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Andy Ross

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The Rock T-Shirt - Vicarious Cool

Posted: 08/10/11 01:00

Pub conversations often lead to stupid banter, but when you inhabit Camden you get to see a lot of stupid stuff. You also get to see a lot of stupid stuff appertaining to something that once a upon a time was called 'rock and roll".

Having come to one of those irritating conclusions that all those, 'cool' young people wearing t-shirts sporting the logos of Motorhead and/or The Ramones (often a cute his/her combo) could not possibly have ever seen Motorhead or The Ramones perform.

So, I thought it would be 'amusing' to get a straw poll on the burning issue of that particular afternoon: could we compile a top ten chart of acts whose ratio of t-shirts worn by people to the number of wearers who have:

a) Owned a record (or the modern equivalent) by the act represented on the t-shirt

b) Heard music by the act concerned

c) Heard of the act represented by the t-shirt

d) Never heard of them but think the t-shirt looks cool and all his/her mates are wearing the same shirt because he/she thinks it's cool, even though he/she hasn't the foggiest about the music either... or thought it was a fashion brand logo...

Having connections in the merch world of Camden and a life-affirming selection of questionable Facebook friends, the candidates came, fast enough, but unconvincingly thin on the anti-Motorhead/Ramones axis.

A lot of votes came in for AC/DC - actually they do have a lot of t-shirts on the street - although soon after I realised that 'Back In Black' is the second highest selling album by an act of all time. Ah.

Iron Maiden... see above. Metallica ditto.

That's when the bleeding obvious hit me: kids don't wear t-shirts by new bands any more. They wear merch of bands who their parents saw, once upon a time and they are unlikely to ever see.

Led Zep, Floyd, Velvet Underground (Warhol banana), Rolling Stones (Lips). And this is now spilling over into Sonic Youth (great shirt), Joy Division (pretentious artwork) , Stone Roses (nice artwork with the teensy-weensiest hint of Jackson Pollock),The Clash (iconic photo plus neat appropriation of Elvis lettering) and Nirvana (funnily not Foo Fighters...)

One suggestion was The Stranglers, but I'm afraid the people wearing those shirts are REAL Stranglers fans. They are all bald blokes from Woking, and probably wearing the Stranglers tour shirt (plus the all-important schedule of dates on the back) from their 1995 tour when Hugh Cornwell may or may not have been in the line-up.

Blur are probably likely candidates for the next wave of generational merch fans - unlike Oasis they had a good logo and are less likely to have their merch worn by a load of even more balding blokes from Woking.

Obviously, though, the voice of Oxford Street, and all the Oxford Streets around the country will have the ultimate say is the t-shirt de annee. Blondie could be in with a squeak here but...

My recommendation for a starter pack of rock and roll couture for your new teenies' Christmas stockings is Motorhead and The Ramones.