Featured Music: Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Rock Star R.I.P.

If there are any out there, they’re either under the radar or under ground.


Driving a brand-new Rolls Royce into a perfectly good swimming pool, shagging five groupies in one night, snorting enough blow to choke an elephant, rocking crowds of 30,000 or more, and then retiring to your English countryside estate to gain strength for the next tour. That, my friends, is a rock star, circa the early 1970s.
Make one candy-ass album, start up a clothing company built on the premise of said album, invite MTV into your Orange County pad to see your revolving fireplace and “rad” ’64 Lincoln with the 20-inch rims, hire a personal trainer, and then in your free time wonder if getting a faux-hawk is the right marketing move. That, my friends, is a rock star, circa 2005.
What the hell has happened? Somewhere along the way, the decadence got knocked out of rock ’n’ roll, and with that went the carte blanche ability to actually be a star and not get sued for it. Now this isn’t to say there aren’t rock ’n’ rollers out there who get themselves into trouble. But that’s different from being a bona fide rock star.
Troublemakers abound. There are the rappers, a group that some would say have inherited the old-timey rock star’s ability to party all night and every day, but don’t be fooled: Rappers are blatantly self-destructive, in an angry way. Whereas yesterday’s hard-partying rock stars were all about booze, babes, and bombast, most of today’s rappers have death wishes, and there isn’t anything cool about that. (Of all of yesteryear’s rock stars who died from too much partying, you could bet that a vast majority were accidents.)
Other famous troublemakers are the Gallagher brothers of the washed-up Brit-pop outfit Oasis. These two have screwed up plenty of times — and have been exhibited and named in newspapers and magazines across the globe — but neither have what you could call true star quality. For one thing, they both look like nerds who got beat up a lot in high school. (You really think that either brother could get away with wearing a woman’s blouse à la ’70s-era Robert Plant? Hell, no. The Zep frontman could brazenly sport a shirt like that ’cause he was good-looking and in shape, unlike the Gallagher boys.) For another, the Gallaghers write decent songs, probably the best pub anthems in the world, but have they perennially churned out legendary product like famed hotel-thrashers The Who, the New York Dolls, Zeppelin, the Stones, The Doors? Hardly.
The easy explanation for all this probably has something to do with the fact that rock ’n’ roll is no longer a calling but a career, something you go to school and study for rather than freefall into. With all of this professionalism comes professional attitudes. Of course, when millions of dollars are on the line, risky behavior begins to seem ... expensive.
There are also thousands more rock bands today than there were 20, 30 years ago. Competition is fierce. One false move could send your “career” spiraling downward. Does that mean most new rock ’n’ rollers are chickenshits? Yes. But truth is, today’s studs couldn’t handle the rock star lifestyle in any era. I mean, do you really think the guys in Blink 182, Nickelback, or Interpol could hang for one day with Shout at the Devil-era Mötley Crüe on tour? Do you think Blink, Nickelback, and Interpol could together consume as much liquor as one Bon Scott? The only current popular rock group that may even come close to achieving yesteryear’s rockstardom is Velvet Revolver, made up of — you guessed it — thirty- to fortysomething rockers.
All of this kinda leads to the theory that a real rock star isn’t made, he’s born. He comes out of the womb with the ability to live for days on no sleep and a diet of unrelieved booze and drugs, have sex like a machine, and still rock hard on stage or in the studio. There aren’t enough radio stations, tv channels, and marketing execs in the world to conjure up a guy like that. Hendrix was born of fire, Morrison appeared from a shaman’s dream, Pete Townshend came from pills and a head full of killer melodies, Jimmy Page crawled out of a whiskey bottle. If you believe in the spirit of rock ’n’ roll, you have to hope that there’s a kid staggering through his high school’s halls right now, with a purloined bottle of bourbon in his backpack, probably playing the next “Stairway to Heaven” in front of five people at the local coffee shop.

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