I am the coolest man on earth – pt 1
“It’s hard being a man,” said Lou Reed in one of his less famous songs titled “I Can’t Stand It.” Well actually, outside of any songs on the album TRANSFORMER, which housed his one hit WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, none of his solo work is really famous. But I digress. It is hard being a man if being cool is your goal. And in Rock and Roll music, it seems to be near the top of the list.
Yes, clothes and hair are often integral to your cool quotient. A blank stare, a detached gaze, a curled lip and the myriad number of contorted faces guitarists make mid-note bend are paramount to some. Having moves like Jagger has also been immortalized in song although I’m more of a James Brown man myself.
Commitment and authenticity are way up there. Some find this to be acquired through tattoos. I have one myself so I understand the allure. Since the rise of Neo-Rockabilly in the early 80’s, (think Brian Setzer’s Stray Cats) it’s spread to what seems like not just indie rock bands, but, tween pop idols like Selena Gomez, dead pop idols like Amy Winehouse, sports stars like David Beckham and every barista and chef under the age of 40. It ranks up there with being a blues artist in the 1960’s. I actually sat in on a marketing roundtable lead by a firm whose facilitator had arms covered in ink. Tattoos? Old news.
Hair? Punk rock pioneer Richard Hell claims that before he formed Television with pal Tom Verlaine, he had posited that the two biggest rock sensations in history, Elvis Presley and the Beatles, each had distinctive hair styles. Therefore, for him to be as successful, he needed one too. Thus the Rimbaud inspired burr became the spiked mane he is known for.
Getting beat up or shot at a few times helps. It implies you’re ready to die for the cause. And dying before your time? Top notch as far as coolness related deification. May they all rest in peace (Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Johnny Thunders, Eddie Cochran, Kurt Cobain, Keith Moon, Dee Dee Ramone, Keith Richards…OOPS! Scratch that last one.)
And then of course there’s bleeding. Jack White’s bloody hand during a live segment of the film IT MIGHT GET LOUD seems to be important enough for the editor to focus on, implying that…well… he’s…very loud? Committed to bleeding for volume? Rolling Stone ran a great photo of the windmill guitar master himself Pete Townshend, with a post-show bloody digit which probably implied there actually was some excitement to be found at one of the Who’s moribund post-Keith Moon farewell shows back in the early 80’s. If we ignore GG Allin, and I make it a firm habit to ignore GG Allin, the bare chested punk grandaddy Iggy Pop probably takes the cake, or the peanut butter for those who know his backstory. Diving off of stages, sometimes head first onto the dance floor, getting brass knuckled by bikers mid-show and famously gashing himself across the chest with a broken bottle at New York’s Max’s Kansas City in the early seventies, puts him in the pantheon of bleeders, alongside of perhaps only the “Bayonne Bleeder” himself, boxer Chuck Wepner.
Well, I’m still alive, only possess the aforementioned single tattoo and sit behind a desk most of the time. But there was a time, many moons ago, in the prehistoric days before Facebook, HD television, the Internet and Nespresso coffee makers, when I was in the running.
I bled. That’s right. Not only did I bleed, but I was threatened with death. And all because I wanted to rock and roll. That’s right: both rock AND roll. I didn’t skimp.
…to be continued…
© Curt Weiss 2014