I love David Bowie’s new single Blackstar – it seems mysterious and cosmic – so it’s a little disappointing to dig further into the lyrics and realise that it’s probably just about being a cult famous person as opposed to a mainstream famous person.
And that reminded me of the way Bowie’s generation saturated my 1980s childhood.
The films with 1960s soundtracks.
T.V. shows about middle-aged women making it in the boardroom.
And the Rock God Behemoths – Elton, Jaggar, Bowie, Stewart, Queen, Sting – churning out over-produced power ballads and tastefully shot videos with young backing dancers and the occasional urchin.
Every Saturday morning a guy in his late 30s/early 40s in a causal suit would be awkwardly sitting on a sofa trying to talk to a studio full of hyper children’s presenters, bored real children and a puppet… or his latest release would be reviewed by envious younger stars and a proper journalist who thought it wasn’t as good the one he released in that MYTHICAL AND POSSIBLY FICTIONAL LAND OF FLARES AND PLATFORMS the 1970s. *
*no decade is weirder than the one you were born at the end of – no adult ever explains something they watched a few years previously to a kid who was too small or unborn to remember it.
Bowie – is one of those huge 80s OLD stars – who isn’t really a huge 80s OLD star. His sales have never matched The Beatles or The Rolling Stones & his profile is more about fashion than it is about music. He’s a cult star commenting on Stardom as if he was a mainstream star and it makes less sense now than it did then.
Then being a Rock Star was so important to the culture that it was mocked by The Ruttles, Spinal Tap and The Comic Strip Presents, the way Jane Austen felt she had to kill Gothick with snark before her realistic romances could take-off.
It was so important that they Shot John Lennon.
It was so important that Every New Star Was The New King – until he wasn’t.
It was so important that MADONNA and MICHAEL JACKSON were treated like corporations.
It was so important that Indie and Grunge felt they had to shun it or agonize about it.
It was so important that Comedy Was The New Rock’n’Roll.
It was so important that the massive youth culture shift into Clubbing and Gaming went entirely unreported beyond a few ecstasy deaths.
It was so important that Brit Pop tried to entirely recreate it from its Beat beginning to its Hippy Heavy Metal slide past Disco into Synth into over-produced power ballads.
It was so important that The 1990s ruined its life trying to hold on to a moment in Youth Culture that couldn’t exist emotionally beyond the post-war boom, and couldn’t exist economically beyond the world wide web; and that was mainly because the super-rich superstars were still there – flying from stadium gig to stadium gig in their private jets, living with their ex-model wives, in their stately homes or L.A. mansions.
It was visible but unattainable.
Modern stars push product or fill reality vehicles. No one expects them to front political change or lead us into a new lifestyle. No one thinks the puritan young will march past the corruption of the old into Utopia – the way they thought/feared they would in the 1960s.
We expect their charisma, talent or good timing to sell perfume or ghost-written novels, or franchise movies or phone votes.
Fame is dead. It’s not important. It’s an ephemeral chimera. It belongs in the 20th Century and the 21st would be wise to find a Newstar to sing about.