In-authentically Authentic: Dreams of Rock Stardom

I’ve been sort of bad about publishing my book. Re-writes are sort of a pain for me to do. However, I wrote this today. I do a lot of writing for my job as a reporter, and as a comic book reviewer. I submitted a column to the comics website I write for.

It was a fun experiment. So I decided to just write another piece. This time for myself and to maybe potentially sell. This is basically my attempt to write a Chuck Klosterman piece. He is one of my favorite authors who blends pop culture, personal experience and humor perfectly in his essays.


Growing up I always thought I’d end up living the life of a rock star. I don’t know why I thought this, there was nothing I did that would have ever positioned me to become such a thing. However, the idea just always sounded kind of fun. Being a horny young pre-teen and teenager; the idea of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll seemed extremely appealing.

I knew drugs were bad, or so I thought, growing up. I’d never touch the stuff (or was even offered really) because my dad worked with juvenile felons. I heard stories about the worst junkie drug addicts in prison. However, consciously I knew deep down if I ever were to be a rock god I’d have to do them eventually.

I wasn’t into hair metal, but if I could chose to be any sort of rock star I’d probably chose to be in a hair metal band. They seemed, in my youth, to be living life the fastest and sleeping with the best looking girls. As utterly ridiculous as both Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee looked, they made  coke filled rampages seem at the very least interesting.

VH1’s Behind the Music lead me to believe that the 80s was the golden years for rock-n-roll mischief. Kill a person with your car and you’d probably get away with a misdemeanor at the most.

I’m not sure where I went wrong. I think maybe I was just too academic. There wasn’t Rock star 101 at the university I attended. The School of Rock was only just a movie at the time. So instead  I settled for the next most logical profession – journalist. I wish I could say I was like Cameron Crowe’s main character in Almost Famous, but I didn’t even go that route.

Sure I like music, but when it comes down to it I can’t really write about the ethereal qualities of  Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. I just know that it sounds good to me when I drop the needle down on a vinyl recording.

The thing is though I don’t think my dream of being a rock star is anything original, just like how I don’t think most music is ever completely original (unless you are Sun Ra). There are probably millions of males who had a similar adolescent dream.

I think it comes down to a matter of effort though. In order to be a rock star you have to put in effort. You have to dress like an inauthentic weirdo on purpose, play an instrument or at the very least be willing to stand on stage looking like you do. Even then there is no guarantee that you will succeed. Especially today when most rock stars are dirt poor and try to survive off of the revenue they receive from Spotify listens.

The only band I can think of that is having any sort of mega success in the world of rock music is The Black Keys, they’ve managed to stand out by trying to look more normal than the rest of us. Don’t let Dan Auerbach’s jean jacket fool you, he is probably one of the highest paid “rock” stars of today.

The bands normality is meant to be their camouflage. Try as they might to fit in at that dingy bar you often attend, they still would not. If Patrick Carney was a playing songs on the jukebox, he’d still be noticeable. Mostly, because he and his band mate are going out of their way to not be weird looking. It is almost the opposite of what the rest of the world is trying to do.

I guess this is what it means now to be a rock star celebrity, to be authentic you almost have to be in-authentically authentic. As a normal human, I’ll admit I do subtle things to try and stand out. Things that I hope generate notice from others, and can start a conversation. Band T-shirts have always been a go too. I’d always hoped that I’d meet someone who’d comment on a Butthole Surfers’ shirt I often wear, not in the form of an anti-gay rant, but  because they to were a fan of the 90’s psychedelic punk rock group.

Being a rock star is about branding. The Black Keys are branded as a Midwestern Blues Rock band. They try about as  hard to look Midwestern as Bruce Springsteen tries to look middle class. There is nothing wrong with this. I love The Black Keys they are in my top 10 of modern relevant rock bands. I just find them an interesting juxtaposition to life and what rock stars used to be like.

Rock stardom is an exaggeration of people and societies true selves. I mean I don’t identify as an androgynous looking band member from Motley Crue, but in a way everyone is trying to do something to stand out. Hair metal bands and predecessors like Prince, David Bowie, and KISS just took this concept to the most extreme.

With bands like The Black Keys it looks on the surface like it is a regression, but it’s not. It’s just how they separated themselves from the “rockers” who wore leather bracelets and had piercings in their face. It’s what made them as a band stand out. But seeing how they are the biggest guitar and drum act on the planet, the trend is starting to resemble them more and more, making them the center.

Now it seems cool for a band to attempt normality, except this isn’t normal –it’s purposeful. What is normal in the world of giant egos and electric guitars?

Rock is separating itself from other genres by looking normal and contemporary, while rappers like Kanye West purports this bigger than real life ego. His ego seems to dwarf anything happening in rock music today and in the past. Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll; to some extent is probably still cool, but much less prevalent in the genre. Instead, EDM and Trap have become the soundtrack to the acid filled orgies I as a child dreamed of.

Rock-and-roll has become almost suburban in its image. Its how it has managed to stand out from the rest of the weirdos like Skrillex, Lady GaGa, and Die Antwoord. That being said I feel more like a rock star than ever before. Both Patrick Carney, Rivers Cuomo, Buddy Holly and I share a similar looking pair of spectacles. However, if I look like a rock star then I also feel like I must be a boring old piece of shit as well, because it takes almost no effort on my part to look this way.

So the question is then, is today’s male youth dreaming of becoming a rock legend, or a Vodka infused EDM D.J.? I mean truthfully, I love rock music, but it doesn’t feel nearly as fun as it did in the old days. I wish I could say it is me in my old age coming to this conclusion, but I’m only 28 and I may have just grown my first pubic hair.



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