“And meanwhile the man was falling from space
And everyday I wore your face
Like an atmosphere around me
A satellite inside me”
How is this song NOT about David Bowie? I wonder every time I listen to it – “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” – the title track from Florence + The Machine’s latest album. I imagine young Florence Welch discovering Bowie as a teenager, sometime in the late ’90s, painting her face with a glittery lightning bolt (everyday I wore your face) and dancing around her bedroom, entranced.
But no, apparently this song is an ode to the California sky, influenced by Florence’s time in the U.S. and her increasing fascination with American music (whether Motown or Laurel Canyon).
The song is stunning, no matter what or who inspired it, and it’s been on constant rotation in my ears. I’m still in a little mourning for the great Starman, and feeling lately like logging on to Twitter or FB is just the daily equivalent of asking: who’s dead now? So songs of comfort and beauty feel quite necessary now.
Here’s a video version of not-quite-the-whole song, filmed (unsurprisingly) under a bright blue sky. The short video was directed by Tabitha Denholm & Vincent Haycock.
Have a good week, x
So one of the best things about being part of the ‘Dragonfruit’ anthology is getting to know the work of other expatriate women writers. Women such as award-winning author, Suzanne Kamata, who lives in Japan. Her anthology essay, ‘Love and Polka Dots’, tells of a museum trip with her daughter, who is a budding artist herself but disabled, much like the artist they’ve come to see – Yayoi Kusama.
Suzanne’s interested in strength through self-expression and how creativity can be an empowering force, especially for young people. Two of her YA novels – Screaming Divas and Gadget Girl: the art of being invisible – deal directly with this idea. And since the protagonists of Screaming Divas start an all-girl rock band (heck yeah!), I thought it’d be fun to query Suzanne about her musical tastes and influences, and whether or not they intersect with what her kids – two teenagers – are listening to.
Q: Let’s start with your personal experiences with music. As a writer of a rock-oriented book, you must have some seminal music moments in your life. Bands that changed your life and such. Can you share a couple?
A: I remember the first time I heard The Psychedelic Furs. I was in high school, living in Michigan – typical, bored suburban youth. And then I heard this great new band that wasn’t the usual Top 40 or heavy metal, or whatever else we could listen to in that bland town. After that I really got into what we now call “alternative” music. So that was pretty significant.
And I did love The Go-Go’s, and all those girl groups that followed.
I was too shy to get up on stage, so I mostly fantasized about being a rock star. A lot of my male friends were in bands, though. I wasn’t a groupie, but I was a female friend of band members. The band Hootie and the Blowfish used to practice in the house next door to mine, when we were in college. They had keg parties every weekend on the lawn, and they’d invite me over, and we’d drink beer and they’d play until the cops came. When they became famous, I was living in Japan. I took the ferry to Osaka to see them perform live again. Music, in general, has always been very important to me.
Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for rock-n-roll?
A: Hmm. I was never too crazy, but as a straight arrow high school student, I managed to get permission to skip a day of school to be d.j. for a day at an alternative rock radio station in Grand Rapids. I wrote a story about it for the school newspaper – my one moment of rock and roll glory. A slightly crazier moment was when I was on foreign study in Avignon. A friend and I hitchhiked a ride with these two hashish-smoking French guys in a Deux-Chevaux to a Simple Minds concert. (Shhh. Don’t tell my mom.) I remember the car broke down on the way home, but it was a great concert.
Q: As I get older, I’ve found new technology has actually restored my faith in music as it’s so easy to discover fantastic music, both old and new. And now that my kids are older I have a lot more time to listen and explore. How about you? How do you consume music these days? And has living in Japan influenced what you listen to?
A: I totally agree. I love having access to music from all over the world. Sometimes I stream French radio stations, or more often, I download “All Songs Considered” from NPR onto my MP3 player and listen while I’m exercising. I like to check out YouTube videos. I teach college students, and they sometimes cue me in on popular Japanese musicians, such as Bump of Chicken and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
Q: Do you often share your music with your kids? How does that go over? They’re teens so are they very receptive to your tastes? Also, and I’m not sure what the music experience is like for your daughter re beats, melody, lyrics etc., but do you play tunes for her?
A: When my son was younger, I drove him to school every day while playing CDs. He developed a taste for Elvis Presley, Darius Rucker, and Bruno Mars. He really likes Lady Gaga, and some other Japanese groups, like one called Exile. I don’t know exactly what he listens to, because he mostly consumes music on his iPod, but I know that he downloaded some of my music, including Diana Ross and the Supremes‘ Greatest Hits. The first time I heard “Baby Love” leaking out his earphones I was secretly delighted. (The band in Screaming Divas does punk versions of Supremes songs.)
My daughter, who is deaf, has an interest in music, but her experience of it is different, of course. It’s still a little mysterious to me. I think she likes to see outrageously dressed singers. They do a lot of drumming at her school in music class. I think she enjoys the rhythm section. She’s been bugging us (her parents) to take her to karaoke, so maybe we’ll try that sometime soon.
Q: Can you name three artists you’d really like your kids to know (and hopefully appreciate)?
A: Just to have a solid base in Western music, I think they need to be familiar with David Bowie, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. And maybe Nirvana.
Q: I haven’t read Screaming Divas but I get the impression from the synopsis that rock music is both refuge and springboard for the four band members. What inspired that?
A: That’s pretty much how it turned out, but mainly I wanted to write a novel about an all-girl group. I was inspired by the Riot Grrl movement, which involved many different forms of expression, including ‘zines and art. I think any kind of creative activity can be incredibly empowering. (My previous book was about a girl with a disability who finds strength through drawing manga.) You can create a world for yourself through music or writing or art.
And as a refuge – yeah, music is something that you can just kind of get lost in. I used to spend hours in my room listening to music.
Q: Looking at YA literature as a whole, this seems to be a golden time for gutsy, independent female protagonists. How do you see it? Is the YA heroine the real deal? And what’s so big about dystopian literature – why is it so popular? (this last question is just my personal query 🙂
A: There are certainly a lot of strong heroines, which is a very good thing. Some that come to mind are the main character Jet Black in Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, and Katniss in The Hunger Games. Maybe its popularity has something to do with hard times in real life such as the ongoing wars, bad economy, concerns about global warming. I think that dystopian literature may have reached its saturation point, however. More realistic books are moving into the limelight. My fingers are crossed.
Thanks Suzanne! And thanks everyone for reading!
If you’d like to know more about the work of Suzanne Kamata, find her at:
Hi everyone & Happy New Year! I just got back from the Christmas holidays where I tried (mostly in vain) to stay offline as much as possible.
Damn all those vacation rentals and their easy Wi-fi 🙂 But it was good to get away – we drove down the California coast, saw some nature and lots of seals, sea lions, otters and stars, absolutely amazing stars at night.
And even though I’d made a California playlist for the drive, we ended up listening to the radio most of the time. Which pretty much meant classic rock and modern pop. So my kids now know who CCR is, and I know that Avicii is like, one guy from Sweden. We also watched the New Year’s Eve countdown shows, in which Miley Cyrus threw down the entertainment gauntlet by fondling a female dwarf in gold lame. Let’s see Lady Gaga top that!
So herewith is my second installment of the Year in Review, in no particular order, heavy on strong female voices. Hoorah!
Tessanne Chin’s version of ‘I Have Nothing’ on The Voice reaffirmed my belief in the power of a pop song. Whitney would be proud. Tessanne, you are golden.
Bieber & his moustache. You can do it, sweetheart – Movember is only ten months away!
Timberlake sings that he wants a girl to be “my mirror, my mirror staring back at me”. I say, “I’ve got no time for a raging narcissist, JT. I’m moving on.”
Critics’ Darling that’s actually kinda boring: Vampire Weekend.
Criminally Underappreciated: Neko Case.
Unexpectedly awesome in concert: Belle & Sebastian, Dirty Projectors.
Robin Thicke is that Dad with the hands that you had to watch out for when you were a babysitter.
What do Kanye West and Woody Allen have in common? They’ve both lost touch with the real world.
If you want to hear something cool, check out Lo-Fang’s single, ‘#88’. Debut album out soon.
Atoms for Peace is Pepsi to Radiohead’s Coke. You drink it anyway, but only because they’re out of Coke.
Pharrell Williams’ sweet, disarming face totally hides his pervy nature.
Whoever chose the Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam songs for the TV show Castle is the MOST AWESOME PERSON EVER.
The best singer-songwriters today aren’t American or even Canadian. They’re Brits: Laura Marling and Jake Bugg.
One of my favorite things about 2013 was listening to Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annies.
Super duo: Edie Brickell & Steve Martin.
There was more fresh, original music coming out of country and alt-country than the alternative/rock scene. Discuss.
Eminem is now 40. Can an angry rapper age gracefully? This could be interesting.
All hail the return of the king – David Bowie – and the art of the music video:
One day I’m going to listen to that Arcade Fire double album all the way through. But probably not ’til EO goes off to college.
The sad thing about Miley Cyrus is that she made us forget what a great voice she has.
New NCIS-LL Cool J crossover hit: ‘Grandmama Said Knock You Out’.
I know I’m supposed to say Breaking Bad, but what I really like are Arsenal games and Castle.
Still the coolest person in the room: Aimee Mann on Twitter.
The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street. Please can we stop with the all-soundtrack ADHD movie? It smacks of artistic desperation and well, laziness.
Embrace the cliché: 2013 was the Year of our Lorde. That is all.
Wait. Yet. It’s still Beyonce’s world. We’re just living in it. #texasproud
When you heard it. Was it on the radio? Or in the middle of a mix tape? An album? A CD? Did you buy it yourself or borrow it from a friend? After you heard it, did you go out and get yourself a guitar or eyeliner or a preacher’s hat? Did you stick a safety pin in your ear and wear a dog collar to school the next day?
Did you even know what was happening to you?
I’m talking about your Before & After Song: a song or album that defined your musical tastes from the first moment you heard it – something that most definitely wasn’t your parents’ music. As if: this was my life before song X and this was my life after, forever altered.
I had so much fun putting this blog post together. I contacted a bunch of people – flesh & blood friends, Twitter friends, my brother – and asked them for their B&A songs (It would’ve been MORE fun if I could have collected everyone’s answers in person over cocktails, but hey). Then as I was typing up their fantastic, thoughtful responses, I listened to everything on Spotify. The playlist went something like this:
Beastie Boys, Adrian Belew, Blondie, David Bowie, The Cars, Fleetwood Mac, The Jam, Led Zeppelin, Pulp, Lou Reed, R.E.M., RUN-DMC, The Slits, James Taylor & U2.
You can listen to it here:
Now read on for their replies and for those moments when a song can change your life…
Matthew Dunn, author of the Spycatcher novels, former spy, way cool
The first album I ever bought, in 1980 when I was age eleven, was David Bowie’s newly released Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). Though Bowie had been a super star in the early seventies, I knew little about him but by chance found a two-page spread on him in a discarded newspaper. His character fascinated me. So, I bought the above album, though remember feeling a little nervous before pressing play on my cheap cassette player. The opening track – “It’s No Game (Part 1)” – with its discordant heavy guitar riffs, Japanese female vocals, and Bowie’s primal scream voice, immediately hooked me. In Bowie, I’d found a very unusual and talented artist, and Scary Monsters was not only the album that defined my subsequent musical tastes but also remains one of my all time favorite collections of tracks.
Meredith Spidel, writer, Mom of the Year, funny & honest as hell
I find it hard to pin down one song, but “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac always spoke to me. I remembered reading Stevie Nicks interviewed once. She said that the song didn’t start to make complete sense to her until she turned 27, and wouldn’t you know? When I hit 27, it was like I GOT IT. All of a sudden, I would put the song on and it was like it was explaining me. Does that sound crazy? Probably, oh well!
Scott Murphy, writer, adventurer, musical omnivore
Wow…so many. But I’ll have to go with Led Zeppelin. The first time I heard the opening chords of “Good Times, Bad Times” I was hooked by their power. And then my musical bonanza really began…
Oh…and The Cars…mustn’t forget The Cars…
Tania Willis, artist, illustrator, kick-ass mom
Like most musically inclined British kids in the 80’s, all my self-identification took place from 10-12 at night with a radio under the covers, listening to John Peel. I lived in the countryside in a dull county in the Midlands. I didn’t like the music that my female friends at school liked, so I felt like a bit of a loner. The only place I felt I had some community was listening to John Peel. After my girl-crush on Siouxsie Sioux, Blondie, etc I listened to other girl bands like The Raincoats, Kleenex, X-Ray Specs, Mo-Dettes, etc. I was looking for females to identify with, so when The Slits came along with their home-made DIY sound, attitude, lyrics, music, words etc. I loved them. They were everything I’d waited for. Along with their Notting Hill reggae connections, I followed them devotedly through to their incarnations as New Age Steppers.
We were so lucky to live through this era. I wish my daughter could see how easy it was to be a creative & strong female without needing to compromise yourself sexually to sell music (this is a regular conversation amongst my female friends now). My husband & I were even considering piecing together old documentary footage to show our daughter the great female role models of the 80’s
Steve Beck, musician, writer, conduit to the best music videos ever
It was easy to find a common ground in music with my parents while growing up. The top artists at the time were Paul McCartney, Elton John, Paul Simon, David Bowie and more. Eventually I started seeking out my own music and trading tapes with friends. On the tail-end of one of these cassettes was Lou Reed’s “Wild Child” and although I didn’t know who the artist was at the time, it changed my perception of music. Here was someone whose lyrics were blunt, forthright, and undisguised and his voice cracked when he attempted to sing. This has guided my musical journey ever since.
Jennifer Parks, groovin’ mom, fellow Texan in Hong Kong, born in ‘76
woman of mystery
It’s so hard to answer! I had a few moments of mimicking my older brother and sister’s tastes – erasure, Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, etc.
But, my big break came with hip hop – Run DMC’s Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill.
I still love those albums.
Iain Williamson, film & media teacher, Arsenal fan (!), father
My parents both had little interest in music so very little influence from them as I rejected Cliff Richard (my Mum’s fav) when I was about two.
In terms of defining albums, Eat to the Beat by Blondie was the first album I ever bought and “Atomic” by Blondie, the first single. However, Setting Sons by The Jam was the first album to have a really profound impact on me politically and socially.
RenZelen, sci-fi writer, reviewer, Pearl Jam/Jack White comrade-in-arms
I will have to go with Bowie, as he was a game-changer for a generation. He’d been around for quite a while before Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars of course, but not really registering on my rock radar. I remember watching Top of The Pops as a kid in the ’70s like everybody did. It usually featured the pop and glam rock bands that infested the charts at the time and, as I was born and raised in the Midlands, the birthplace of Heavy Metal, I heard plenty of heavy rock music around me. But this particular time on Top of the Pops a strange creature appeared wearing a one piece, multi-coloured jumpsuit and red patent boots. I remember the white nail polish that we noticed as he cheekily draped a languid arm over the shoulders of his guitarist Mick Ronson (a brilliant guitarist I may add) and who could miss the bright orange hair which looked like he’d had an electric shock? Best of all he was singing about a “Starman” and for a kid obsessed with science-fiction – what could be better?!
No-one had written songs about aliens and we’d certainly not seen anything like Bowie before! Ziggy was the first album I saved up my pocket money to buy and as for all the following albums, each one was different, as was his persona.
Michael Daley, screenwriter, dog rescuer, The Professor
James Taylor’s “The Secret of Life”. Really all of his music. Before that, music was just something on the radio in the background. Now it’s something I can glean advice on life from – or inspire a story… maybe even made me a writer…
Kate Farr, editor of Sassy Mama HK, blogger, expat extraordinaire
Being a British child of the 80’s (ok, ’79, but right at the very end!), my teen years were spent wholeheartedly embracing Britpop. “Blur or Oasis?” may have been the quickest way of identifying your musical tribe in ’95, but my heart was won by a tall, bespectacled, slightly morose wordsmith from Sheffield… the wonderful Jarvis Cocker.
I was – and am to this day – a huge fan of Pulp, and their 1994 breakthrough album His n’ Hers was on heavy rotation in my room in the mid-nineties. “Babies” is a beautifully-crafted exploration of teen angst, lust and heartbreak, and has a wonderfully catchy guitar hook to boot. A top tune that fills me with nostalgia and makes me want to don my purple DMs every time I hear it.
Robert Stephens, accountant, my oldest brother (he’s single, ladies…)
& he doesn’t tweet
It was the summer of ’82. I had my musical awakening working at a record store in San Antonio, where there was so much new music. We had a big import section filled with British punk and avant garde bands like King Crimson and Roxy Music. New Order was coming out of the ashes of Joy Division, Bowie had released Scary Monsters; it all completely turned my musical tastes on my ear. Before that I listened to classic rock. The one song I remember from this time was Adrian Belew’s “The Lone Rhinoceros”, about being alone in this zoo. There were some great lines in it – the lyrics and the guitar work were perfect.
Adrian worked with Bowie & Robert Fripp, and they in turn worked with Brian Eno. A group of musicians doing new, interesting work.
And then there’s me
We didn’t have cable TV when it first came out in the early/mid ‘80s, but I used to babysit for a family that did. After the little kids were asleep, I’d sit transfixed by MTV – my window in to the world of New Wave bands and their exotic videos: Duran Duran, INXS, Talk Talk, Blancmange, ABC, etc. The tectonic plates were shifting.
Then about a year later, Robert came home from college with two albums that changed my life forever: R.E.M.’s Reckoning and U2’s October. The second full-length LPs from each band. Their music sounded like nothing I’d heard before, there were no reference points – it was exciting and different and truly alternative to me. The tune that always reminds me of this time is R.E.M.’s “So. Central Rain,” which funnily enough did not have an accompanying video on MTV’s heavy rotation. I had to make up my own moving images about the band and its message: “These rivers of suggestion are driving me away…”
It was cosmically appropriate that when I first saw R.E.M. in concert (on the Life’s Rich Pageant tour in Austin), I was with Robert and our sister.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end!
Please share your B&A music – I want to hear your song stories!
This is the kind of thing you dream about – discovering you have hidden talents. Like finding buried treasure in your backyard, or perhaps a cache of secret weapons or super powers hitherto unknown. What would that feel like? What would you do with your gifts?
If you’re Dawn Lintern of the band Das Fluff, you start singing. Or I should say, you keep singing, only louder, stronger, tougher than you’ve ever sung before. And then what happens is you record, you travel, you perform and you sound just fricking awesome. Even if you don’t get a chance to blow out the windows.
See that was the scenario at Das Fluff’s last Hong Kong gig, which was an afternoon tea session at Saffron Bakery in Stanley. It was such a surreal experience, I’m not sure what I should write about first: the fact that YO could rip-stick in the plaza while I enjoyed some live music (a first for therockmom – I like!); my double shot drink order – a chocolate shake followed by a craft beer – or watching the reaction of the crowd as they wandered in for skim milk lattes and realized there was a dark, edgy pop duo performing in front of the DJ booth. Over by the One Direction posters and just across from the Captain Fantastic pinball machine. On a pop culture scale of weird meeting quaint, Das Fluff amongst the Southside crowd placed them on the same color pallet as David Bowie popping over to Bing Crosby’s place to sing ‘Little Drummer Boy’. (It’s on YouTube and worth a look.)
Lintern’s last FB post from HK called her visit ‘the most challenging gigs of my life’, so all credit to her and Christian Ruland (keyboards & visuals) for taking us on. There might be pockets of coolness down around Sai Ying Pun or out in To Kwa Wan, but collectively, as a city, we are seriously uncool – Josh Groban kind of uncool – and to be honest, we’re pretty uptight. You know, Das Fluff got harassed about the noise, during the soundcheck. And this is after they turned the amps right down, in case the sound waves blew out the bakery’s picture windows. Apparently, that can happen if you’re not careful.
But still, I was damn glad to be there. With my shake and my beer, with the family in tow, and with EO asking: why do you need to go out and see music when you’ve got the internet? Blasphemous child! As God is my witness, I vowed, I will change her mind – one gig at a time.
Even better, I got to chat with Lintern after the last set about her music (it comes from a dark, angry place), her influences (Bowie, The Cure) and her path to Hong Kong (enter Sean Hocking from Saffron). Our conversation brought me round to my opening thought and the really cool part of the afternoon: finding out how she discovered her voice.
Lintern had been in a number of bands in her late teens and twenties, but she said she’d always been quite shy, had never really explored the boundaries of her voice. It took a visit to a voice coach to convince her that she had serious pipes. Add in her training in yoga, which helped with her breathing, as well as finding the right musical partners (Ruland + Steve May on guitar), and Lintern arrived at a place where she felt confident enough to push the envelope.
For someone like myself, who can’t sing a note, I find that fascinating – this idea of finding your voice, literally and figuratively. Lintern said it was a complete surprise to discover. And, even now, she’s still working on her sound, still figuring out what she’s capable of, while also trying to strip things down and find the essence of the song. She’s overcoming her shyness by challenging the audience and getting in their faces. She said she likens it to inhabiting a role – of a character I’d describe as an electro-damaged chanteuse. Marlene Dietrich meets Lene Lovich meets Siouxsie Sioux. “Brace yourself,” she told the audience, with a very British comic edge. Yes, not exactly a Sunday afternoon acoustic vibe. So unfortunately for us in the bakery audience, Lintern had to tone down her set to accommodate the place and the crowd. Got to watch out for those picture windows after all.
But we’ll take what we can get. And we’ll look forward to louder, stronger, tougher things to come.
Find Das Fluff at:
Then watch and learn:
If you want to find out what Saffron has in store for the live music scene in Hong Kong, get on their mailing list via: http://saffronbakery.com/
ATTENTION MILLENNIAL GIRLS EVERYWHERE:
Never fear, therockmom is here! To advise, to educate and of course, to embarrass you, as most moms are want to do. (Do what you’re good at, I say.)
Yes, I know you’re sinking under a mountain of college debt. Yes, I know it’s tough to get a job or even an internship out there. And yes, I realize you girls don’t even know how to date. Maybe you’re too worried about climate change or budget cuts, I don’t know.
Btw, if you don’t believe me about the dating thing, click here. Weird but true.
But I’ve been contemplating your various issues and crises (and watching Girls once a week) and I think I can help. After careful study, including an exhaustive, multi-generational survey and lots of web surfing, I’ve pinpointed the one area, the one crucial variable, where Generation Y women truly struggle. And if you can change this one thing – say it with me, “Yes, I can!” – I think you’ll find your horizons will broaden, the skies will clear and you’ll enjoy life more.
So what, you ask, is Gen Y’s missing X Factor?
You have no Rock Gods.
Let’s be honest here, your music has a serious masculinity problem. I mean, do you really want to see Jay Z or Pitbull shirtless? Can you imagine Mumford & Sons with groupies? Do they even have groupies? And while he may love his torso and his tattoos, raise your hand if you think Adam Levine is truly dangerous. Come on now, one of 2012’s hottest bands – Fun. – is by name and reputation absolutely not dangerous.
If you still don’t believe me, see my helpful chart below.
I blame it on two influences: the all-singing, all-dancing, sometimes acting Michael Jackson; and Kurt Cobain and his sweater. You see, the current generation of multi-talented pop types (Usher, Bruno, the Justins) all profess a huge appreciation for and a desire to emulate the King of Pop. And while you can clearly see the genius in “PYT”, you can’t say the man was manly. (Well, maybe in countries where English is not a first language.) Hence, the generation that followed him has somehow forgotten that when you grab your crotch you really need to mean it. Now, over in the rock world, Nirvana influenced huge numbers of bands with its groundbreaking sound, sensitive songwriting and rejection of rock norms. But perhaps Cobain’s lasting legacy will be the fuzzy cardigan he wore for MTV’s Unplugged in New York, released in 1994. With one piece of thrift store clothing he tells the world and young girls everywhere, I want to be comfy. I have no sex appeal, so just ignore my piercing blue eyes and stringy blonde hair.
And all the while the peacocks of old – Plant, Daltry, Morrison, Roth, Rose – wring their hands and cry out in a Jack Black call to arms, “Where is your chest hair? Where are your leather pants?”
Where are your Golden Gods?
Okay, I can tell you’re still a little confused. I thought you might be. Not to worry. I polled a cross section of female friends and asked them to tell me what rock star (past or present) they’d most like to go backstage to… um, meet. With their answers, I’ve put together some bullet points – a handy checklist if you will – that you can refer to as needed when you’re trying to find out if a Gen Y guy is worthy of Rock God status. Do I think there are any 20something rockers out there who compare to previous generations? That’s like asking if Harry & Taylor are the Mick & Marianne of your generation. Get serious. Nevertheless, here goes:
1. He should have hips.
Rock can be political, it can have a sensitive side, sure, but when it comes to the stuff of teenage dreams, you need to remember that all rock stars start with the pelvis – censored like Elvis’, immortalized like Jagger’s or photographed like David Lee Roth’s. And, no, Psy’s dance-y hips absolutely do not count in this equation.
2. He shouldn’t be ashamed of his body.
Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi? Both proud of their bottoms. As are Robbie Williams and Prince (maybe too much in their cases). Even a rock star as articulate as Sting is proud to take off his shirt and sport a little skin. The yoga helps. Justin T, we may have seen you shirtless, but we also know you still get carded on a regular basis, so that’s not quite manly enough for us.
3. He should date a supermodel.
This is really a given, as it furthers the whole rock-as-theater image that we need. Jack White is your best bet for Rock God status right now, being a kick-ass musician and having married and subsequently divorced a model (though I’ve never seen him shirtless, nuts!). And I don’t know where this trend came from of sensitive guys in waistcoats settling down with slim, thoughtful actresses (Gwyneth & Chris, Marcus & Carey), but it needs to stop. We want you larger than life!
4. He has to drive, or sing about driving, or sing about cars.
I know we’re all worried about greenhouse gases but how disappointing is it to learn that Millennials would give up their cars before they parted with their computers or cell phones? You cannot write a great song about being ‘Born to Telecommute’ or ‘I Love My Samsung Galaxy’ or ‘Life in the Wi-Fi Lane’. Rock-n-roll and cars, people, that’s a religion.
5. He needs leather, big hair optional.
Has Lenny Kravitz taught you nothing? Rock is not about fuzzy sweaters, it’s not about comfort. It’s about planting your foot on the edge of that Marshall amp in your motorcycle chaps and letting people worship you! Eighties style! Having said that, however, I’ll give Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl in their flannel a hall pass on this one, because they’re awesome enough as is. And because Ed ditched his first wife to marry a model, so he ticked box #3.
6. He must embrace androgyny.
Play around with your sexual identity, absolutely. But, please, not in some respectable-Rachel-Maddow kind of way. Look at Bowie, still subversive and provocative after all these years. David Lee Roth may have acted like the most hetero guy on the planet but he had long blonde hair and happily agreed to be tied up and photographed by Helmut Newton. So start with black eyeliner and something fishnet-y and work from there.
7. He should rock with the Devil.
This is an oldie but goodie and disappointingly rare these days. A loose connection to Satan – real or imagined – is not required but it helps. Remember: dark, aggressive, occult-ish. For reference, see Nick Cave and paganism, Jimmy Page, The Beatles, even Billy Idol in a pinch.
8. And finally – Act. Don’t Tweet.
When was the last time a young rock star trashed a hotel room? Exactly. Don’t just post something inappropriate, do something inappropriate. (Though not harmful to any member of any gender, natch.)
Wait, rockmom, you’re thinking, we’re 21st century women. We’ve evolved. We work at Google, we volunteer, we’re in charge of our own FB status and we like hanging with our parents. Why would we want to embrace any of these macho, misogynistic stereotypes?
Because you’re young! Because rock should be dangerous! And because rock stars should remember, by extension, that danger is their business.
I rest my case, Millennials. It’s up to you.
Jack White – here to save rock-n-roll. Did you notice that he’s driving?
Roger Daltrey: last.fm
Robert Plant: The Sun UK
David Lee Roth: tcarsc.blogspot.com
Justin Timberlake: pastemagazine.com