When Gods Walked The Earth: The End Of The Rock N Roll Superstar
Is it us or is it them?
When I was in my teens I had so many rock n roll (by which I mean teen pop) heroes, the untouchable, glamorous, how they do thats:
The Rolling Stones
Anybody, everybody. As a kid in his teens living in the Middle East, we never saw anyone. Joan Baez showed, the Kinks but I was too young, but the Beatles got so mobbed at Beirut International they couldn’t get off the tarmac, and that was all we ever got. But from a huge distance, from an insurmountable distance, rock stars were Gods on earth and they could only be viewed from a million miles away. If Bob Dylan wasn’t God, well then what was that pictorial with Let It Be, if not pictures from Mount Olympus.
We were so far away that there was always and only an aura of the sublime about them, Eric Clapton might well have been a wife stealing junkie, but he was still a member of the chosen.
There was no live music but there were plenty of record shops and they were selling vinyl, and there was a meeting with the Gods at record shops, the large album sleeves promising everything we could never have or be, how thrilling, how wonderful, how other: my cupboard at boarding school was filled to bursting point with albums.
Even punk couldn’t change it, Johnny Rotten? Poly Styrene, Elvis Costello, god knows Debbie Harry -who were these mythic creatures? Around about that time I became a rock critic and started the process of killing my heroes, but they were still Gods in human form, I was trying to kill deities.
It is hardly surprising that rock stars aren’t God’s anymore, for me (which makes sense) but for everybody else (which doesn’t, not really). It has something to do with
a) social media, which while allowing them to reach out to their fans, equally, keeps keep close and human
b) streaming takes the thrill of music collection and destroys it completely.
Ubiquity is the kiss of death to deities, God’s best trick was never showing its face. If God came down today, right now, and people knew it was God, people would still rebel against it. Once God became known, it would lose all its power. I once had a teacher in High School and the kids ragged her mercilessly, and they would be punished, detentions, visit to the principals office, but it didn’t matter, she had lost her ability to handle the class and punishments that would have freaked kids out from any other teacher, entire classes given detention:IT DIDN’T MATTER. If God came down to earth the same thing would happen. And as the 21st Century brought the Gods of rock to earth, they stopped mattering.
That’s why, rock stars haven’t managed to unite as a political force. It is why whereas young people are plenty full of people who are political dire straits, who are stuck with a world much worse than the one their kids were given, can’t untite behind rock stars: the rock stars don’t have the collective power to captivity and direct an audience.
They became human.