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Do Rockstars Still Exist?

Maybe it's a sign of my age. Or cynicism. Or chosen career path. Whatever the case, I'm feeling like rockstars don't exist anymore. Note: when I say rockstar, I mean a "larger-than-life unattainable, unapproachable figure."

I think this is a good thing.

When I was a kid, rockstars to me were the guys that were on MTV. These were the musicians I watched on the MTV Video Music Awards with my parents. We're talking about the guys with the long hair, the mansions and the "Playmate" girlfriends.

Thanks to the Internet, every band is local in a sense. Fans can get closer to their favorite musicians - and in turn - the artists really need street team level help. Even the big bands need promotion to sell tickets to their shows, and that's where Facebook, Myspace and blogs really help.

I suppose the Internet means everyone is a pro-musician these days, too. New technology means every start-up band in the world can get together, record jam sessions and independently release a CD. By the same token, every music fan is a critic. I'm astounded at the sheer number of metal websites these days. I don't claim to be great at what I do, nor do I think BBG! is even that awesome of a site, but I update daily and try to mix the current with favorites of the past. This website has helped me get connections to some of my favorite bands, bringing me back to the main question: do rockstars still exist?

By closing the gap between fame and fan, the entire genre of metal somehow seems more real. As a kid, you tend to think everything is glamorous. Then you live it. Let me tell you that the Today show was the apex of broadcast news for me in high school. All through college, I thought I'd just go work on that program. So, I did my due diligence and worked in local news as a producer and got damn good at it too. I have enough experience to work on Today, but no thank you. There's no glamour in working all night, every holiday or fighting with people 24/7 over non-important matters. The stark reality is that there isn't in glamour in news and it's a hard job. Much like metal.

Sure, I'll assume there's nothing cooler in the world than playing live for a few thousand adoring fans, but the climb to get there is a struggle. Much like anything, without passion, you won't succeed. Metal musicians have figured out the best way to succeed is to become somewhat open to embracing fans. I have no idea what the real scene was like backstage after a metal show in the 80s because I wasn't around but I bet it was much different from today - and I don't just mean party-wise.

If you hang with a musician you admire, maybe you still consider them a rockstar. Maybe you consider them human. I'm not sure.

I do know that every musician I've met has been ultra-cool and approachable. Most are very friendly and funny - and that's after working their ass off on stage.

Maybe I was wrong all those years ago, sitting on my bedroom floor listening to my Aerosmith albums. Maybe no band is unreachable. Maybe every musician actually wants to talk to fans - at least from time to time. Perhaps the golden age of security-clad rockstars is dead.



Reader Comments (11)

Two words - Axl Rose
December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSnoot
I Agree Snoot, he is still a douche and a rock star.

Well the Gallagher Brothers is still arogant, I mean how many band have said that they are bigger than Beatles?
December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiam
Rockstars these days tend to work hard to get where they are and having a good repetoire with their fans means bigger fanbase.
Must say Liam i had the pleasure of meeting Noel Gallagher in a shop in my hometown i asked him for a autograph his wife tryed to drag him off he turned to her and said who the fuck put that fur coat on your back and proceeded to stop chat for five minutes sign a autograph and pose for a piccy.
But Axl Rose is of a dying breed a rockstar that thinks hes bigger than anybody else shame i fear this has been his downfall.
December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBASHSTER
Rock Star on the rise - PATRIZIA ---4 octave powerhouse, fusion of opera. metal. rock
known as a female version of Freddie Mercury
December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
Thanks for sending the link to PATRIZIA. The YouTube clips show what happens when you mix opera and rock and you AREN'T Freddie Mercury and Queen. Possibly the crappiest things to hit my ears in 09. I'm sure the wonderful world of ProTools will clean up the garbage for the discs. Don't believe me and want to call me a NOBODY again, Jen? Check out her version of CREEP...sounds like some old lady from the local Church doing a version of it.
The Insider (just a nym, not a claim)
December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Insider
Good article, Allyson. For me anyway, rock stars still exist. Seeing a band play an arena is still a larger-than-life experience, and it's hard not to get sucked into the aura that a really charismatic musician projects while on stage.

Because of the Internet, the "mystery" surrounding bands is gone, but that even started disappearing in the 80's once 24-hour music stations fired up. The Internet is just the final nail on the coffin. The days of a huge band like Led Zeppelin avoiding the press and building up a god-like mystique are long gone.
December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbryon
That douchebag Bono from U2 seems to think hes better than everybody else and that hes all high and mighty. Does that count? "Does anyone here hate them as much as I do?"
December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
Kenny O! With ya once again, boy!

U2 are such a snoozefest. I'll say this tho... There new crap is a higher grade of boring than anything previously. What I mean is that they are actually and most likely, accidentally, rocking out more than they ever did.

As much as I do honestly believe they've had a few redeeming moments if only in a handful of songs spanning the decades of their existence, they will forever be embedded in my brain as the culprits who indellibly imprinted the "song', "New Year's Day", coincidentally.

That has to be the coldest most discordant weird unfriendly thing ever served up and attempted to be passed off as Rock and Roll and/or Pop music.

Positively naff and I ain't British! It's total crap symbolic of the snoring, boring, discordant dirgefests they try pretend is Rock and Roll. Man, they and anyone who thinks they are good will never know what it is.

The one thing I'll give self appointed hot sh*t Bono, at the very least he's capitalizing on his accidental fame to help world hunger and stuff like that. Regardless, Kenny O, Bono is still a weenis, no matter how you look at it.

Now on the subject of real Rockstars, I'm with Bryon. The last real Rockstars for me were Led Zeppelin, as witnessed with the Reunion. However, there are some others of recent memory who we could acknowledge as legendary Rockstars, as well, and are still kicking around, for the most part, but I think the last real one who came along was Kurt Cobain (RIP).

Tho not on the same level as Led or the other biggies (Beatles, Hendrix, Stones, Who), he came close. And like so many of his idols, he checked out way too early.

I would say, too, AC/DC are Rockstars, for sure, as they were total sweethearts to me, signing everything I wanted and all of 'em stood up from behind the table to shake my hand, Angus doing it twice while Brian Johnson waived off security, signing multiple copies of "Back and Black" and "Slip of the Lip" for all my friends during a rare record signing at Virgin Megastore, Time Square, NYC.

Here are some Rockstar encounters I had over the years. And let me tell you, these characters are/were total Rockstars and in the case of every last one of them, super nice (some of these incidents I believe I have reported here below but here goes anyway).

1) John Lydon autographing my Pretzel with mustard in front of a street vendor at the Hilton on 6th and 53rd in NYC, 1979.

2) Dee Dee Ramone graciously holding open the front door of the Bayou in Georgetown, Washington D.C. for me and saying "Hello." before ripping our heads off with "Warthog" a mere 10 minutes later. The year was 1989.

3) 10 minute conversation with Brian Johnson of AC/DC on the corner of 53rd & 7th in front of the Sheraton, where he had just chucked some crying chick in a cab and I was walking back to work. It was around 1 pm after lunch and we talked about everything from crying girlfriends to the new album. He was gracious and engaged and funny as hell and he lasted a whole 10 minutes with me, which is a lot when you consider some of my rants on here, hahaha!!! Little did I know that the new album we talked about a little bit was "The Razor's Edge", which contained the megahit, "Thunderstruck". Also, they were playin' Madison Square Garden that night. Maybe I shoulda asked him for tickets, but figured he must get that stuff all the time, so I spared him.

4) Having a few laffs and a couple of beers in 1990 with the guitarists of Junkyard in the alley next to the Cat Club in NYC after they played, while we were watching chix lookin' all over for 'em on and off their tour bus. We were also laughing about the wimps who had just opened for 'em, the Black Crowes (except the original lead guitarist, Jeff Cease who made mincemeat of jerko Rich Robinson on a nightly basis ( Rich is the perfect example of a "Rockstar" in his own mind and a real a*s!), hahaha!!!!

5) Talking to Johnny Ramone on Halloween Eve in '95 in Patricia Field for like half and hour about everything from Phil Spector holding them hostage at gunpoint during the recording of the "End of the Century" album, to Johnny contemplating getting Brian Wilson to produce their upcoming album at the time while we were waiting for our chix were trying on Halloween outfits.

6) Doing shots with Brian Connelly of Sweet for a couple of hours at the Four Seasons in '96, just a year before his death. He looked Glamspendid in a tux and dripping in gold and diamonds. I couldn't understand barely a word he said except how much he loved Led Zeppelin and how he auditioned to play bass for them on their upcoming "reunion" tour in '97. One wonders if he would have gotten the gig had he lived. Anyway, after insulting the bartendresses by throwing crumpled C notes at the bartendresses (that joint is quite the hangout -- I saw Daultrey (not laughingstock, "Dawtry", hahaha!!!) hangin' out there one night, too, as well as oodles of Hollywood stars but I'm not here to talk about them. No, it's Rock Stars tonight, yessiree!!!), he had his '68 dark green Rolls brought 'round front and proceeded to drive us up, both of us totally "knackered", as he kept saying (Unfortunately. I do not condone such behavior in hindsight), to the Rainbow Grill just up the street where I watched him get kicked out after only one drink and proceeded to have to walk back to the hotel at 2 a.m. (Aw, big deal, it's only like 5 blocks or sumthin').

7) Chris Robinson laffing and having a glass of wine with his agent or manager or whoever it was (Italian lookin' dude with a beard), while I smoked a cig out in front of Raoul's in Soho, NYC, in '97. Got him to admit his brother's a jerk, and that they never should have fired Cease. He also got a kick out of the fact that the last time I saw him was when the Black Crowes opened for Junkyard and that I thought "Junkyard made the Black Crowe's look like Junkyard's bellhops."

There are a few other Rockstar moments in my life, including a coupla beers with Steve Stevens but I wanna get to the point and that is I think "I" shoulda been a Rockstar! I sure as h*ll coulda show 'em how it's done. But everything always works out for the best as I'm sure I woulda been a Primadonna as*hole, too (can't ya tell?, hahaha!!!).

"Rock-n-Roll, people! People, let's Rock-n-Roll! woulda been my credo between every other song while performing live at all the arenas and sheds across the globe!
December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
ok first off the dude who said cobain was a rockstar your insane! he was anti rockstar and i hated that i grew up in a time where like allyson mtv ruled in the 80's and early 90's cobain and grunge ruined that. i respect nirvana and some of those bands music but it never did it for me. the last rock stars just broke up again that was oasis and to me another reason they were one of the most important bands in the last 20 yrs and def the most important band for england since the pistols. they defined rock n roll no one acted like them in the 90's where kurt and eddie were like my life sucks and i hate rock stars oasis embraced it and loved it and it was so refreshing to see. after i heard rock n roll star on def maybe that was it for me loved it.besides them 3 words axl fucking rose!
January 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGNFR
Cool, GNFR!

I hope you'll agree to disagree on this one...

Dunno if you've ever read any of my previous rantz on here but I saw G'n'R 5 times, the first time, including Adler, was '87 with a capacity crowd of 250 people in a joint called The Bayou in Georgetown, D.C., and three times, including The Bayou gig, with Izzy, the other two were warm-ups for the Use Your Illusion Tour in NYC at the Roxy in '91, and lastly, two consecutive shows at Madison Square Garden, in '92 with Gilby.

Axl was definitely acting like a Rockstar who got weirder and weirder to the point where he is now kind of a sideshow clown, unfortunately.

You'll appreciate a story I've got for you from this dude I met on the beach in like '99 who was an engineer on "Chinese Democracy"...

He said Axl just full out rented the studio in L.A. (where this dude worked) 24/7 for a full 2 years (at least that was the tally on it at the time I was rappin' with this dude). I always got a kick out of the fact that the studio actually belonged to Captain & Tennile.

The dude said it was the same almost every night/day. Axl would show up like clockwork around 2 a.m. with a buncha chix (different crew almost every night, too) along with his regular entourage and security (this dude told me Axl was very paranoid).

Whatever band members he was working with at the time (i.e. Stinson or Buckethead, etc.) would have generally been there for hours before Axl showed up all drunk on Tequila but wanting to workout in the gym he had installed there where he could listen to playbacks while working out, doing tequila shots along the way.

This would go on 'til anywhere from 6:30 until noon, everyday. Everyday, the same pattern, show up around 2:30, fool around and then split in the a.m or noon. For two years (at least).

So, no doubt, Axl played the roll of Rockstar (and still duz) from the teased L.A. Hair Metal hair of the early years to the ever weirder and weirder designer get ups like spandex white shorts with black Doc Marten's "army" boots with a red Theirry Mugler cashmere sport coat until he was wearing kilts and now bizarro homey corn rows and a mask of too much plastic surgery.

But here, I think, is where you and I disagree about what a Rockstar is...

You see, in my view, the problem with Axl is he is "acting' like a Rockstar, whereas I think true Rockstars just BE Rockstars without trying. We, the public, annoint 'em Rockstars, and the poseurs are the one's that act their way into being percieved as Rockstars (a perception more their own than their public's).

To me a Rockstar is mainly an ultra-talented creator and performer of their own material that is truly original or way more original than most everyone else, at the very least. Sometimes you can do it all with just a lot of preening and posturing and stage moves,etc.

But if you look at the really big Rockstars, at least the ones in my book -- Lennon, Dylan, Hendrix, Page, Barrett, Thunders, Scott, Angus, Cobain, Sixx, etc. -- they really changed music and thus the world and really didn't give too much of a damn what people thought about it, either.

I mean, look at Hendrix, for example, he was constantly changing, never satisfied, ever evolving. In fact he was ready to walk away from Rock and Roll as we know it, as he waa jamming with Miles Davis and the perception is he was heading for wanting to go for a whole new genre of music, the likes of which we will never really know, since he checked out at the ripe old age of 27!

And what about Cobain at 27? We'll never really know. But he changed music and was just getting started. One gets the feeling he was going to blow it out a little more in terms of his creativity, too. He was full of ideas. It's just that his demons got the better of him. I read a great interview in Rolling Stone right before he died and he talked about his favorite albums...

Zeppelin I, II, Presence. Kiss 'Destroyer', Aerosmith 'Rocks', AC/DC 'Let There Be Rock', 'Powerage', 'Highway to Hell'. Cheap Trick 'Heaven Tonight'. Yet none of his stuff really sounded like any of it, tho maybe little bits and pieces here and there, perhaps (i.e. Trick's 'Aufedersein' and Nirvana did do a great cover of Kiss' "Do You Love Me".).

Axl Rose? What was he doin' at 27? Singin' like a little old lady (close your eyes and listen -- man, it sounds like my grandmother fronting an Aerosmith/Zeppelin cover band tryin' out new material for the first time) and rehashing old Wings, Zep, Aerosmith and Skynyrd.

He wore his influences on his sleeve. His stuff is so weird now, you can't tell what the h*ll it is. But it's different in a pretentious way. Layered up with discordant noise to distract us from the fact the songs are, for the most part, quite mediocre. He shoulda stuck with the genius of Izzy when he had the chance.

And Cobain (who despised Eddie, if you mean Vedder, but loved Van Halen, if that's who you mean)? He was a Rockstar who just was, without even trying. And he changed music. And it was Rock and Roll.

And it was "Smells Like Teen Spirit", a song that everyone from the Cult to Frank Zappa, would have told you Rox B*lls, and very often did. It wasn't "Grunge" when it came out. They only lumped him into the Seattle scene cuz that's where they were from, generally.

I was glued to MTV since it came out, I was glued to it during Live Aid and I was glued to it when Cobain died and now I'm glued to it again (well, stepchild channel, VH1 Classic, watching those great vintage 80's/90's Hair/Glam Metal vidz on Metal Mania every Saturday night.

They used to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Headbanger's Ball on MTV, when it came out, to no end. He was the biggest Rockstar on the planet when he kicked off and we'll never know what the man coulda done cuz he cashed out way too early.

Axl ain't dead but he ain't alive either and never really was. His stuff pales by comparison to Nirvana in terms of originality. While Axl was (is) busy running around (literally onstage) acting like a Rockstar, Cobain just was one (albeit, a reluctant one who would scoff at the notion of being one but is still stuck with it even though he's long gone).

And there's no one that has come close since.

P.S. I saw the Pistols, too. Great show, and I've got all the original press picture sleeve singles, a copy of their first single, "Anarchy In The U.K." on EMI, and most of the official Warner Brothers posters. I even had Rotten sign my pretzel with mustard in front of the Hilton in '82 (which I ate), but let's not kid ourselves... despite all the great songs predominantly written by Glen Matlock, Jones copped all of Thunders riffs (Malcolm McLaren made sure of that!), which made them pretty derivitave, too, but not as obvious and generic as G'n'R. And you are right, I am insane, but not because I can tell Cobain constitutes a Real Rockstar and Knaxl does not. But because I use Vinyl for plates and CD's for coffee cup saucers and eat nothing but Glam/Hair Metal 25 hours a day.
January 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Synyster Gates is sorta outta this world for me prob because he is just a god haha
but i think we do need another ego maniac rockstar like David Lee Roth or Vince Neil or Jon Bon Jovi so hopefully sooner than later!
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMotleyCrue666

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