For about five minutes when I was a kid I fancied being a rock star. The moment passed. Much as I loved music and was determined to make it my life somehow, the rock pose always felt a bit dumb. It seemed to take itself over-seriously, hedonistic appearances aside. Rock people were immature, too big on their own importance, not really the way to be I thought. I left the band behind in my early twenties for the studio where I have remained since.
But looking back at the rock era it really was a phenomenon. It was incredible that for a few decades in the 20th Century a young man (a woman less so) could rise to such heights. He could hang with his mates and play music, a fun thing to do anyway. He could hope to be appreciated for it - and then some. He could aspire to being famous and idolised, to making big money, to being internationally renowned, to becoming an institution and a historical figure revered by future generations, discussed, analysed and endlessly written about. He might even die young as some kind of cultural hero. Way to be, surely!
In post-war Britain there was a significant number of young men who succeeded in ticking one or two of these coveted boxes. I was one such. Another from Liverpool ticked them all and had an airport named after him. That was after being assassinated by a fan. I’m talking John Lennon of course who qualifies for being possibly the godliest of all rock royalty. I’d probably choose him as my personal favourite.
That this tired old shorn-of-empire country still steeped in its Victorian heritage could produce such as Lennon alongside a raft of imitators like me is a remarkable fact in itself worthy of examination. I suspect there are many my age who still keep their inner Mick alive, who think they could have rivalled Clapton with the right breaks. Yes I might be a tad sniffy about rockers but for all their excesses they seriously left a mark. It was something of a privilege to have lived through their time, a time when youth had a really potent voice.
It’s pretty much over now and rock no longer rules. In the manner of all cultural swings, that was always going to be the way. The attentions of today’s youth are dissipated. Music is effectively free and the record business is on life support. There will be no more stars who act out like medieval monarchs. Tech guys like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are the icons of now.
But even the techs look upward to the gods of rock, to the young men who a few years ago set the tone, who defined the era, who created a youthful excitement previously unimaginable and unlikely in future. To call them rock gods is hardly an exaggeration. Their deportment is well captured in the words of one of their number, one of their highest deities: “excuse me while I kiss the sky”.
I might be sniffy about their excesses
but rockers seriously left a mark
music • 01.06.11