Tales of chainsaws in hotels, Rolls Royce’s being driven into swimming pools, TV’s thrown out of hotel windows and unclear sexual stories involving sharks in Seattle. This is all legendary mischief written in folklore that the fathers of rock n roll got up to.
Photo: Liam Gallagher by Shirlaine Forrest
Onstage, they were equally as memorable. Jim Morrison, a man who recited his own poetry to the backing of the dark overture of The Doors music before collapsing in a heap on the floor, screaming devilishly into the microphone. Pink Floyd, able to dazzle an audience with an array of lasers and sounds that made the fans believe they were under attack from a fighter plane of some sort. Iggy Pop, a man stripped to the waist, covers himself in peanut butter then jumps into the crowd for the audience to lick off. These are just a few examples of thousands of stories that make ‘The Rock n Roll Star’ a god given right to be weird, bizarre and outlandish, yet still maintain a level of ingenious that makes the audience go away never forgetting the music as well as what wacky antics they’ve just witnessed.
Where is the stage presence, the madness, the crazy stories, the idolised personalities, the great music coupled with the mind blowing lyrics and an overall spiritual chemistry that unites people across the globe that all comes together to form a true rock star/band? Bands from the 1960s and 1970s have provided the inspiration for hundreds of groups, but unfortunately, none today can really capture the whole essence that makes the world stand up and witness a true ‘Rock Star’. Why is this? There could be a few reasons why not. One theory is that, because people detract themselves from previous generations, they don’t want to be labelled as a Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, or David Bowie wannabe. It may be that they’re too afraid of the bashing from the relentless British media. The extent of their originality only extends as far as bad haircuts or ridiculous dress sense. A tie is not rock n roll!
It could also be that with the ridiculous rules, regulations and the fear of being sued by causing offence, today’s bands and artists are unable to delve into the true rock ‘n’ roll world, despite a burning desire to do so. The frustration of this suppressed urge could be why so many end up in rehab so quickly. Precedence’s were set as a result of our heroes, thus making it nigh on impossible to get around. Rock ‘n’ Roll stars of the past pretty much had a licence to do whatever they wanted, and with that freedom gone, hands are too tied nowadays. In my opinion, Rock Stars should be given a licence to do pretty much whatever they want, within reason, and it should come under ‘Artistic Freedom’. Another theory is that the powers that be in today’s music industry refuse to sign bands with the potential for causing controversy, forgetting that it is controversy itself which formed part of the fabric of rock and roll? In a modern world driven by media, money and ego, do these ‘suits’ simply not understand the concept of rock and roll and out of self-preservation refuse even to try and work with them?
Remember the conspiracy theories of the 60s and 70s, where the likes of John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Hendrix were seen as huge threats to power and even made the government concerned about their huge following and ideals. Now that these legends have gone, maybe there’s a conspiracy from higher above to never let one individual within the arts reap so much power that could start a revolution of some sort. Control is power and without a true rock n roll superstar who isn’t afraid to rock the boat with their wisdom and truth, the people will always be divided. Alternatively, do the crazy stories still continue and the music scene is awash with drugs, alcohol, groupies and events that will make your nose bleed? Maybe it’s all a cover up with gagging injunctions flying left, right and centre across the industry and one day we will hear exactly what bands got up to when they write auto biographies. They may surprise us and tell of a terrible night of depravity in some back room dark venue in Stoke that has scarred the band for life. This is the least likely of scenarios, and even if it did go on, the bands still don’t measure up on stage or in the studio, which is what we the people do actually see and hear. Maybe, it’s just the general attitude of the youth culture today. Once, people were influenced directly by the sounds of the 1960s and 1970s, but today’s musicians are influenced by a post mid 1990s scene, so what genuine hope for rock n roll stars can possibly be born out of a toned down era in music.
One who has come close in the last decade is Pete Doherty. Despite his obvious heroin problems, he is the one who has been the centre of controversy, but the media have built him up to be a drug fiend, which is unfair, again falling under a false pretence portrayed by the cloud of the British media. I expect there to be a whole lot more to him than what is written. Pete Doherty wasn’t the answer we’ve been looking for but at least there’s someone who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and act publicly on a controversial level.
The last true one that has existed as a band, and as individuals are Oasis, Liam and Noel Gallagher. They briefly united the people in a stance against society, stating a flawless Manchester attitude that it was ok to say “fuck off” to the man again, a lost concept nowadays. They weren’t afraid to speak the truth, not afraid to get into bother and Liam’s stage presence was something that has not been seen in the last twenty five or thirty years or so, especially in the UK. Liam oozes arrogance on a highly forgiving and understanding nature. Whatever he does on stage, the walk, the stance, the interludes of verbally abusing whoever, it doesn’t matter. Noel on the other hand is more reserved and the genius behind them, choosing to be clever with words rather than actions. People relate to them and that is what the world needs and what gives music a bit more edge. Oasis, but in particular Liam, also have the rock ‘n’ roll star criteria offstage down to a tee, particularly in the early years. The sad fact is that Oasis have been the last ones to portray such rock n roll stardom and are currently the last ones who will live forever. Their reign has been unchallenged in the last fifteen years. These days, no one seems to have the right blend of music, lyrics, confidence, attitude and controversy, all the key ingredients to be a true rock legend.
It could be that there isn’t room for a rock god in the world today, but the industry and world needs a new hero, who doesn’t just write great songs, but is not afraid to stick two fingers up to the establishment, someone who is hated by the media but loved by the people. Maybe the energy and ideals created in the 1960s has finally burnt out and all that is left is just good music with no universal connection to push the boundaries to an abnormal level.
With the rapid rise in reality TV and kids growing up to the likes of X Factor and Britain’s got (no) Talent, then how are tomorrow’s musicians going to find the inspiration to push the boundaries. If that is the case, the next time I’m in a rebellious mood, I will always be forced to look no further than pre 1990s to find my understanding and peace in a music world that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore.By Nigel Cartner