This is the best music industry book that I’ve ever read! It was given to me as a gift last year and it was refreshing to finally read it after all of the heavy material that I’ve been working my way through this year.
The book is easy to read and impossible to put down as it delves into the strange quirks of modern-era “Gods.“
It describes how musicians all of a sudden turned into high-status people with their own entourage operating like royal courts…
Just like the warrior and the cowboy, the rock-star became a new masculine ideal, with the guitar resembling a rifle.
Much emphasis is put on the post-WW2 era.
What is noticeable is how enormously influential American culture was in England, and how very American the whole musical rockstar phenomena really was.
Much money could be made due to the physical format and by promoting performers who were attractive enough to cause mass hysteria in the opposite gender.
Rude and merciless behaviour is described by musicians firing band members due to facial features or conservative personalities, the author doesn’t mince his words in support of these actions. Stories such as these have always struck me as especially mean-spirited and has always left me wondering how it must feel like for such characters to read about themselves in such a way.
The most tragic chapter in my opinion was the one about Janis Joplin, a truly haunted individual who seemed hellbent on some personal vendetta through career achievements. When she finally did her victory round by visiting her home-town as a successful music artist, nobody really cared and all she accomplished was alienating her own family. Just weeks after this personal failure she died of an overdose.
When reading the stories of premature deaths and personal tragedies I couldn’t help but wonder how these lives would have played out if the artists had had a better support system and healthier values.
It must surely be better to be saved from going down disastrous paths than to die young and tragically due to unresolved personal issues, yet this has become so embedded in the whole “rockstar-soap-opera“ that people have come to expect it, and even worse: worship it!
The macabre nature of this was surely not lost on me when I watched the movie about Amy Winehouse and saw/remembered how she was consistently lauded as a heroic character by music industry people due to her “rock’n’roll-ness.“ Her record label knew about her eating disorder, everyone knew that she had serious problems, but nobody really did anything. Simultaneously she was portrayed as the coolest chick ever, due to said problems. A sick glorification indeed. I’m sure that the ghost of Amy Winehouse would have preferred that she got help if taking into account some of the last things that she said.
A great number of the stories contained in “Uncommon People,“ are tragic and depict musical artists as extremely petty, such as Eric Clapton offering Jimi Hendrix to play through a bass amp when joining him onstage, only for Hendrix to return the behaviour with playing something too technically intricate for Clapton.
The author also reveals how nepotism/corruption has played a significant role in the creation of the “God-status“ given to some of the representatives of the non-meritocratic show-biz system.
Still the artistic ego seems to be of such magnitude that few want to credit luck, business people, or image for their success, perfectly touched upon in the career-suicide of Prince who decided to mask and destroy his own identity much to the nuisance of record label bosses who dropped him as a result.
The author brilliantly concludes his tale with the emergence of technology comparing mp3s and the digital tech-revolution to the end of silent-movies.
The geeks are crowned as the new rockstars as musicians lose their status, a status that they held for a very short time in history.
This last chapter and the conclusion of the book is stellar since elites come and go.
“The establishment“ re-formats itself depending on the times, so if we were to experience an eco-catastrophe tomorrow out of the blue we would all turn to Bear Grylls types to rescue us since the majority of people are perfectly “domesticated,“ and have no idea about how to stay alive “in the wild.“
The high-status of geeks is only enabled due to our current technology, just like the high-status of musicians was due to the enormous amount of resources they could gather!
If our societies re-format again, which they will, we’ll see people shift their focus elsewhere.
I say: read this book! It awesome and a total page-turner!