How to Be a Rock Star
By Matt Rosenberg
They’re at it again. The company brass at http://www.yourband.info are hounding me with a tenacity almost admirable in its urgent vigor. This time, they’ve got their noses planted and edging so far up my colon that I can literally smell what they are smelling as I smell them smelling what I smell—it’s like holding two mirrors up to each other and looking at infinity. Of course I can’t blame them in their persistence, it has been literally months since they commissioned this brief article and, by means of sweetening the deal, furnished me with a sumptuous cash advance which went unceremoniously up my nose—cold season was upon us and it was of utmost importance that I fatten up my dwindling Afrin stash before I began backsliding into a nasty epinephrine habit…I’ve been down that road before and, brothers and sisters, it aint pretty.
The bulk of this article, as agreed upon by my business manager, attorney and personal liaison to the YB.C corporate sanctum, was to be a brief list of helpful tips and ideas that might aid even the most hopeless, wire-stripping Glad Bag in becoming a rock star, nay, rock god. Of course, I have the qualifications to pen such a valuable how-to. Let’s not forget my illustrious career as the human embodiment of just the exact brand of rock icon-ery to which all above-mentioned refuse sacks aspire. Without bragging, of course, I might remind the reader of my lengthy stint as the zesty, chipotle filling for the Flying Burrito Brothers, or my legendary turn as second chair for the Electric Light Orchestra—a very comfortable recliner, built in the grand, Norwegian tradition, long before Lay-Z-Boy became a household word and, in doing, so, made a mockery of sitting down—and it’s probably not even worth mentioning here that it was I who replaced the ribbon on Lester Bangs’ typewriter the night that he sat on stage during a J. Geils Band concert and wrote a review of the band as they played.
Oh, those were the salad days, dear reader, and since then, I have made quite a lucrative business in the field of rock star consulting. In this capacity, I am credited with heightening Pete Townshend’s notoriety by advising him—in the late Fall of 1964—to smash his guitar on stage. Until this point, Townshend was known to rely solely on tongue twisters and card tricks as means of keeping an audience entertained and venting his youthful, closeted angst. The guitar smash elevated him to a whole new strata of stardom.
Not content to rest on the laurels of such an unprecedented coup in the combined histories of PR and rock n’ roll, I diversified my consulting portfolio. In March of 1967, I single-handedly brought Jimi Hendrix to national prominence by suggesting that he set his guitar on fire. I made a complete—though successful—left turn in 1975 by coming up with the—hitherto unheard of—idea to have Joe Strummer of the Clash smash his guitar. Then, in 1988, I came out of a well deserved retirement in order to help a little-known band called Nirvana spark some interest in their tiny, out-of-way hometown, the name of which I can’t even remember at the time of this writing. The scheme that I’d concocted was essentially this: I told the toe-headed and diminutive lead singer of the band to get up on stage and smash his guitar. It was something that nobody had seen before, and the display was just so new and strange that it rocketed the little band straight to the top of the Billboard R n’ B and Dance charts.
Now, bear in mind that these were all brand new, unique, and unheard of techniques at the time that each of them was conceived. To mimic any of them at this point in time would be to make a sham of one’s self as a performer and of rock n’ roll which is an art form that that thrives on originality and spontaneity. Each of the above strategies worked on a conceptual level because the had never been, and would never again be done. Something totally different is required if one ever hopes to make it as a rock star in the current climate. If my career as a rock consultant has taught me anything, it’s that the fans of today value spectacle above all else. I’m not talking about the kind of spectacle that is provided by pyrotechnics, flashy choreography or a thousand twinkling light brights. The spectacle I’m talking about begins and ends with the human body.
Try this exercise. Think of your body, not as flesh and bone, but as an incendiary device, the purpose of which is to set the audience on fire with thrills, chills and cheers. Think of your instrument—probably an electric guitar, I mean, who are we kidding—as an extension of that devise, perhaps a lever or on/off switch. With your shoulder acting as the fulcrum of that lever and your fingers holding your instrument somewhere between, let’s say, the fourth and seventh frets depending upon the size of your hand, you are ready to throw that audience into a frothing fit of enthusiasm. Let’s say, for just one moment, that you—a.k.a the device—is engaged, the fulcrum swings into action, sending the lever in an arc that covers almost a full circle. Suddenly the lever itself, the very thing that was designed to make the audience stand up and take notice, breaks into a thousand little wooden splinters. Now, there you go, that is something that has never been done before.
Transforming your instrument into a self-destructive lynch pin is a move that is ready for today’s rock n’ roll audience. Far from the primitive statement made by Townshend when he thoughtlessly and aimlessly smashed his guitar to bits, this method is elegant and meaningful. It says, on the one hand “I don’t care about material positions and am willing to destroy the very devise which has brought me to prominence, because I am and artist, not a clearinghouse for lifeless objects”, and on the other hand “I don’t care if this thing is destroyed because I am just rich enough to buy a hundred limited editions Les Pauls or Stratocasters just like it.”
This is the act of simultaneous self denial and self aggrandizement that will make you into a rock star. But be warned, you better do it before anybody else does, because once it’s done, it’s done, and nobody will ever be able to repeat the same spectacle ever again.
if you liked this article try:
Things Every Guitar Player Should Know - Part Two
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How to Kick Out a Bandmate