Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give 'Em Enough Rope

"Don't have any heroes, they're all useless."
John Lydon, 1976

What becomes of the broken artist? When all your credibility is cast into the wind where do you go? On a nostalgia trip obviously - but when the catalogue cash cow is milked dry and the horse well and truly flogged then perhaps you can rent your former notoriety to commercial enterprise. Thus we see the one-time enemy of the establishment, John Lydon, selling butter, it clearly wouldn't melt.

John Lydon - Countrylife Commercial (YouTube)

It probably seems archaic that we once expected more of our rock stars. Young people today might be surprised that we once held them up to be figureheads, role-models and icons. What an incredibly stupid thing to have done.

I guess The Pistols were a flash-in-the-pan, over before they began, but for a while they were an incandescent ball of fury - a H bomb at the heart of the entertainment industry. I was too young to be a punk, still at school with an adolescent love of heavy metal, but I could appreciate the spirit and enjoy the energy of it all. It clearly had an impact and led to some great music, opening the door for artists and labels in a frenzy of creativity.

Long after it all fell flat, in death and dishonour; we should perhaps admire John Lydon's tenacity - his brazen-faced attitude and the delight he seems to have in being an irritant. Where once he wound up the powers that be, now he annoys those who believed in him, having becoming a cartoon caricature of his reputation. At the very least he is occasionally entertaining, some never reach those heights.

In the end does everyone sell-out? People probably had greater expectations of The Clash, radical-chic with global punk sensibilities. As John Lydon filled our TV screens in tartan last wk, so The Clash released three 'new' products - one of which, a coffee table biog with glossy photos, must surely be ironic. A punk coffee-table book?

In the future there will probably be no credibility, just good & bad. Already the boundaries are very blurred - people seem to have much broader taste in music and reject any ridicule that would once have been attached. Cheese is embraced, pop is no longer parodied but celebrated, and celebrity is all.

Currently there are still those who haven't sold their soul, Radiohead spring readily to mind, but artists trying to break-through in 2009 will find themselves facing the choice of whether to appear on advertising-funded free-music-sites or keep their songs to themselves. Do you give in or do you take every available route to the 'market'?

It's hard to be an ethical musical force, in the future you'll have to take the money before you can run - then just hope you can get far enough away if you eventually become rich. What would Radiohead do today, stick to their beliefs and risk ruin or join myspacemusic with the rest of the hopefuls and be funded by ads? In the end all artists will be working for 'the man'. It seems a long, long time since 1977 - how far we've come since punk.

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
John Lydon, San Francisco Winterland, 1978

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