There are few things more tragic than seeing ageing rock musicians dragged out into the harsh light of day. Except perhaps witnessing ageing rock musicians with massive egos playing to a group of overly excited dancing children and pre teens at a wedding. It was interesting seeing how poorly these fish faired once the had been dragged out of their usual waters, flapping and floundering and gasping for the sycophantic oxygenated waters of their home town. I may have said this before but there is something of the seven ages of man (or indeed woman) about plotting the path of Rock musicians in any town. From the excitable, naive, teens, amazed they have got a gig through the arrogant twenties where they can get anyone to drop their underwear with little more than an encouraging nod as they wait for their impending stardom, followed by the wilderness years where the stardom never comes and they flounder around as those around them settle down and get lives, through to the aging muso, scratching a living with the occasional bit of session work or playing the odd wedding for a bit of cash. You can see all of these with a brief wander of any town of a weekend, and yet none of the younger ones seem to pick up the hint of what their future will hold. If they aren’t careful, or aren’t that bright, rock musicians can get stuck in perennial loop as if their minds cease to develop beyond their late teens. Like spoilt children, they become arrogant, used to getting their own way, used to people liking them for the immediatly accessable skill they can demonstrate rather than the contents of their mind. For the rare few who genuinely ‘make it’ this stunted emotional growth ceases to be a problem, but for those that don’t, there is little more to their future than to bumble along, being a burden to those around them.
Of course, there are plenty of emotionally stunted people who aren’t wannabe rock stars, there are countless people in every walk of life who hit the skids in early life and fail to progress beyond the booze / music and short term relationship (I think Ian dury came up with a better name for that and wrote a song about it) point of life but they are able to hide it behind a slew of bullshit activities, particularly if the words “it’s for charity!” and tagged on the end. There is something about old failed rockers that is particularly tragic though. Maybe it’s the point where the hair dye is to hide the grey rather than to make them look alternative, maybe it’s when the ripped jeans make them look like a tramp rather than anti establishment, maybe it’s that tipping point where trying to look cool looks more like an impending mid-life crisis, but there is an invisible line that musos cross between ‘making it’ and ‘losing it’ that all too few are aware they have crossed.
It’s slightly different in my game as artists rarely ‘make it’ in their own lifetime and so it’s easier to kid others and delude yourself that what you do has some validity even though it barely earns you any money. Plus artists don’t really have a defined look as such, except perhaps slightly scruffy with paint under your fingernails, something that can easily be maintained through a lifetime of scraping by. Ok, we don’t get that early adulation from prancing about on a stage but we do tend to develop slightly higher IQs and are generally much nicer people. Obviously, I’m generalising here but like most generalisations, it has a basis of truth. Fortunately, my dodgy heart has put paid to the usual fate of impoverished artists, that of painting and decorating but luckily I have managed to find a few better paid ways of earning a crust between the rare sales of art.
Sitting at the wedding, watching the ‘best drummer in town!’ as popular opinion dictates I am bemused to see what the fuss is about. Maybe it’s his current groupies being more interested in little mix or whoever children listen to now than serving his sexual needs or maybe it’s because we have mutual acquaintances and I know him to be a sexist pig but all I see is someone clinging on to their last scrap of dignity outside the bounds of their tiny empire of idiots wishing to validate what they do. I guess that is where the crux of this lies, in that rock musicians require attention, they desperately need to be applauded and adulated in a way that no one else does, except for perhaps politicians, and without that they are nothing. ageing musos occupy the hinterland of a world that is best built on artifice and as solid as air and as these ones load their gear back into their dodgy old van, whereas before I held only distain for them, I now hold an equal measure of pity. Rock n rock eh?