This week Harry takes a pop at today’s ‘stars’. Are they doing it by numbers or keeping it real in a difficult climate?
By Harry Paterson
Every generation has a tendency to romanticise their own era; the passing of time often induces an indulgent and rose-coloured view of things once viewed with scorn or embarrassment. Now I’m as guilty as anyone in this regard. As someone born in 1967, my teen years were lived out in the 80s and it is that decade that forever holds a very special place in my heart.
Rock, metal and post-punk were all born, reborn or given a new lease of life as a result of the late-70s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Which was itself indirectly descended from punk. The hair metal explosion of the mid to late 80s would never have occurred but for the aforementioned movements. Likewise Thrash, Goth, Death, Black, Doom and all the myriad metal mutations that we know and love today, had their birth in the 80s as the mutant off-spring of Punk and the NWOBHM.
Looking at the decades that followed, though, even allowing for a jaundiced and cynical world view (seemingly inevitable once the 40th birthday has been and gone) I can only shake my head in disgust. Where my generation, and the two that preceded it, threw up genuine rock ‘n’ roll heroes like ‘Keef’, Lemmy, Jim Morrison, Bon Scott and a plethora of others, today we have whiney, indie-shoe gazers; self-pitying Emo bands and identikit-parade, interchangeable Boy Bands and corporate ass-kissers like Coldplay. All of whom are more interested in ‘demographics’ ‘market saturation’ and ‘Controlled Image Projection.’
I came across an article in a guitar magazine a while ago, where advice was given on the music biz and which college courses were available to ‘further your career’. Career? Jesus Christ, rock ‘n’ roll isn’t a career! Rock ‘n’ Roll is a vocation; a crusade, a holy calling. It’s a way of life.
A million Tarquins and Simons can sit with their floppy fringes, stretched ears and skinny jeans in Costa Coffees, the length and breadth of the country, each pondering their career options, weighing up the pros and cons of a career in accountancy versus a career in the music business. They can do this from now until the end of time and it will not change the simple, unalterable fact that rock ‘n’ roll, genuine rock ‘n’ roll, only ever comes from three places; the heart, the balls and the streets.
The allure of rock ‘n’ roll, the pull it exerts, is a powerful and deeply beautiful thing. Those giants that walked before us, who heeded its siren’s call gave us some of the most incredible music ever written and recorded by anyone. Ever. All the while living lives that walked the very edge and sometimes even beyond.
Nikki Sixx; overdosing on smack, being chucked in a skip to die and then coming back from the dead, literally, to record Motley Crue’s finest album ‘Dr Feelgood,’ one of the landmark recordings of the Hair Metal decade.
Keith Richards; exiled and drugged beyond comprehension defiantly, consistently doing things his way and, when the odds were the most heavily stacked against him, had the grace, the passion, the talent, the sheer character to give us the Stones’ greatest masterpiece , ‘Exile On Main Street.’
Lemmy; surely the absolute epitome of rock ‘n’ roll, the man we’ll roll out when the aliens land and ask us, “What is this thing you speak of? This rock ‘n’ roll?” has been relentlessly, defiantly taking his own foul-breathed, motorised, heavy-duty brand of rock ‘n’ roll to every corner of the globe for close to 40 years. He was once told by a doctor that a blood transfusion to combat an infection was not an option as his blood was so polluted by toxins (drugs, to you and me) that pure blood would probably kill him!
Iron Maiden; East End, working class lads with a dream of making great music and so gave the world a brand of metal that has inspired and launched entire sub-genres since.
Fast forward to the 80s. Guns ‘n’ Roses, famously styled ‘The Most Dangerous Band In The World’ and for a time, before their glorious, typically rock ‘n’ roll, implosion, that’s exactly what they were; urchins, gutter-snipes and street rats who could only do one thing; play rock ‘n’ roll. Read ‘The Dirt’ and learn that Motley Crue lived in squalor, poverty and drug-induced filth. Grime under their finger nails and rock ‘n’ roll beating proudly in their hearts.
Now lest any po-faced vicars or straight-laced squares accuse me of glorifying drug use and excess let me set the record straight; I’m not, ok? The point here is that the aforementioned bands and musos didn’t sit down with a bloody prospectus, a trust fund from mummy and daddy and decide on music as ‘viable career option.’ No, these lads were from the streets, didn’t give a damn for straight society’s rules and wanted only to play rock ‘n’ roll. It was genuine, passionate and heartfelt and it came across in feedback-drenched power-chords and primal howls. You can’t fake it, you live it.
Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Link Wray, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jim Morrison, Hendrix, Bon Scott, Phil Lynott and Slash were and are gypsies; pirates and vagabonds, swaggering gun-slingers and romantic poets always seeking adventure over the next horizon. They were the heroes and visionaries that would seek out brave new worlds and come back and tell us all about it in those seminal, aural masterpieces that have shaped and moulded entire generations of musicians since.
And so to today where we have boy bands, S*mon C*well and the X Factor, Coldplay, Dido and whiney, bland indie-pop. Do you see what’s happening, guys? The corporate counter-revolution is almost complete. Where are tomorrow’s Lemmys and Keefs? Where are the next generation’s rock ‘n’ roll heroes?
Well, I’ll tell you; they’re in a pub or grubby basement bar near you right now. They’re existing on shoe-string budgets playing their hearts out. They’re scrabbling for gigs while some no-mark, talentless Britney clone is being groomed as the Next Big Thing. They’re slogging their balls, backs and hearts out, ignored, unaided and no closer to a deal than they were yesterday. Each and every one of us has a duty to get out there, see these acts, give ‘em some support and let’s make it happen for the good guys.
Here in the Midlands we have some truly exciting bands, some incredible unsigned talent, many of whom, with the right break, could be genuine contenders; Captain Horizon, A Thousand Enemies, Fahran, Dakesis, JD & The FDCs, to name just a few, are playing in your neighbourhood right now. Go see ‘em, buy and album, a t-shirt and give them your support. Let’s ensure the heart of rock ‘n’ roll continues to beat. Let’s give a defiant, swaggering ‘Up yours!’ to the suits, morons and bean-counters that run the music business. Let’s make sure tomorrow’s heroes are given the chance to thrill, excite and entertain us the way the legends of yesterday did. Let’s make sure our kids inherit a world where rock ‘n’ roll matters.