Fade Out. Don’t burn

Some of music’s greatest figures have been associated with excess. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Keith Richards were infamous for their massive drug use and wild lifestyles. However, two out those three people are dead and one of them looks like a used condom. There is a pretty obvious lesson there; you’re meant to learn from failure and not imitate it. Yes, great bands used drugs, and they made great music. But you’ve got no objective way of telling of they wouldn’t have made better music if they had healthy diets and yoga routines.
It’s easy for armchair music critics to talk about how LSD inspired bands like The Beatles but for anyone who’s actually tried LSD, they realise that they probably spent more time looking at their hands than composing classic pop songs. As cool as dying young looks on a rock CV, I guarantee that anyone of those musicians, if they had a choice, would rather be alive and washed up, doing butter adverts and playing in Fibbers, than dead. Those musicians were good in spite of being walking drug stores, rather than because of it. Bach prayed three times a day and made all his music for the glory of God – and he was alright.
People are bored. Exciting things might happen occasionally, but it’s temporary. It’s easy to see why those who lived fast and died young become idolized. It does seem to be that it is in fact only the good that die young, with figures like Cliff Richard being seemingly immortal. It’s a seductive ideal.
But dying young is an inherently silly thing to do, something that not only hurts you but your family and fans. None of those people ever intended to die or become drug addicts. As a musician in the public eye you have a responsibility not only to yourself but to the public at large; in oversimplified comic book terms, with great power comes great responsibility.
We need to cut the public association with greatness and being an irresponsible twat. Justin Bieber drinks too much and then drives under the influence. That doesn’t make him a musical genius. It makes him very naughty boy. But it’s not the ‘60s. Excess isn’t radical anymore. It’s institutionalised. It’s the norm. We live a world with more stimuli than our ancestors could possibly have imagined. Everything becomes pumped up and over exaggerated. It’s the natural reaction.
In 1969 ‘Streets of London’ was one of the year’s bestselling singles. It didn’t have any big choruses, any guitar solos; it was essentially just a normal looking man with a guitar playing what was essentially a very good song. No meat dresses, wrecking balls or whipped cream necessary. In fact before the MTV era, when music and visuals became irrevocably linked, it was not common for relatively plain looking acts to have hit songs, purely on the basis of being a good song. Although artists like David Bowie constantly changed their images, he changed his music in tandem, coming up with fresh and creative albums to match his fresh new images. A lot of artists in the current music scene aren’t really offering anything other than the same old stuff with an edgy haircut.
Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity. Flamboyant images not only help promote a band or artist, but can only draw attention away from their music. Most allegations against artists such as Pete Doherty consist not of attacks against his music or of its quality but instead that he is a “druggy stupid, hat wearing tosser”. People judge on basis of image and there’s almost nothing that anyone can do about it.
Mae West famously said that “Too much of something can be a very good thing”. What I’m saying is that it can also be a very bad thing. I’m not saying I hate excess. I may well enjoy sex, drugs and violence more than anyone currently at this university. However, I also love music, and sometimes one has to be sacrificed for the sake of the other.
Music should inherently be about music. I mean, having a persona is fine, but we have to remember that moderation is a virtue, and just because people are musicians, it does not mean they are exempt from this fact. In the modern age, actually focusing on making great music may be the most rebel