Don’t Fear The Reaper

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FACT: Rock stars die early, so says John Moores University. FACT: Its a good thing, says Berlin resident, Herman Platz

With recent research revealing that rock stars are more likely than other people to burn out before time, troublemakers Winehouse and Doherty better hurry and crank out some classics before its too late.

Research of over 1,000 artists from between 1956 and 2005 by John Moores University has made the startling revelation that it is indeed scientific fact, rock stars are more likely than other people to die prematurely – two to three times more likely in fact. Aside from the reassurance that the Liverpool institution is not pissing away public funding, it disproves the perception that rock stars are extraordinary beings that live above and beyond the common man.

In truth while most normal people fade away anonymously at a dismal old age, rock stars are wont to burn out in a flash of white light and a splash of vomit, effectively saving their artistic reputation and everyone else the thrill of watching their career slip on its arse.

The message is clear, if you’ve got the tunes in the bank already, then embrace the reaper, don’t fear him.

If Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and friends had lived on their remarkable form would have inevitably suffered from middle age malaise, children, wealth, boredom and the tantrums of Courtney Love. But their early implosions have cemented their artistic reputations and preserved their image in bronze.

Nick Drake‘s ™recent emergence as a celebrated icon over 30 years after his death rests largely on his tragic early demise. Its questionable whether his stark despairing masterpiece Pink Moon would have had the same resonance if he’d followed it with an album with Leo Sayer about the healing power of Christianity.

And so while Eddie Cochran, Ian Curtis and Jeff Buckley twiddle their thumbs in the afterlife, smug in their immortality, the likes of Paul McCartney and David Bowie sulk about the fact that they’ll never live up to them or their own past glories, and its too late to end it all now.

What was McCartney’s greatest mistake? Choosing life over legend and then following it up with a glut of inane nonsense.

The giants of rock music are therefore often wise to pack it in before the damp rises. Of course inevitably the timing sometimes goes awry.“ Elvis deep fried himself in peanut butter first and John Lennon‘s failing reputation was saved by a cruel and brutal demise,“ but as long as they get there sooner rather than later, as people, not wanting to disrespect the dead, will hail them as legends.

Consider Rod Stewart. A bad joke of performer these days, with generations after generations seeing only the poncing preening caricature croaking out the ‘standards’™, and missing out on the whirling wildman of Rod the Mod from the early 70s when he was one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll singers, coughing up such classics as Every Picture Tells A Story and A Nod is As Good as a Wink.  If only he’d taken Jim up on his offer of an early bath in Paris.

But if Jim Morrison were alive today he could easily have become a similar object of ridicule, with his classic early body of work overlooked as a result. Jimi Hendrix on the other hand may have ended up where Bob Dylan, Ray Davies and Brian Wilson were fifteen years ago, looking forlornly down a dead end in their career, atop a dodgy decade or so of music, and feeling very much ignored and unloved.

If Brian Wilson had topped himself over the madness of Smile in ’67, if Bob Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle crash had been fatal and if Ray Davies had been bludgeoned to death in 1971 before he could make his horrific series of theatrical concept albums, then the tables could have been turned over.

Today’™s talented vulnerables, Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty, prompt predictions of their early demise with their tales drug damaged excesses. But if the grim reaper took a swing tomorrow, would they really become legends, or do they run the risk of bowing out before creating anything truly great?

Or being like Sid Vicious, an irritating legend of not music but lunacy and debauchery? But still there’s always the danger of waiting too long – look at poor unfortunate Richard Ashcroft.
Gone but not forgotten. Apologies for the soundtrack

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