It seems to me that frontmen principally fall into two categories: the cloyingly modest or the intolerably arrogant. Rarely is a perfect balance struck between these stereotypes and, more frequently, we find artists yo-yoing between the two like unhinged schizophrenics. Chris Martin seems to be particularly disposed to this tendency; on the one hand, he storms out of Radio 4 interviews with all the brouhaha of a petulant toddler, on the other, he is shy to the point of being diagnosed with agoraphobia.
Still, you have to admit that Mr Martin is far more agreeable than most of his peer-group. Too frequently we allow our stars to clamber around on ridiculously high pedestals and 'play king of the castle'. For instance, who in god's name can remember that pathetic creature from Towers of London, Donny Tourette? I recall watching Nevermind the Buzzcocks in disbelief as he metamorphosed into the most grotesque parody of a frontman that this nation has had the shame of fathering. Following gesticulations that were reminiscent of Rik Mayall's best caricatures, Bill Bailey declared - and rightly so - that Donny's rebellion "was about as punk as Enya". I cannot begin to imagine why he wasn't kept on a firmer leash, but then, as soon as we start attempting to put our most obstreperous stars into an advanced form of childcare, we suppress that tap of spontaneity that has served some of rock's more deserving personalities so well.
Try to picture a world without Jarvis Cocker mooning Michael Jackson, or Jim Morrison deciding not to get his todger out, and you would be picturing a world that had been deprived of some its most hilarious moments. So, how do we differentiate between the Jarvises and Donnys of the proverbial stage? Fret not my friends, I have the solution: I apply what I have rather pompously baptized the 'Dostoevsky test'.
Let me explain: in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (if you haven't read it, I suggest you read more), the reader witnesses the protagonist - Raskolnikov - aligning himself with Napoleon Bonaparte in order to justify murder. He reasons that, if Napoleon was forced to commit a crime in his early career, it would have been permissible because of the greatness he ultimately achieved. Now, before anyone tries to accuse me of condoning homicide, Dostoevsky raises an interesting point: if one is truly extraordinary, should they be granted rights above and beyond mere mortals?
The answer, thankfully, is simple. You see, like the unfortunate Raskolnikov, those who are not genuinely extraordinary are always betrayed by their fraudulent natures. Donny will, mercifully, fade into mockery, obscurity and, finally, when reality television has become just an unpleasant memory, he will evaporate into the ether altogether. Meanwhile, those stars that are truly remarkable will be forgiven their peccadillos.
Don't believe me? I asked my manager, Merrington - a lexicon of music related trivia - to provide a short list of famous stars whose most outrageous antics are viewed as charming anecdotes, rather than the horror stories they are in reality:
- Brian Wilson introduced himself as "Brian" to some young fans, in 1970, "We know" came the response, "we're your children."
- Adam Ant ordered every seat at a theatre to be sprinkled with lavender water, because "that's what the Georgians did."
- Kevin Rowland stole the master tapes to Dexys' debut album to enable him to negotiate better terms with his label. Studio staff jumped in front of his speeding car at which point Rowland urged the driver, "Accelerate, and damn the consequences!"
- Ike Turner spent 40,000 a day filling champagne buckets with cocaine. Visitors were invited to help themselves.
- Peter Green threatened his manager, Clifford Davis with a rifle in 1977; Davis had been trying to deliver a £40,000 royalty check to his London home.
Let us be honest, do we have any desire for our idols to be humanised? To do so, would ruin every myth that the music industry had thrived on and, frankly, how dull would that be?
So, before you try to dethrone our supercilious rock stars, just remember that, for them, humility is not always a virtue. Take my advice: leave them alone and allow Matthew's 'Dostoevsky test' to work its magic.
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