Monday, October 12, 2009

Please Respond Mildly

“He went and joined that stupid club”.

Not the one where you have to give a fanciful password in order to gain access to a muggy wendy house, and eat home-made cookies, drink orange pop and fantasize about the possible criminal activities of your neighbours.

Not the one where you have to maintain a cool wardrobe and make sure that you are on speaking terms with the mountains of testosterone guarding the door.

Not the one where you get together on Sundays and wear sweat-stiffened leathers and roar through the countryside scaring the crap out of the local fauna (the jury is out on whether or not flora can be scared, too).

Nope- the other club. That was the one Kurt Cobain’s mother was talking about in the quote above. The one where the only two qualifications have to be fame and early death. The membership is growing, and the members never age. Immortals. Sometimes immortalised for their final act of senselessness or debauchery, sometimes by accident. You can’t get in by being recommended by a current member, or by bribing the right person. The best way to get in is to have a string of popular or controversial singles, maybe an album, and then to have a sudden death either induced by substance abuse or a dodgy aeroplane engine.

The club is odd- it has a huge fan base, but a tiny membership. The members become larger than life at the moment of their running the gauntlet. They come with their personal myths and legends, and it is never mentioned that they were foolish or stupid, or that they, too, had to go to the toilet; eat, sleep and occasionally bathe. Their creative output excuses their personal excess, and they even manage to recruit people into mock admission- the kids who can’t bear the thought of living without another poster or song being made of their loser-heroes, and string themselves up in the closet using the cord from their Paddington Bear pyjamas.

The club includes Cobain, Vicious, Joplin, Morrison, Townsend, Bolan, Hendrix, Socrates (ok, ok, just threw in the last one to appear clever) and some others, although people like Michael Hutchence and people like him aren’t real members. The club is for musicians, but people like Elvis, Michael Jackson and John Lennon have their own clubs. They don’t need the fellowship of other members, just the firm foundation of idolisation.

The throw-away society we live in is always ready to admit people to the club who don’t deserve to be there. Take part in your grade school talent show, and then suffer a peanut-related fatality, and suddenly you seem eligible. Wrong. The fickleness of celebrity can only take you so far. You wouldn’t really want to join, anyway. Bookies have run odds on whether (or how soon) Amy Winehouse or Pete Docherty will join, and it is to be hoped that the Roman citizens clamouring for the death of these pop culture gladiators will realise that their lives are not currency, or entertainment. The tabloids can create the myth, but that is all they are. When you become a brand, you are no longer an individual, and that brand can be subject to the most hostile of take-overs.
We seem to thrive on hysteria. On being the first to find out and disseminate information about untimely deaths. On gazing at screens at footage of sheet-shrouded people on gurneys being shoved into coroner’s vans. We urge their posthumous nomination at awards evenings, and everyone has a favourite story to tell of how sweet or clever or funny the dead guy was. As Elvis (purportedly) used to say: As funny as a turd in a punch bowl.

Ok. You’ve read this far, and you are hoping for a clever twist, or some point that will make this entry useful. Ha! You can’t catch me out! I refuse to be caught up in the excesses of fame and adoration, so I will remain a non-joiner, and aim to keep this stuff as crappy as possible.

I bet I’d write better after a handful of speedballs and some Wild Turkey, though. Any offers?


  1. Honestly... I have no idea what you're going on about!

  2. @angel: Yeah- too many blogs you know exactly what is going on, so that's why I try to keep this one refreshingly opaque.


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