MUSICAL DINOSAURS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Weller. Once upon a time an angry young man, shaking his
impotent fist at the blue faces of Tory oppression. Once
upon a time leader of The Jam, the angriest young guitar
band in Britain. Once upon a time the leader of The
Style Council, the angriest collective of mid-twenties
soul fops in Britain. Now: the modfather of dadrock.
And, seemingly, no longer relevant.
Weller coasted the crest of the Britpop wave in the
mid-nineties, held aloft by Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene et
al as a beacon of musical inspiration, as the Britpop
flame has sputtered, so Weller has, apparently, faded
from the frontlines of musical fashion. His sonic
template – stitched from the aural corpses of 60s
Britpoppers Traffic, The Small Faces and their brethren,
and as showcased on new album Heliocentric – is
considered passé. The Fashion Police have decreed that
Weller is a relic, a man out of touch with the charts,
and Radio One aren’t playlisting his new single. It
would seem that the only over-35s allowed to make music
and be relevant are superstar DJs (the average age of
The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Basement Jaxx is
this be right? Can it be right that old people are
forced to the sidelines, leaving the youngsters to take
credit for their musical pioneering? Can only young men
make music that other young men want to listen to?
Bubblegun sticks its fingers into the musical pie, and
plucks out six withered plums. We’re sucking on them
now. Here’s how they tasted.
apparently, an ongoing concern, The Stones were once
upon a time the most dangerous, sex-fuelled rock group
on the planet. Now, with a combined age of around 230
– the equivalent of 14 Britney Spears clones – the
Stones are living legends, improbably propping up their
instruments like their non-gigging contemporaries prop
up zimmer frames. Having been gigging for almost 40
years, the Stones show little sign of hanging up their
amps; a 2001 tour is mooted, along with the possibility
of another album.
Mick Jagger is rarely out of the tabloids, his tangled
love life, and tales of illegitimate offspring making
for semi-engaging reading among the masses, and
underlining the fact that the rubber-lipped legend is
still ruled by the cock.
when he’s not bedding exotic lovelies, he’s having
performing arts schools named after him, or penning
screenplays. And with the exception of the aged dignity
of drummer Charlie Watts, his bandmates seem content to
extend their hedonistic lifestyles as long as their
livers and libidos will allow.
the Stones authentic Islington Blues is still being
ripped off today, on both sides of the Atlantic. But
what’s more authentic; Mick Jagger crooning “Awww
wrrrright” into the mike, or some greasy-haired middle
class upstart trying to sound like Mick Jagger crooning
“Awww wrrright” into the mike?
The Rolling Stones; pensioners that don’t give a fuck.
remotely a sex icon, nor, for that matter, an icon, Mr
Phil Collins – wide of face and balding since the age
of eight – began his musical career at 13, starring as
The Artful Dodger, in a stage production of the musical
Oliver. At university he joined prog rock softies
Genesis as drummer, and once the Tsar Of Uncool,
Jonathan King, had discovered them, he was on the road
to fame and sacks of cash. He assumed the mantle of
singer when Peter Gabriel left the group, gradually
imposing his more soulful, poppy, funk-free white-boy
sensibilities on the group until there was no
discernable difference between Genesis and Phil
Collins’ solo efforts.
a career high in the mid-to-late eighties, which
included acting stints in the movie Buster, Collins has
seen his fortunes slide. From the tabloid horror which
saw his nice guy façade tarnished by an angry,
four-letter-strewn fax to his ex-wife, and vocal support
of the Conservative Party, Collins has ceased to be,
well, liked. At least, not in his native Britain.
left Genesis a few years ago, the subsequent solo album
Dance Into The Light – penned from the Switzerland
where he now resides, with some tasty 27 year-old (thus
making him more hated still) – was a critical and
he recently won an Oscar for some song he wrote for
Disney’s Tarzan, and was also awarded a heap of money
after successfully suing members of his backing band for
overpaid royalties. Suffice to say, the millionaire
Collins – who once wrote a touching song about what
it’s like to be destitute and penniless – needed the
money like a fish needs a hook through its gob. However,
not everyone hates Collins; a tribute album, recorded by
a host of R&B stars, including Eternal, Lil Kim,
Montell Jordan and – astonishingly – Ol’ Dirty
Bastard, is in the works, and Genesis is rumoured to be
reforming for a one-off performance at this summer’s
Wembley Stadium farewell concert. But, well, y’know…
this is Phil Collins, man.
1/10 He’s bald, he’s rich, and he writes
songs for Disney.
of tantric sex, saviour of the rainforests, and
seemingly immortal – he hasn’t aged in 20 years –
Sting has nevertheless settled in a gentle,
easy-listening groove since The Police split in the
mid-eighties. The former reggae white-boys stuffed a
clutch of quality “choons” beneath their strap
during their short life, and even managed to be credible
for a time. ‘Twas only when Sting dulled himself up,
and – as all rockstars of a certain age seem to do –
attempted acting that former teacher Gordon Sumner
ceased to be credible.
Sting’s most recent album, Brand New Day, and
supporting corporate-backed tour, have seen the lithe,
gravel-voiced songwriter grasping at the fires of
relevance. A mix of jazz, hip-hop, worldbeat and, most
improbably, trip-hop, Brand New Day is, nevertheless,
wearyingly dull. Then again, Sting and wife Trudi Styler
were the financing force behind uber-hip Brit flick
Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrells, so he’s not a
3/10 Stick to the executive producing, son.
anyone aware that The Quo had a new album out? Having a
few years ago unsuccessfully sued Radio One for not
playing their records, Status Quo have seemingly
accepted that they are no longer wanted by anyone but
the dedicated legion of denim-clad misfits that make up
their fanbase. Though to be commended for refusing to
bow to Daddy Cool, and change their clothes, hairstyles
or musical blueprint in over 30 years, the Quo have
become a Jive Bunny-like cabaret act, peddling their
wares to the Butlins granny crowd.
latest album, the perhaps ironically-titled Famous In
The Last Century, is yet another collection of rock and
roll cover versions (and one ”original” track).
Perhaps they don’t care anymore, or perhaps they do.
Either way, there’d be few who’d mourn their
even Rick Parfitt’s anecdotal 1970s cocaine intake
could make them hip again.
the most influential solo artist Britain has ever
produced, David Bowie was the eponymous musical
chameleon, kick-starting glam, androgynous rock,
electro-pop and new romanticism before leaving the
trends behind for newer pastures, while others recycled
his droppings. And yet by the early nineties he was
faced with public indifference, and out-and-out derision
when his recital of The Lord’s Prayer at the Freddie
Mercury Tribute Concert was heckled by an amused crowd.
Bowie, now 53, has somehow engineered a reversal in his
fortunes. The nadir of his career – signposted by the
ill-conceived Tin Machine group project – is behind
him, and last year’s Hours… album ushered in a new
critical respect for the former Thin Funny-Eyed
Bad-Toothed White Duke. Though no longer a musical
pioneer, Bowie nevertheless can churn out a decent song,
and his experiments with the Internet – though viewed
by some as naïve bandwagon-jumping – are in keeping
with his adventurous, restless spirit. If nothing else,
you have to admire a man approaching pensionable age who
can get away with that haircut.
He used to bum-up men, you know.
Who’s songwriter and spiritual leader, Pete Townshend
is an angry, uncompromising old man. The big-nosed freak
has apparently mellowed not one iota with maturity; at a
pair of recent shows he was still verbally sparring with
his bandmates, and trashing equipment. In contrast to
singer Roger Daltry – whose trout farms and American
Express commercials are the uncool yang to Townshend’s
angry old ying – Townshend can still cut it as a
proper rock star.
collective The Who – sans dead drummer Keith Moon –
can still cut it live. Those recent London reunion shows
were attended by the glitterati of contemporary British
rock, underlining the influence the 35 year-old group
has had on the musical landscape. The promise of a new
tour, possibly followed by an all-new studio album, is a
prospect to savour. If any one rock dinosaur can keep
the music real, it’s the venomous, confrontational
Townshend, miserable old guitar bugger that he is. That
said, we hope he gets mugged for his pension money if
the record is crap.
are the mods.