Who are the real pop idols, Camden?
This year’s Glastonbury Festival did little but highlight a worrying dearth of modern iconic solo stars. The biggest crowd pullers were Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young – acts that could have headlined the festival thirty years ago. We don’t seem to have found an heir apparent for Prince, Madonna or Michael Jackson yet either. It’s a worrying time. Or is it? Terrified that we might be missing out on some key knowledge about musical icons, we headed up to Camden – London’s capital of drugs and bands – to see who those in the know look up to. And did we uncover anything new and exciting? Absolutely not, no.
No room for this gentleman…
In tragic music icon terms, Michael Jackson actually lived a fairly long and prosperous life. He made it to half a century, which isn’t bad at all. Elvis only got as far as 42, John Lennon made it to 40 before taking four bullets in the back, and Michael Hutchence was still a fairly youthful 37. Keith Moon and John Bonham made it fashionable for great drummers to die at 32. Then, of course, you have all of the rock stars who couldn’t make it past 27 – Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison. Gram Parsons was even younger at 26, as was Otis Redding when he died in a plane crash. Tupac was 25, Notorious BIG 24, Ian Curtis 23, and Sid Vicious and Eddie Cochran were barely grown ups at just 21. In fact, the list of tragic early deaths is relatively endless. So with that in mind, we thought it high time to select the four most unfortunate, as decided by us…
1. Jimi Hendrix, 27
It was a very sad day for music in 1970 when Hendrix apparently lay on his back, choking on his own sick, thanks to a few too many red wines. The whole thing still smells a little bit fishy, with rumours floating around that it might not have simply been the innocent death of a drinker. Either way, it robbed the world of a fantastic music man, who managed to mix rock, soul and psychedelic stuff really really well. He keeps the likes of Steve Marriott, Janis Joplin, Marc Bolan and Phil Lynott out of the top four, and, to really put things in perspective, without Hendrix we probably wouldn’t have Prince. What kind of rubbish world would that be?
2. Minnie Riperton, 31
One of the great female soul singers, Riperton died of the damn cancer when she was 31. But what a 31 years. She’ll always be remembered for Lovin’ You, a slightly drippy love song, but we’ll forever love her for the rock/soul numbers she did with Rotary Connection, Les Fleurs, and the rather graphic sex song, Inside My Love. With so many excellent soul singers to choose from, she has achieved the remarkable feat of keeping Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke out of the top four. That’s a very big score for the sisterhood.
3. Keith Moon, 32
There were a few decent dead drummers to choose from, but Keith Moon just beat Dennis Wilson and John Bonham to grab a place in the top four. He edged it for being more of a total maniac. Famous for driving cars into pools, flushing explosives down toilets, and for being a completely brilliant drummer in The Who, he died after taking too many anti-alcohol pills in 1978. He’d just been out for dinner with Paul and Linda McCartney, which presumably had nothing to do with the overdose.
4. Big L, 24
The rap game has seen lots of premature deaths – Easy E, Big Pun, Tupac, Scott La Rock, Jay Dee, Biggie Smalls, Jam Master Jay, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. But the one that really makes us slam our fists and weep up to the heavens screaming “why?” is Big L‘s. We honestly think he could have been the greatest rapper of all time, but instead he took seven bullets to the head and chest one evening in 1999. The murder remains unsolved, which makes it double annoying.
James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince
Much is going to be written about Michael Jackson for the coming weeks, after he finally lost out to a bastard heart attack or some such. He was only 50. And what a life. Brilliant Jackson Five records, often overlooked but completely fantastic tracks during the band’s young-adult incarnation as The Jacksons, and then all of the solo magic – particularly Off The Wall. Obviously the whole thing was slightly marred by his weird monkey, the melty-face stuff, and the eyebrow-raising sleepovers. Still, we thought we’d get him a couple of gifts as a thank you for the music, so we drank heavily until we became forgetful, and it soon boiled down to a toss up between a James Brown gig clip in which Michael is invited on stage, shortly followed by a far more overconfident Prince, or a dodgy recording of Rock With You… ahhh, or the James Brown clip! In the end we got him both. RIP Michael Jackson!
Michael Jackson, Rock With You
Sinead O’Connor, Nothing Compares 2 U
Love songs, like anything, differ enormously. Some might feature a drooling lothario thanking his lover for her soft thighs and wet kisses. Others might involve a screaming Irish skinhead who thought you were the best. This falls into the latter category.
Utah Jazz Cheerleader
Sheena Easton turns 50 today, and for the first 25 of those 50 years, she was a bit of a dweeb. Then a short bearded genius called Prince rolled in from the shadows on a glittering stallion, and rode her all the way to total brilliance. She was a sassy thing, and a hunch suggests that they probably at least dry-humped a couple of times. She’s always said that they didn’t. Either way, we thought we’d get her a gift. After about four hour of serious jacuzziing, it boiled down to a toss up between some really nice tea from a special shop, or a clip of a grown man cheering on some cheerleaders. In the end we got her both. Happy Birthday Sheena!
Not including a certain legend…
As a gentleman, you are expected to coat yourself in a luxuriant mane of soft fur, and talk as if your testicles are the size of grapefuits, swinging heavily around your knees. That, we are told, if what it takes to be a man. Hence, whenever you see groups of tough guys in a pub/bar, the accompanying sound will often be a rumbling deep hum, like thunder rolling in from the east. It’s weird, and frankly unnecessary – especially given that some men can casually step up to a mic and allow their natural pitch to soar through the airwaves without a care in the world. Prince is a long time master of the falsetto, but even his macho flexing couldn’t budge this little gang of real men. Our top four reads thusly…
1. Curtis Mayfield
One of soul music’s finest, Curtis would often soar up to womanly notes, yet the hard hitting political nature of his songs kept his vibe firmly in the manly camp. A fine figure of a gent, and sorely missed.
Hegarty, the guy behind Antony and The Johnsons, is an intriguing man/woman/man, with a voice not a thousand miles away from Nina Simone at times. He could shatter glass, he’s that excellent.
3. Junior Murvin
If you’re going to have one track that defines and overshadows the rest of your career, then it might as well be Police and Thieves. It’s an amazing Lee Scratch Perry produced track, and finds Murvin singing like a mouse in a helium balloon. And to great effect.
4. Jimmy Somerville
Somerville’s success was built on singing a bit like Sylvester, but a more hysterical white Scottish version. At times, his frantic squealing was quite remarkable. As below.
Okay, and stop…
For those who love the site, but just don’t feel completely satisfied, we have been writing bits and pieces for the excellent celebrity gossip site, Hecklerspray. Most recently, we thought it high time to honour the greatest cinematic performances from musicians and singers. Go, have a read, and while you’re there, take time to chew over some bitingly witty articles about Hollywood and beyond.
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Once upon a time, this was macho
In 1980, Prince was still starting out. He was four years away from Purple Rain, and still second to Rick James on the sexed-up US glam-funk circuit. Hence, he needed a seriously steamy album cover to make a point, throw down the gauntlet, and tell the world “I am SEXY! Deal with it!”. So he went for this – the classic neck scarf and underpants look. Only here, he accessorised with what looks like a military style jacket (open) and an impressive set of pubic hair, growing upwards towards his downier stomach pubes. If you look at his face and haircut, much plucking work has been done, making him look like the perfect mix of man and woman. It’s a great record, although the artwork did manage to alienated thousands of confused young military men who couldn’t understand why someone with a moustache was making them want to have sex. This was back in the days when being gay was still considered an illness, remember.