Arts/Literature

ArtSunday: S— Rock Stars Say…

“I was always wondering did they like me or did they like my songs.” – Neil Young

The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Quote Book by Merrit Molloy (image courtesy Goodreads)

Had some errands this week that took me close – too close – to my favorite used bookstore. My wife had a doctor’s appointment later that day and since I had come away without anything to read, I, of course, bought a couple more books.

Hi, My name is Jim and I have a problem with books….

Anyway, I ran across the marvelous waste of time, The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Quote Book by Merrit Molloy. This slight volume (you can finish it in a couple of hours tops with breaks for whatever you need to take breaks for) is larded with quotes ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. And as you read you can guess which musicians will say which types of things.

Molloy organizes this book by topics, so it’s a fun book to thumb through and find a rock star saying something profound, idiotic or (in most cases) some mixture of the two on a wide range of issues: “Ambition,” “Beginnings,” “Critics,” “Ego,” “Fans,” “Hype,” “Love,” “Sex,” “Writing,” and dozens more. He also cites a wide range of performers, from the most authentic (Dylan, Joey Ramone, Little Richard) to the least (Madonna, Michael Jackson) as well as a range of what we can call, perhaps a tad cheekily, intellectual depth from the thoughtful to the point of pretentious (Peter Townshend, Bono) to the damned sure not going to mistaken as serious in any way (Ozzy Osbourne, Nikki Sixx).

The only way, ultimately, to do a book such as this one justice is to offer a few random quotes and let you determine their value to the advancement of culture:

“I got fame and fortune, and I lost my sense of reasoning.” – Little Richard

“People who like smack also like Lou Reed, and that can’t be anything in its favor.” – Lemmy, Motorhead

“Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.” – Frank Zappa, The Mothers of Invention

“I like Beethoven, especially the poems. ” – Ringo Starr, The Beatles

“A recording studio isn’t much different from a factory. It’s just a factory for music.” – Van Morrison

“The band’s name means the act of dying, but like, really mega!” – Dave Mustaine, Megadeth

“I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m forty-five.” – Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones

“I wish I could tell our audience that we don’t hate them without sounding cheesy.” – Kurt Cobain, Nirvana

“Achievement is for the senators and scholars. At one time I had ambitions, but I had them removed by a doctor in Buffalo.” – Tom Waits

“Christ was a punk rocker.” – Billy Idol

I could go on for pages, of course, but then you might not go out and find this little gem. The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Quote Book is as good a waste of a few bucks and a couple of hours as you will find anywhere. Go get yourself a copy and have fun with it.

I’ll leave you with this absolute flabbergast-er by one of the inimitables – He Who Should Be Sir – Keith Richards offers his critique of Led Zeppelin:

“I could never get along in a band with a posturing, posing lead singer.”

Yeah. It’s a fun read.

3 replies »

    • Wondering why you jumped on the authenticity label and not the lack of seriousness label put on Nikki Sixx and Ozzy. If you’ve got an opinion on the matter, it’d be great to hear it.

      Entirely depends on how one defines “authentic” and what sort of argument ensues. In Britain, likely such an argument could not occur – the Brits have never differentiated as pompously as we Americans have. The Brits make almost no distinction between the terms “rock” and “pop”; much of American rock criticism has been about defining distinctions between genres such as those two mentioned..By the standards of most American rock critics, pop is disposable entertainment; rock aspires to some sort of artistic goal. If you find that a snooty differentiation – well, that’s because it is. 😉

      Using the ROLLING STONE magazine metric, Madonna and Michael are considered inauthentic because they don’t meet a cultural standard for performers in the rock genre. Both do what’s called pop, of course, which by the original RS standards (they have certainly moved the goalposts in the last, say, 20 years as rock has died and hip hop/dance/ house/EMF what have you have superseded rock as popularly supported genres) would follow the :group” model embodied by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, et. al. or the solo artist model embodied by Dylan, Joni Mitchell, et. al. “Serious artists” composers/instrumentalists/performers – as opposed to singers/dancers (though Madonna and Jackson may compose/play/etc.) whose primary aim is to entertain rather than “enlighten and edify,” to put it as pompously as RS and other bastions of rock criticism might have in their self-serious heydays.

      The term seized upon in rock criticism is “authenticity.” Using the metric above, The Beatles, for instance, evolve from “pop stars” (what they always were in England) to “rock stars” as their work gained “seriousness” – often dated to the release of RUBBER SOUL, their first album of completely group composed material. In Madonna’s case, her early ripoff of what was considered a more “authentic” artist (Cyndi Lauper) put her in dutch with critics from then on. Jackson, of course, began as a child star singing to children. His work certainly evolved and grew (musically and lyrically, arguably) more sophisticated. But he never achieved “authentic” status because he was a pop music version of Shirley Temple. Are these treatments fair? The argument could go on for a looooong time.

      In large measure, though, this is all simply pompous, genre-based bias. And your concerned query could have been avoided had I merely chosen to put quotation marks around “authentic/inauthentic” as I probably should have to put them in their proper context as critical terms of a certain type.

      Still, it’s fun to blather on about such matters. Thanks for your question.

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