One David Thorpe at Something Awful wrote an article on his picks for 10 worst rock stars, brought to our attention by brother Blogcritic Casper. I found it unsatisfying (Bono?) and just not real cohesive, so I figure on taking a crack.
What kind of criteria makes the list? It’s not the worst musicians. Most of these guys have turned out at least some outstanding work to have garnered our attention in the first place.
It’s obviously fairly subjective, but I’m looking for characters who would make me feel embarrassed to admit being a fan of rock music. This probably means that they embody particularly bad and stupid stereotypes of rock and roll. This is the kind of person who’s into rock music. You think stuff like this is worthy?
For example, Michael Jackson doesn’t make my list, as personally disreputable as he has become. He’d either be on top of the list, or not there at all. Partly, I still tend to look at his fall as tragic rather than merely stupid. In any case, he has a really unique storyline with his own idiosyncratic style. Whatever else you might say about Michael Jackson, he’s not a stereotype.
On the other hand, Jackson does in his own special personal way embody one of the top characteristic combinations of personality here. Looking at the list, several of them exhibit a kind of willful self-destruction as vehicle for narcissistic self-fulfillment.
So here we go, with the 10 all time worst, most embarrassing schmucks in the history of rock:
10) Madonna: The woman made some good records early in her career, but the cheap idea of being continually scandalous gets really old coming from this middle aged mother. The thing with Britney, for example. That wasn’t shocking or challenging to an audience, it was just dumb schtick.
9) Courtney Love: She has the same kind of tired out of control dope thing going as Weiland. She manages to make it rather worse with the dreaded combination of being the professional widow.
8) Axl Rose: Of anyone on this list, Axl definitely has the most musical accomplishment. Whatever else he does, he wrote “Patience” and “Sweet Child o Mine.” But he also became increasingly and wilfully hostile and self-indulgent chemically and in his insistence on abusing everyone around him. He ran off his bandmates over artistic differences. The difference turns out to be that the other guys want to make records, Axl just wants to be a dumb drunk. He’s pretty much that whiny little bully Dwight Yoakam character from Sling Blade.
It’s long past time for Axl to die some stupid senseless drunk traffic death and put us all out of his misery. He’s probably never going to put out the stupid Chinese Democracy thing, and who cares now? He’s become an embarrassment to white trash.
7) Marilyn Manson: This idiot acts as a reductio ad absurdum for all the Black Sabbath evil devil schtick. Worse, he reflects horribly on the influence of my beloved Alice Cooper. Of course, Alice Cooper didn’t require cursing or nudity to make his points, let alone blowing a guy on stage.
It’s not just that the guy wouldn’t know a real song if it bit him in the ass, but that he doesn’t really even WANT to be musical. He seems to utterly disregard the very idea of actual MUSIC. He’s more interested in hanging out with Anton Levay and any kind of “shocking” faux-intellectual nonsense. He’ll do anything to maintain his stardom, anything except learning how to write a song or play an instrument.
6) Scott Weiland: This guy just plays the drug thing out to a pure stupidity. Keef being a junkie was one thing. He was in control. He played with it when he had some downtime, then cleaned up and got back to work. Plus, he wrote “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar.” That’ll get you a lot of slack.
Weiland, on the other hand, insists on ducking out of court-ordered detox. He stops for a minute, then he gets picked up going nuts in the street.
5) Rick James: He has done more than almost any other guy to discredit the rock and roll idea of “partying.” He managed to make it look not just dumb, but abusive, ugly and unfun. The superfreak gets to represent for, among other extremely disreputable traits, the proud abuse of women by musicians.
4) Jackson Browne: This fool acts as the reductio ad absurdum of the whole “social consciousness” nonsense that Dylan brought in from the folk movement. Dylan was smart enough to abandon that after a couple of albums, but Jackson Browne is the patron saint for the moral pretensions of pop singers who think they’re saving the world with their superior sensitivity.
Also, Elvis Costello rightly nailed him as the prime example of the “F**k me, I’m sensitive” school, which nicely sums up a particularly annoying kind of cheap come on.
3) Johnny Rotten: This idiot acts a reductio ad absurdum of rock and roll rebellion. He was never really any kind of musician, but in combination with the meager talents of his bandmates managed one blast of creative moment, Never Mind the Bollocks. Being a one-shot is no crime. It’s one more moment of greatness than most will ever achieve.
However, rather than having some onstage suicide that would have been the logical climax of his career, the guy has hung around making records and tv appearances for decades with absolutely nothing to hawk but pure, dumb belligerence. He’s disrespectful and defiant of everything and everybody. FU, and FU, and FU! This is supposed to impress us how?
2) Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne: They are Spinal Tap, minus the wit and the catchy songs. They took the little devil thing that Mick Jagger played with for a second, reduced it to a lumbering schtick, and made a career out of it. These are not musicians, but a particularly witless strain of vaudevillians.
1) Jim Morrison: The Lizard King wins hands down. I wish we could re-incarnate him back from damnation’s cellar just so I could slap him around for those albums of his poetry, for starters.
He had a special combination of screaming pretension and childish narcissm expressed as wilful self-destruction that we were all supposed to find fascinating as some kind of Deep Statement. His utter disregard for other people drained away any empathy you might otherwise feel.
This guy was too smart to really think he was some significant artist, but puffed himself up with wilful self-delusions of genius. In fact, breaking on through to the other side really just meant getting drunk and dead. The End.