Worst Rock Stars Ever 2: Readers Respond
In my last update from the front lines of soul-crushing pop horror, I wrote up a list of the ten most obnoxious, annoying, and worthless rock stars in history. At the end of the article, I invited Something Awful readers to write in and tell me their opinions on which rock stars I should have included in the list. It became obvious that the readers of this site are an angry, frustrated group of people, consumed by impotent hatred of people they’ve only seen on television. In other words, we have something in common. Due to a combination of being extremely impressed by some of the replies and not wanting to do any actual work, I’ll post some of the more enlightening ones here.
People always bitch at me when I include their e-mail addresses in updates, because they’re worried that our evil address-harvesting spam robots (which generate Something Awful’s only source of revenue) will flood their inboxes with offers for terrifying hentai games and bootlegged DVDs of “Troll 2.” These fears are completely reasonable and totally grounded in reality, so I suppose I’ll just have to identify these e-mails by the names of their senders, if available. If you want to contact these people, stand on your roof and holler at them. Maybe they live nearby.
First of all, we have an excellent letter by a fellow named Richard P., explaining why Nicky Wire, bassist and lyricist of the Manic Street Preachers, could be considered one of the worst rock stars ever. Since the Manics never made much of an impression here in the states, I’ll briefly explain their history: they started out as an extremely inauthentic hard rock/punk band, and were prone to claiming that they’d be bigger than Guns N’ Roses. They peppered their songs with half-understood political and intellectual slogans, making them basically the sonic equivalent of a bumper sticker. At some point after their third album, their nutcase guitarist/lyricist Richey Edwards disappeared, never to be seen again (who’d blame him?). In response to this tragedy, the remaining members decided to become the poor man’s U2, and have made several gut-wrenchingly awful records since. Despite the Manics being a c-list act here in the states, Richard has made a great case for Nicky’s inclusion among the worst of all time:
I pondered for a while (3 minutes while playing Tetris) whether to include one or both of the Manic Street Preachers' "controversial" lyricists / stage props, but I'll settle on Nicky Wire since (a) Richey Edwards was actually insane, whereas Nicky was just annoying, and (b) Every single thing he's done since Richey disappeared has sucked horribly, and there's nobody else to shoulder the blame. If you haven't heard much from The Manics, it's because nobody in America liked them, prompting Mr. Wire to proclaim that "America is crap", making you wonder why he wanted to tour there in the first place. This is just one of the many instances which have put Nicky Wire in the running for the coveted "Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Talking out Your Arse" award, where he is currently tied for 2nd place with the guy who wrote Neon Genesis Evangelion [Is this some sort of anime joke? Please, Richard, this is a good letter, don’t ruin your credibility just yet. –Dave]. Other great Nicky Wire moments include:
Nicky? More like ICKY!
- Claiming his band would break up after releasing one album which would outsell Appetite for Destruction. It didn't outsell AFD, but their "Farewell" single made a lot of money, so what was he to do but make a follow-up? And another and another and another...
- Wearing a dress and eyeliner on stage, filling his album sleeves / lyrics with out-of-context "intellectual" quotes, constantly posing for photographs made up to look like Gary Numan, and claiming to be a socialist / communist / anarchist / democrat whenever the mood suited him. He then wrote a song called "No Surface, All Feeling".
- Some of the most clumsy, embarrassing "smart" lyrics ever. "Into the vein exhibit the derelict / Secular mosaic distracted at birth / A cubist abstraction let it live forever". No, seriously, those are actual lyrics.
- Some of the lamest non-John Mayer lyrics ever. "The censorship of my skin / is screaming inside / and from within / There's no room in this world for a girl like me". There are more articulate livejournals than this.
- When founding member / co-lyricist Richey Edwards disappeared (presumed dead), what better way to honour his memory than by releasing yet more albums without him? Bonus round: With nobody to shoulder the blame, we can be assured that above lyrics are 100% Nicky.
- Turning from an androgynous punk-rock "Generation Terrorist" into an AOR-playing, white suit-wearing, strolling-along-the-beach-like-Boyzone middle-aged prat so fast he actually broke the sound barrier.
- Shoving in a cynical "I AM STILL AN AGRY PUNK" song on each album of said AOR shite.
Lowest Point: In a desperate attempt to regain credibility, he debuted an album in Cuba, featuring a song about Elian Gonzales (which is sure to age well). Oh, and Castro was in the audience. DOWN WITH AMERIKKKA NO BLOOD FOR CIGARS!
Mitigating Factor: Unlike Richey, he won't be eulogized as the embodiment of the Tragic Poet (tm).
Dear God, that letter certainly serves up quite a helping of primo zing. Let’s all meet up at Nicky Wire’s house with our pitchforks, shall we? Thanks, Richard! Unfortunately, not everyone who wrote to me went into such depth, but there were quite a number of good short responses. Here, a fellow named Kevin explains why he doesn’t like Keith Richards:
Keith "Ancient Egyptian Rites Keep Me Alive" Richards. My original vote would have gone to Mick Jagger, but he doesn't say pompous shit like "The Rolling Stones destroy people at an alarming rate. Something about us makes them come face-to-face with themselves, sometimes for the better, sometimes in the worst possible way."
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a hilariously stupid rock-star quote, and I applaud Kevin for bringing that one to light (probably my favorite Rolling Stones quote of all time, though, is one uttered by Bill Wyman in 1969, shortly after the death of founding member Brian Jones: “Brian Jones just seemed to deteriorate over the last couple of years of his life. So he wasn’t that much of a loss, musically.” Real classy, Bill!).
There was quite a bit of hatred for “jazz” poseur Sting thrown around, and it made me wish that I’d thought of him as I was writing my list; he really is, as Socrates might say, “a big huge steaming vagina.” Here’s a great letter from a dude called Jeremy H.:
If I could make one addition it would be STING (born: Gordon Sumner). Back in the mid Eighties, when he started his solo career, Gordon made me realize that interviews with musicians were a complete waste of time. He tried to be an intellectual about his music, his beliefs and how all these things were the most important things in the world. He came across as an arrogant prick who was as full of shit as Bono (Though even Bono didn't have his wife give birth on camera and then include it in a documentary like Gordon did in the terrible film of the "Making of the Blue Turtles". What kind of person does that?).
He told the world he was escaping the constraints of rock and pop music to embrace jazz. Musically, he hired some established jazz players as expensive side-men who added arty flourishes to his "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" songs. Those songs served notice to the world that Gordon's new direction was to go simply bland (and one of those songs was called Children's Crusade - another signal of unrestrained pomposity). On his next album, he managed to tame "Little Wing" into a snooze just formulaic enough to get radio play. To do this he added a string section (!?!!?) and had Hiram Bullock sanitize Hendrix's solo.
His collective solo efforts are so boring it is hard to believe he once fronted the Police. The Police were not perfect by any stretch but at least that music could get me to move a little. Album titles like 'Ten Summoners Tales', 'The Soul Cages' and 'Sacred Love' are appallingly pretentious. He now relies on hiring ace session musicians to run through his tepid melodies at a distinctly mild tempo. He can also fetch $100 a ticket for his current tour with fellow has-been Annie Lennox. Sadly, people will buy lots of these tickets. Instead of being the important contributor to musical "art" he thinks he is, Gordon is just another pompous ass in the world of calculated product shifting mainstream music.
Bravo, Jeremy, on a truly inspired takedown. A reader named Kaden had similar complaints, and even included a hilarious photo:
C'mon... You leave out Gordie Sumner?Even if you could forgive the fake Jamaican accent and the rent-a-band transition to Jazz Artiste, no power in the universe can absolve him from flagrant photo-ops with guys with plates in their lips. Cripes...
Which one of these men is a pussy?
A guy who is presumably named Matt made a good case as to why I had the wrong Sex Pistol in my original list:
You definitely picked the wrong Sex Pistol. Number 10 should be Sid Vicious instead of Johnny Rotten. The only thing Sid had was stage presence, he joined the band after the release of Never Mind the Bollocks and therefore was never actually on a Sex Pistols album, but his stunning lack of ability to play bass should definitely be worth more than Johnny Rotten insulting his fans. Sid Vicious is probably the only bassist in the history of bass-playing that could not play it at all. AT ALL. Sid used all the money he made with the Sex Pistols to finance his heroin addiction which is what broke up the band. In interviews Sid was known to either cuss out his interviewer or pass out mid-sentence (usually while cussing out the interviewer.) He called a woman a twat on live TV, as he continued to muddle through an unsuccessful solo career leading up to the climax of his career when he killed his former prostitute wife, and later overdosed on heroin given to him by his mother. …That being said, I like his cover of “My Way.”
Despite all this, you have to admire the man’s moxie: “John [Rotten]’s just jealous because I’m the brains of the group. I’ve written all the songs, even from the beginning when I wasn’t even in the group. They were so useless they had to come to me because they couldn’t think of anything by themselves.” At first, one might scoff at this claim: a half-retarded junkie actually wrote all of the Sex Pistols’ songs? Then again, if one listens to the album, there’s really no indication that this isn’t the case.
The next letter sort of came out of nowhere, but it gave me a chuckle: it’s from a guy calling himself “Crooked,” who has an amusing story to tell about a rock and roll nobody from the past:
My vote for reader's choice would be Eddie Berner, the replacement guitarist for A Flock of Seagulls, who came in after they wrote “I Ran”. Not that “I Ran” was such a fucking great song, but it was a hit and made them some money, and this dude, with his self-serving style of nonstop guitar solos drove the band into the ground. No one wants to hear a four minute guitar solo on the radio, buy a sixty minute guitar solo album, or go to a three hour guitar solo concert. Well, almost no one.
What makes him stand out in my eyes is that he also happened to be the chef at a really bad restaurant I worked at. Twenty years later and he still has the same Flock of Seagulls hair, albeit with a big bald spot that he combs over. The guy is very easily the biggest asshole I've ever met in my life, and I met Omarosa. Big enough of an asshole to make more than half the staff walk out of an easy job they were all grossly overpaid for. The real kicker though, is that he feels that he's still entitled to rock star status, despite being an arrogant, pudgy, balding has-been.
This letter isn’t a write-in for worst rock star ever, but I had to include it anyway, since it is a thing of remarkable beauty. A reader named Mike found an eerie Steven Tyler look-alike:
I saw that picture of Steve Tyler in your article and it vaguely reminded me of something. After eating some past-freshness-date chili-cheese Bugles I remembered what it was. Something from Star Trek. When I went looking for the Trek image I didn't expect it to be as horribly similar as it turned out to be. Enjoy!
Deeply, deeply disturbing. Apparently this is something called a "Salt Vampire." The one on the right, I mean.
Chilling! Another awesome letter from the not-quite-on-topic file is this, from an astute music fan named Michael:
You forgot one really, really important rock star test: Is it likely that a woman would flash her boobs at the alleged rock star during a performance without a trace of irony? This is a CRITICAL part of being a good rock star--it shows that you and your fans "get it."
Johnny Rotten: Yes.
Shaun Ryder: Yes.
Lenny Kravitz: Yes. This is a good time to point out that it in no way EXCUSES his other crimes.
Axl Rose: Come on.
Liam Gallagher: Yeah, probably, at least in some Eurotrash hole like Portugal or Croatia where the same girls will be whipping them out for Oasis one night and Manowar the next. Europeans will claim that this is because they are more open-minded about music than Brits or Americans, but it's just because they're happy whenever a Brit or
American comes to play in their goofy little country.
Steven Tyler: Give me a break. This guy has seen more silicone than David Lee Roth.
Morrissey: Ah-HAH! No woman has EVER gotten them out for this ponce.
Ted Nugent: Yes. Disgusting, horrible, droopy biker-babe-boobs perhaps, but boobs nonetheless.
Jobriath: Hmmm. Difficult to say in the context of 1972.
Now, who else will fail this critical boob test?
Maynard Keenan (getting them out for Godsmack because they're on the same festival bill and not bothering to put them away again before Tool comes out doesn't count)
Geddy Lee (largely because no woman has ever attended a Rush concert)
Post-Beatles Paul McCartney (who I CANNOT BELIEVE wasn't on this list in the first place)
I don’t know, Michael, I might whip out my tits at a Morrissey concert, but that’s just me.
Someone calling him or herself “The High Salami” had this to say about an alarming oversight in my article:
Just curious, but no Lars Ulrich? Even a Metallica fan such as myself (blast me all you like for that) can't stand the pretentious fuck. Between his minimal musical talent (they had 3 records out before he figured he should take drumming lessons), his hypocritical battle with Napster, and that god-awful speaking voice (the ultimate proof that drummers should be seen and not heard), I figured he should be on this list somewhere...ah well, what do I know?
Well, honestly, he probably should have been on the list, but let me put it this way: at this point, calling Lars Ulrich a “bad rock star” is sort of like calling Hitler a “big jerk.” There’s just no way to properly plumb the depths of his awfulness, and at this point I think the only thing to do is to lock the memory of Lars away in our box of cultural shame and speak of him as rarely as possible, bringing him up only occasionally to avert the risk of repeating his atrocities.
Speaking of atrocities, here’s a letter from a goon named Spencer who has some words to say about one of rock and roll’s true walking tragedies:
You forgot KISS, AKA Gene Simmons' ever-changing (Don't get me wrong, KISS has always sucked regardless of line-up) squad of insipid cock-rock generating drones. Between the caskets full of real KISS blood, a self-indulgent wad of toilet paper masquerading as a magazine that only *wishes* it were Maxim, stuttering radio talk show appearances in which he coats his awkwardly hilarious hard-line conservative stances in years of politically-relevant machismo and imagined importance, wonderful TV and movie cameos in which his grotesque tongue will become a focal point of a scene regardless of the show or movie's tone, and the endless stream of heinous solo records attempting to wring the last A1-stained dollars out of KISS' mindlessly faithful mulleteers' pockets, you wouldn't have enough space in the article. So why the hell not, slacker?
This man makes music and people listen to it.
Why the hell not, you ask? Because I tremble in fear of the KISS army, of course. For more Gene Simmons related amusement, I would recommend tracking down the extremely embarrassing Simmons interview conducted by Terry Gross, host of NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Terry doesn’t usually lose her cool, but listening to Gene Simmons apishly patronize her for half an hour seemed to wear on her nerves. I tried to find the interview on Fresh Air’s website, but apparently Gene Simmons declined to give permission for NPR to offer tapes, transcripts, or webcasts of this interview. My advice is to get on your favorite file-sharing service and bootleg the shit out of it. While I believe that every American has the right to free speech, I also think that Gene Simmons should have his head removed to prevent further damage to humanity’s overall level of dignity.
Among the more unexpected letters I received were a few from people who had anecdotes to share about my goofball choice for number one, the late Jobriath. Another Michael shared his experience:
I actually saw Jobriath in concert in Chicago .At the end he came out with his head inside of a mirror donut and reflected the stage lights back at the audience. That was his SFX highlight. It really was so god-awful.
Reading that simultaneously makes me wish I had been there and makes me glad that I wasn’t. I felt the same way about reading this account from someone called KoD, who related a dual-celebrity encounter:
I saw Jobriath in the Village mincingly trying to appear hip during a Quentin Crisp "reading" in a local bar. Quentin, being the gentleman he is, smiled fondly like a father who was pleased that his son just learned to pee from a standing position without soaking his shoes.
Meow! As Quentin once said, “If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style.” Jobriath, of course, was living proof of that.
I’d like to thank the above readers for being so funny and interesting and for collectively writing an article better than anything I could have done this week. I’d also like to thank everyone else who sent in letters- there were a great many more thoughtful and hilarious ones, but I only had space for so many. Keep the anecdotes, suggestions, and complaints coming, because you people provide me with twice as much entertainment as I could possibly give to you.