will look back on you like they do on Bob Geldof with Live Aid: a patronising dick.
*For the record, soybean burgers are delicious and better than Big Macs. Gospel.
The new recruits
So who in the 21st century could possibly save us?
Alex Turner has the tunes and the threads to back some of his newly egocentric bravado up, but more often than not he looks like a caricature of a rock star; an impressionist imitating something he’s seen on the telly. The hip shaking of Elvis, the crooning of Nick Cave, the accent of a fucking American cowboy. If he revealed tomorrow that he’s been trolling us all for years, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.
Muse wrote a song for Twilight. Blossoms are in trouble of becoming Radio 1 fodder. The 1975…don’t get me started on those fuckers. They might have the image, they just don’t have the songs. It seems like we only get the one or the other, which Justin Bieber and Kanye West are prime examples of. They act like rock stars, all chaotic, pompous and reckless. It’s just a shame that the other 99 per cent of their identity is utterly awful.
Though there is one hero who could save us yet
I’d never thought I’d say this, but Liam Gallagher...we need you. Please show them how to smoke, how to drink, how to be an absolute prick but still be idolised by millions. Save them all from what they’ve become and protect the future of rock ‘n’ roll.
The man that went to Germany to do a gig and got his teeth knocked out. The legend who got kicked off a ferry on the way to Amsterdam for fighting West Ham fans. The icon who attacked Gazza with a fire extinguisher in the Groucho Club. That’s what the new generation needs. Like a child getting a vaccination, it may not want it, but it definitely, 100 per cent needs it.
Note: yes I know Lemmy died 28 December 2015, I had tickets for his Hammersmith show in January and it ruined my bloody birthday. But his funeral was in 2016, and for the sake of this article, we’re having him. Let it go.