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Thursday
Aug122010

LSD is great. Don’t let the Internet cure it.

There was a time when LSD could propel an artist to fame and fortune.  Prior to today’s Internet culture which calls for everyone to share everything and anything, the only sights and sounds music fans ever experienced from the likes of Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison were LSD driven. I am talking about Lead Singer Disease (LSD) of course.  LSD was the look, the sound, the swagger and the distinctive persona that each lead singer carved out and manicured, and due to the lack of today’s personal broadcast technology, it was the only personality that music fans ever experienced.  Then came the Internet.  The Internet cures LSD and that’s probably not a good thing.

Personally, I want my lead singers to be freaking super heroes.  I have zero interest in knowing that you put blueberries in your Cheerios, or that you are flat out broke.  I don’t even want to know that you are a regular human.  Give me LSD over feel good videos, cameo shots, home interviews, cat holding, dog petting, bike riding, smiles, friends, family, or anything that makes you look close to normal.  You drive a rocket ship, eat steel and shit nails, divine songs, date models, burn money, wear a cape, sleep naked, and when you blow your nose…a melody comes out.  And, you are not an asshole. 

There’s nothing that kills a buzz more that watching a new video featuring a great new band fronted by a charismatic lead singer, and then clicking to somewhere to find the same frontman eating barbeque at a picnic.  Please!  Hold something back dude.  Think back to a time when bands were a complete mystery.  Go there.

I will leave you with this video: The Rolling Stones , Sympathy For The Devil, security by the Hell’s Angels, 1969.

My other posts on Music Think Tank.

Reader Comments (31)

Tease your fans, don't give them everything! Otherwise they have no reason to come back, or be curious about what it is you do when you're not kicking ass on stage.

Great post and video, Bruce.

August 12 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

This is why so many people really should think about having multiple accounts on YouTube & other social networks as well. Even blogs sometimes. If your Twitter posts are predominantly about your girlfriend making you dinner, you aren't using it properly to promote your music. If your Twitter posts are exclusively about your music, your niece might find them all uninteresting. The idea of a synergy between your music social network & your personal social network might be a little off.

In some ways though, Social Media has caused LSD to thrive. I'm of course referring to the less favorable sides of LSD: cockiness, attitude and overall douche bag-ery. The swagger of frontmen is key, and through social media, specifically Twitter, many singers have been able to maintain and evolve their asshole tendencies.

Take Jonny Craig of Emarosa. The man has an insane natural singing talent, sports all the right threads and walks around like he's sold 14 million records. Most have claimed he's a huge P.O.S., aided by him being kicked out of his old band despite being arguably the most talented member. But check his Twitter. You'll find some of the most derogatory and moronic commentary on all of Twitter coming from JonnyCraig4L, including posting naked pictures of some other guy's girlfriend, cursing out other bands that him simply believes "suck," and my personal favorite: talking about sex with his ex-girlfriend, who on Twitter goes by DoMeIGotAids.

Looks like LSD is spreading to me.

August 12 | Unregistered CommenterJack Appleby

About time somebody wrote this, I could not agree more. I want my rock stars to be fucking ROCK STARS, I don't want to look behind the curtain and find out the Prince Of Darkness is a foolish old man.

August 12 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Holy crap, Bruce, I'm just tryin' to figure out what THAT PARTICULAR
video has to do with what you're saying. I mean, we all know Mick is...well, one
of the greats, etc., but people, are you watching that whole thing?

I love your commentary, but, this just seems a bizarre .......bad example.

August 13 | Unregistered CommenterDale Morgan

Dale, you will have to tell me why? I thought it was classic. A skinny, effeminate, English dude in tight pants - and wearing some sort of cape - telling the Hell's Angels and a bunch of hippies to show some love...come on.

August 13 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Besides
If you give away all your secrets
How are you going to do that "relaxing - at - home" article in Hello Magazine?

August 13 | Unregistered Commenterjuan_lauda

you know certain heroes, like mccartney, might be harmed by constant supervision, but i imagine that other frontman, like iggy pop, might be able to build an even higher stage (or maybe its the opposite)...i guess it matters how sincere and uncontrollable a leader's alter-ego is.

August 13 | Unregistered CommenterEvan Hammer

I kind of feel the opposite. The 'D' stands for disease.

I have zero nostalgia for musicians as superheroes fuelled by drugs, personality disorders and abusive relationships. Ever seen a pop biopic? Those dudes were miserable. Wouldn't wish that crap on anybody. You can still be entertained and wowed by amazing people with amazing skills and larger-than-life personalities, but give me internet-fuelled accessibility, humanity and sanity any day of the week.

August 13 | Unregistered CommenterDubber

Hmm. Personality disorders or puppy dogs. Let me think about that.

Anti transparency does not equal drug using meatball.

-Bruce

August 13 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Strange to see this piece here, amongst all the 'internet fueled accessibility' (thank you Andrew) articles.

Despite attempts at record label Formulas (see the 2.0 piece elsewhere) charisma can't be crafted; it just is and it's a sure-fire way of getting a basic human response that belies the 'how to' guides.

It works in any genre apart from christian rock (where it has the opposite effect and will get you crucified - organised religion abhorring individuality) and is more valuable to an artist than the ability to play in 5/3 time, paradiddles or drive a Transit van.

August 13 | Registered CommenterTim London

i'm partial to the side-kick guitar player myself--the one that isn't trying to be cool, but just happens to be there. the one who gets arrested. the one who really is on LSD.

how does a lead singer change a light bulb? they hold it up and the world revolves around them

rock on!
sm

August 14 | Unregistered Commenterspinningmerkaba

Charisma's great. All in favour of charisma. But to a large degree, what we're talking about here is whether or not you think fame's the important thing about music. Have no problem if people are popular or successful - but I think we could really do without fame.

Fame's basically poisonous, and 'celebrity' is not status. The end goal of music is not to be adored by millions, pampered by minions and offered every material luxury known to humanity. The star system of music economics is a problem, not an ideal. It's the perpetuation of the myth of having to be "discovered". That major label success is the only kind of success worth having in music. That the charts somehow reflect or dictate what is good and bad in music. The last thing we need to be hanging on to from the broadcast era is hero worship for undifferentiated masses. The idea that you're either are creative genius, a failure or a passive consumer.

Don't get me wrong. I love it when people stand out. When they have charisma. When they have the ability to entertain large groups of people. I like a spectacle. Purple cow me up, dude.

But make no mistake: "being famous" is the downside of popular success, not its indicator. And we don't have to hero worship people, buy into the cult of personality, or read about their sex life in the tabloids in order to be impressed with what they can do.

I don't want people to have "puppy dogs". I want them to be interesting. But I sure as hell don't need them to be gods - and them feeling they need to be (or want to be) gods is a pretty certain path to psychosis, chemical abuse and sociopathic behaviour.

Give me talented people who can have an intelligent conversation. The ability to interact normally with other human beings is not really something that should be discouraged - even if you are the lead singer of a band.

August 14 | Registered CommenterAndrew Dubber

Maximum rock and roll.

A Charlie Parker, made famous by writers like Kerouac, can make a lifestyle hip because they make transcendental music as well as nod out on heroin. The two things aren't mutually exclusive and the one can definitely enhance the other.

Whether you get your heroes from down your street or from the superstar stratosphere they are still that notch of something, not 'better', possibly more exotic or ultra-real, than we are. That's why they are heroes.

For some, music is the soundtrack to their own heroic life. For many other people, music is the road they travel to escape their own mundane existence and it's nice to have a good looking, mysterious driver who allows you to share, briefly, in their magical world.

As with Parker, some musicians achieve a golden halo when their art hits its zenith. So even a fat junkie jazzer becomes iconic, almost despite himself. I don't think anyone is encouraging artists to self destruct or act like ego-centric dicks, we're just watching them take their art to its limits and the consequences, are often messy, often deadly.

When I used to read Mojo magazine its obituaries pages read like a regular small holocaust - so many musos die early (in western terms).

If the accessibility of the internet becomes an unofficial health and safety charter to prevent the Ozzy's of the pop world from finishing themselves off perhaps that's a good thing. But if it means you can't experience the art without the scratch and sniff experience of the creator, that would be terrible, a move to the cultural flat lands where everyone is equally special.

August 14 | Registered CommenterTim London

Well I'm trying Bruce!!! It helps that I look so much like "the god of war" Kratos, that there is good speculation that Sony Games used my likeness as a rough in. I really CAN bench press 400+ lbs, I really do wear a punisher t-shirt and often dress like I'm a character in "the Matrix". I've had sex with more women than you've known. I am an asshole to those who envy and a hero to those who love. I've got a criminal record that reads like is straight out of an A-Team member biography on TV. I am the real deal, no need to pine Bruce. Of course, I do like blueberries in my cereal. Now, let me get back to tickling puppies and I'll ttyl.

~ CrowfeatheR

August 14 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

Not looking for the flat lands. People are already different and interesting. That's what makes creative expression so amazingly cool. But we do need a reality check on romanticising the superstar behaviour deal. Performing is one thing - and it's brilliant. Living the rock and roll lifestyle is another - and it's idiotic.

Driving limousines into swimming pool, throwing televisions out of hotel windows, sleeping with 100 different women on tour doesn't make you a rockstar. It makes you an asshole. A narcisstic, and relentlessly dull, infantile moron. Most people are boring as shit on drugs - and even if they're not, they always get there in the end, or it kills them first.

Heroin and alcohol didn't make Charlie Parker interesting - they robbed us of his music.

I'm not against difference, flair, creativity, performance, charisma or talent. Those things are amazing.

I'm against stardom. Stardom sucks..

August 14 | Unregistered CommenterDubber

Interesting comments on the nature of charisma, stardom, fame, etc.

But what occurs to me is the simple disconnect between the way independent artists are told to "engage" and "connect" with fans via all the social media channels to promote themselves, and "Hold something back dude. Think back to a time when bands were a complete mystery."

Yet another dilemma for music artists ...

August 14 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Hol

Thanks Dubber.

August 14 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I believe I adequately covered not being an asshole in the post. For those of you that equate fame to asshole, please reread what I wrote with an open mind. The theme of the post was supposed to be about holding back from continually posting everything and anything that makes you look less than a "superhero" (stuff that makes you look just like the rest of us). Moreover, their are many stars that maintain star status without intentionally being assholes.

August 14 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

And yet success at performing inevitably leads to stardom at one level or another, be it world wide or as the grooviest girl in class, especially nowadays when the interweb can amplify every action.

(There's a case to be made for internet addiction - seeing your name on the rectangular screen, wondering what that itchy feeling is and then realising, you haven't tweeted today, feeling the onanistic urge to google yourself. This is probably worse for creativity than...)

...drugs or booze can help in creativity - to assert anything else denies a mass of evidence. They're not necessary for some, for others the break down of self awareness helps the juices flow.

William Burroughs famously lasted into his 80s, still a junkie, was older than Charlie Parker, probably lasted because he was a fairly well off upper middle class white man who could afford his poison without too much lifestyle trauma. If Parker had received decent medical attention he too might have survived to be patronised by Jools Holland...

Real stars just are. Fame is a by-product of standing up in front of a crowd and the crowd loving you. Word gets out.

Arseholes are still arseholes, whether they drive buses in Belgium or front poodle rock bands in California.

To a certain extent, this is also a genre thing. Be bop suited its drugs. Miles on H when he was making his jazzrock fusion was just painful. LSD (the drug) sent Jimi Hendrix to places to fetch noises no one had heard. Junk just killed him.

Always best to have a really good look at the whole picture. The ironic choice of an occasional joint and coke abusing economics student to exemplify lead singer disease (video above) illustrates nicely. Here's a very established bread-head who still takes the stage with a guitarist pickled in blood and heroin. The combination of their talents meant they didn't have to make a decent tune for 30 years but are still able to fill stadiums on their rep alone.

August 14 | Registered CommenterTim London

Appreciate the balanced nature of your response Tim, but there are some assertions there that just don't stand up to close scrutiny. Drugs don't make you creative and fame isn't a byproduct of awesomeness.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say - there ARE no "real" stars. There are influential and popular musicians, sure. But stardom is an entirely manufactured byproduct of media, marketing and public relations. And it becomes poisonous the moment anyone (especially its subject) starts to actually believe in it.

I'm utterly skeptical about totalising and romantic narratives that conveniently leave out a massive corporate hype-generating machine from the 'success' story of our famous artists. The Stones don't fill stadiums on their rep alone and never have. It costs a lot of money, and takes a lot of magazine interviews, television campaigns and PR to have that much reputation. The drugs, hard living and womanising aren't trappings of fame - they're the narrative that feed the buzz.

If we genuinely believe these sorts of stories, then the advice we should be giving to young musicians on websites such as this is simply to take just enough of the right sort of class A drugs in order to make their creative juices flow, cut themselves off from interacting with mere 'ordinary people' (the sort you might find on Facebook or Twitter) - and if they "just are" a star - it'll happen.

If you want to relinquish control to an external force, whether it's pretending that "the crowd", drugs or "the internet" are making your music career a certain way, then you might as well just sit back and let whatever happens happen. Things are outside your control.

But if you'd prefer to have some sort of deliberate response to the media environment and your social sphere - then screw fame, and while there are interesting case studies, I'd avoid the wishful thinking attribution of shamanistic properties to chemical substances as lazy routes to creative insight while you're at it.

I know there are still people who want their heroes to have mythical qualities. Probably most people. But the moment you realise that these myths are constructed fantasies, you start to tire of them. I far prefer admiring real people with real talents and real creativity. People you could stand to have in your house.

All of my heroes are "ordinary", despite their extraordinariness.

Perhaps my strong feelings about fame stem from the fact that I know people who have it, and others who've had it. According to them, success is awesome.

Fame, on the other hand, sucks.

August 15 | Registered CommenterAndrew Dubber

Andrew, the trouble with websites like this is the desire to present clear formula. Art is messy. Making pop music is messy. And the one size fits all approach is dishonest because it doesn't acknowledge all the possibilities or the intelligence of MTT's readers. That said, there has to be a certain amount of generalisation otherwise there's no point writing anything and I understand you feel strongly about the subject.

Bearing that in mind, not to acknowledge the positive as well as the negative effects of booze and drugs and 'bad' living on the evolution of popular music means starting from a void. Trace the history, from Africa to Victorian music hall, from juke joints to illegal West Indian blues, from the songs written about and as peans to the various poisons, to the sense of abandonment that music and poisoned senses create. They are as connected as Jim Morrison's snake belt was to his stinky leather troos.

As I stated, drugs and booze can help, but obviously they don't do the creating for you. For instance, I would agree that coke, in particular, has got in the way of some great performances. Equally, especially for singers, a quick toot has livened up another boring night on the boards for the audience as well as the occasional rock god.

The advice given to young people on this site or elsewhere should always be practical, starting with 'think for yourself and don't trust authority'. As with my own kid and anyone else who asks, I try to be honest about what drugs do, including the ecstatic properties as well as the harm. I wouldn't say 'don't' just like I wouldn't say 'do'.

I agree, most pop fame is achieved through a combination of talent, presentation and bought opportunity. It's given us fantastic moments, like The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Michael jackson on MTV, Bob Marley playing the Lyceum then releasing the live album... pointless to make a list. Big business exploiting passionate, mad young people has resulted in pop culture. If it's an ugly marriage it's also been gloriously decadent, creating soundtracks for millions of people and joy and delight along the way.

The new big business that exploits human creativity on the net is just as exploitative and possibly has murkier roots (although RCA had very direct links to the armaments industry in the UK as did EMI). It has enabled many performers to show off and all of us to enjoy what they do. How much we each of us give away of ourselves is a new problem. Even in the depths of the friendliest online interaction the motivation to lie is almost irresistible. The amount of re-invention online puts that classic fake fame casualty, Ziggy Stardust to shame.

Fame can suck - if the 'wrong' people are famous for doing little it is intensely annoying, although for some the wrong person can be Paris Hilton and for others it can be Kanye West. And fame can be fatal for the famous. But, normally, it's a big mess of truth and myth and is almost a constructed art work by itself. Personally, I'm happy the past 100 years or so have allowed people other than generals and emperors to be famous and I wish fame and fortune on all the MTT readers. May your star burn bright, even if it is for just a short time.

August 15 | Registered CommenterTim London

We are living in an awful era where everyone is f**king rock star and everybody is famous as long as they do stupid things, get their photo taken and get on the Ent Tonight repeatedly.

I prefer really great music and if that comes with an interesting and charismatic lead singer then that's cool.

Do the drugs and drink, but please do it with some style and finesse!

August 15 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Austin

Some great comments here. Thanks.

Some people turned this post into something that it was not meant to be. This post was supposed to be about limiting transparency. I will have to do a better job at addressing this topic later.

As for this post, I have read it ten times. Here's where the problem seems to be:

Going through my list:

- You drive a rocket ship - metaphor - can't see a problem here.

- Eat steel and shit nails - metaphor - can't see a problem here.

- Divine songs - nope (yes I know it's not easy)

- Date models - I guess this could rub some people the wrong way.

- Burn money - Poor choice of words here. Cares less about money (than a stockbroker) may have been better.

- Wear a cape - metaphor - can't see a problem here.

- Sleep naked - nope.

- And when you blow your nose…a melody comes out. - nope.

- And, you are not an asshole. - This should have been clear. I will increase the font size next time for those that read right through this line and ignored it.

Nowhere did I say, use drugs (I clearly stated LSD = Lead Singer Disease), kick in walls, treat women like objects, or generally act like a shithead. If you read the post, and this was your takeaway, I am sorry that I did not do a better job at communicating the intended message, which was to limit your transparency or run the risk of seeming average.

There are plenty of smart artists that do a great job at maintaining an air of celebrity without being jerks; these were the irregular humans I was referring to. As for the list above (clarifications and retractions included), it's MY personal preference to perceive artists as "superheros" and not as average Joes. Moreover, I think it's a bit pompous and self-righteous to declare any PERSONAL preference as superior, better for the industry, or healthier to humanity. Thanks for the emails, but good luck with that.

August 16 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Thanks for clearing that up, Bruce - but that's not what happened here. Please don't take this as a personal attack, people misrepresenting your point, or a failure to make yourself understood.

The comments that ensued were not a direct response to your specific points, metaphoric or otherwise. Instead, your blog post was a springboard into a conversation clearly a lot of people wanted to have.

There's a lot of work done in the area of digital, online media as 'social objects'. In fact, I'm writing an article about it myself with respect to the internet as a conversational medium.

In brief, it's the idea that this conversation we just had might not be strictly about what you wrote exactly, but the fact of that post's existence - and especially the fact we could share and discuss it - was precisely the reason we had the conversation.

We didn't talk about what you wanted to talk about. We talked about what we wanted to talk about. But you provided the impetus for us to do that. We didn't turn it into something it wasn't meant to be. We just used it differently.

And it also inspired me to write a long blog post on a related issue.

Perhaps we forget to insert the phrase "Oh, that reminds me..." at the beginning of our comments - but that doesn't mean we didn't get what you were trying to say.

Broadly speaking, I disagree with that as well - but that's not the point. :)

August 16 | Registered CommenterAndrew Dubber

Oh no... I have been blogging for a few years. I am used to the comments taking a left turn. It was the email someone sent me in the middle of the night. I suspect she never read the post, got her notions from unfavorable Tweets or read a negative post someplace else? Instead of replying, I did it here. It's all good. My skin is reasonably thick. I shouldn't read emails when I get up to pee at 4:00 AM.

August 16 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

To add to what Andrew says above, it's good to add subject matter that doesn't normally get looked at in the dry environs of music biz examining.

So if your post ended up with a bigger pulse and the smell of singer-sweat that can only add to the truth of the discussion.

Getting to the nub helps, as does a declaration of taste. As much as a sensible jumper and sandals combo, what and who you like in music says a lot about you.

August 16 | Registered CommenterTim London

Ugh, I agree. There has to be a limit on the information that they share or broadcast. Social media pretty much made stalking legal, and the bazillion information that defines personalities humanizes them to a fault.

They are entertainers for a reason, their personal lives shouldn't be the focus of their career, unless they chose a reality-esque persona.

August 16 | Registered CommenterArcot Ramathorn

I really like the way that artists today are becoming more connected with their fans. First of all, seeing that my heroes are just regular Joes gives me a huge amount of inspiration. If they can be so cool, why can't I? Also, I love the fact that I can send an artist an email and get a personal response back. Granted, artists are totally allowed to present themselves how they like, whether it's the dark-and-mysterious or the easygoing-and-approachable. But as for me, I wouldn't mind if LSD died tomorow.

August 16 | Unregistered CommenterScott Hughes

Bruce, - great post - 'bout time this was discussed!!

Siince when has over-saturation NOT been a negative factor to an artist??

Just because technology allows something DOESN'T mean its always good to do it - and I believe for artists seeking BIG-TIME SUCCESS (as defined by the music biz - of course success is and should be defined b each artist for themselves - but please remember this is a BUSINESS blog), micro-posting personal minutia is counterproductive, and possibly, ahem, just as much an indicator of personality issues as some of the other behaviors discussed above, but that's a different discussion.

On the other hand, for artists who want to maintain indie lifestyle (and pay scale), then probably sharing a certain amount of puppydog pics is beneficial, to create that personal "fan connection". And of course a lot of artists will be thrilled to have 1000 true fan type independence, with its customary nomadic, road life approach.

But as pointed out well in previous comments, most people want their HEROES to be, well, heroic...and with true respect for Andrew Dubber and the (unfortunately), few like him, that is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.

So if you are truly shooting for the stars (and to be one), one would do well to heed Bruce's advice and keep something to yourself - and I would go so far as to say keep ALMOST EVERYTHING to yourself.

Yes, past stars' images have been carefully crafted by marketing teams and foisted upon the public through major media - the music business isn't any different than other commercial enterprise, which hopefully doesn't come as a shock to anyone here - but NOW ANY ARTIST has the ability to craft their own image and start marketing oneself SELECTIVELY, through the power of the same technology being used so indiscriminately by most artists today.

The tools are there to create what was ONLY the domain of the major labels in the past - and when a certain threshold of commercial success is reached by an artist , major media is STILL just as necessary to gain the heights of fame/stardom/success/etc.

It's just that most won't stand a chance of getting to that threshold, being too focused on the little picture and over-sharing, instead of creating MYSTIQUE and WONDER.

August 17 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

Bruce-

You get up to pee at 4am?

... now I've hijacked the comments to run on and on about the benefits of flomax, look what I've done.

I'm betting the women who sent you the email was pissed at your LSD shock title and just went from there. If you had used say, Joan Jett, as one of your heroes then maybe she wouldn't have written you hate mail. As for using women as objects, I've tried and let me tell you they make a shitty electric can opener no matter how you wire them.

I'm outa here....

August 18 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

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