No More Heroes Any More: Modern Music Needs Its Characters Back

The 1960s and 70s had Dylan, Lennon, Bowie... A roll call of top musicians with important wider philosophies; modern music needs characters like that back.
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The 1960s and 70s had Dylan, Lennon, Bowie... A roll call of top musicians with important wider philosophies; modern music needs characters like that back.

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Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? / He got an ice pick that made his ears burn

Whatever happened to dear old Lenny? / The great Elmyra and Sancho Panza? / Whatever happened to the heroes?

Whatever happened to David Bowie, John Lennon, Joe Strummer, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Paul Weller, Syd Barret, Neil Young, Hendrix, Keith, Bill Drummond, Bryan Ferry, Marc Bolan, Eric Clapton, Sid Vicious. They got old or dropped dead, or got worn out, or ran out of ideas, and if they are still doing stuff they aren’t what they used to be.

Yeah, of course they all are or were a certain type of man, but if it wasn’t for certain types of men Britain and America wouldn’t have any films, music - or books, and no characters to put in the books - and no cautionary tales.

When John Lennon wasn’t writing good songs he was trying to end war, of course he didn’t stop war, but what he said must have influenced people to do stuff which helped get peace at some point. Lou Reed inspired a leader somewhere in Eastern Europe to get off his arse and do something.

Joe Strummer said “the future is unwritten” and “you’ve gotta be slightly stupid”. Bill Drummond torched a million quid.  Bob Dylan wrote; "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. / But you and I, we've been through that / and this is not our fate / so let us not talk falsely now / the hour is getting late."

Run by music people who don’t like U2 because everybody else does, the Mercury Music Prize is a showcase of British musical talent. Recently they picked James Blake as winner and Jake Bugg as runner up. Try and imagine either doing the stuff in the two paragraphs above this one.

Maybe it’s because they don’t have enough to worry about. Good music is art and good art comes out of rebellion, being bored and skint and having fuck-all-to-do. All the old music heroes lived in more turbulent times, and times of change.

It’s a half-arsed comparison, but people have said Jake Bugg is a bit like Bob Dylan - he sounds a bit like him, but he isn’t really that similar to him, for a start his lyrics don’t have the same beauty as Dylan’s, but then, Dylan is a product of different times, for a start he had some serious political beef to get his teeth stuck into; Maggie’s Farm is about important stuff, man.

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I don’t know exactly what Maggie’s Farm is about, but it is about something, and that something is about the political mood of 1960s United States of America. The US of will the commie bastards hit the button, the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks, man on the moon, Vietnam, Ken Kesey, JFK, Motown, Malcolm X – big stuff.

James Blake and Jake Bugg have the following political beef to chomp in-the-decade-nobody-has-a-good-name-for: David Cameron being a bit posh, the Labour leader looking a bit like Wallace or Gromit, High Speed 2, Bankers getting well paid. Obama being the same as every other American President.

Even Pop no longer has its heroes; heroic is probably not the right word, but there is something more heroic about Madonna, Take That and the Spice Girls than Lady Gaga, the Blurred Lines geezer, and One Direction.

The internet could be to blame for the fact there are a lack of music heroes and has diluted what music was all about and changed stuff. It’s so easy to access a massive amount of music in 2013, nobody before has ever had this much access to so much music, whether it’s lousy or good. And anyone can put stuff online and contribute to the digital swamp.

Technology has changed things. ITunes is now a big force in music. The global boss of ITunes seems to know nothing about music, read an interview with the bloke and you’ll see what I mean. But he does not need to know much about music because what he does is all about databases, hoarding information and mathematics - it’s probably what Tesco does to sell you a can of baked beans, and music shouldn’t be sold the same way as a can of baked beans.

Probably Pete Doherty, Chris Martin, Kanye West and Noel Gallagher are all musical heroes, and Florence Welch, M.I.A and Lily Allen are musical heroines. But none of them seem to be actively trying to do stuff like John Lennon did, and none of them seem to stand for anything in the same way.

The only pop culture public figure trying to stand for something is bombast addict Russell Brand - what he says probably does not have that much substance, and he isn’t a musician, but he is a poet on the rampage - not sure if he is a hero though.