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Friday, 15 January 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 15 - Rock 'n' Roll Star?

Back in 1966 The Byrds went into Columbia Studios in California to record the follow up to their single Mr. Spaceman. The song they chose to do, So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star. It was written by Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman and was inspired by the hype that was being generated around The Monkees, whose TV show had recently debuted on American TV and had launched the pre-fabricated band to fame and fortune. This manufactured band was a source of deep concern to McGuinn and Hillman and made them quite cynical about the industry itself.

Speaking to Pete Frame for book The History of The Byrds Roger McGuinn said, "Some people have accused us of being bitter for writing that song, but it's no more bitter than 'Positively 4th Street.' In fact, it isn't as bitter as that. We were thumbing through a teen magazine and looking at all the unfamiliar faces and we couldn't help thinking: 'Wow, what's happening...all of a sudden here is everyone and his brother and his sister-in-law and his mother and even his pet bullfrog singing rock 'n' roll.' So we wrote 'So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star' to the audience of potential rock stars, those who were going to be, or who wanted to be, and those who actually did go on to realize their goals."

I've often wondered what McGuinn thought of The Monkees when they made a stand to actually write their own songs and play on their own records and actually become a band in their own right rather than just the one that was seen on TV. 

It wasn't really The Monkees I was thinking about so much when I sat down to put this together. My thought was really everybody starts somewhere and those bands/artists who managed to carve out a career for themselves, get a record deal, have a few hit singles and albums, it wasn't necessarily instant success for many of them. They progressed the hard way, playing live, traveling to get to shows, living hand to mouth at times, sleeping in their car because they can't afford an apartment. You can probably think of a number of artists who did it the hard way.

These days with the proliferation of TV Shows like The Voice, X-Factor and American Idol stardom seems to come instantly. Win the show, get the deal, play huge concert venues, get records in the charts and you are in the press etc. Pot Noodle Pop!

Every now and again on those shows there is someone who has maybe been playing around in tiny clubs before small audiences night in and night out with little success but they know that music is something they want to be doing with their lives. They are honing their craft as they write their own songs and play guitar or whatever instrument they are able to. They know about disappointment when only a handful of folks stick around in a bar to hear them play but they keep at it because it is, in their mind, the only thing they can do. And then an opportunity comes along to maybe get a foot up the ladder and they take it. I have to say that I have tremendous respect for those type of people as they clearly stand apart from the rest of them who just want to be famous full stop and music is just a way of getting there quicker.

Up and down the land, across the sea, in Countries around the world there are people in bands, playing their own instruments, writing their own songs, maybe scrapping enough cash together to put out their own CD (because you don't necessarily need a Record Label to do that these days) with the hope that there will be people at the show who like them enough to buy a copy and the next time they are in town that purchaser brings a friend or two along. Amid the disappointments the band keeps going because some people are still showing up wanting to listen and who knows some A&R man might turn up one night and be so impressed that he's willing to take a chance on them.

And then there are those Bands and Artists who maybe did once have a shot, enjoyed the limelight, had hit records, big tours etc but somewhere along the line they fell out of favour with the public ear but they are still playing, still writing new music even if it's now for a smaller audience. But they do it anyway.

I have a number of friends, and know a number of musicians who fit into this category and I'm proud of them that they do not rest on the past glories just to make a pound or two but are looking to create new things as well and somehow still remain relevant. One bloke I know will turn up and play to ten or twenty punters in the same way he would were it a full house, others look for different avenues to get their music out with doing house concerts - smaller crowds yes, but normally a crowd who are appreciative of the music and for the artist it is that which matters the most. They get their music up online in places like Bandcamp, Reverbnation or Soundcloud and do their finest to keep people aware they are still performing.

Being a Rock 'n' Roll Star is not really as easy as McGuinn and Hillman made out in the song So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star. Maybe the hardest part is once you've reached a point of stardom you have to keep on going, creating, changing etc and it's probably at this point that many of the flash in the pans fall short and that's why a lot of the top selling music today is quite disposable and irrelevant and is instantly forgettable (I'm not meaning that everything that's popular fits into that because there are some really genuine people who are enjoying some success who are writing and playing music that will stand the test of time).

Anyway, that's all I was thinking about.

So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star
So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
And take some time and learn how to play
And when your hair's combed right and your pants fit tight
It's gonna be all right

Then it's time to go down town
Where the agent men won't let you down
Sell your soul to the company
Who are waiting there to sell plastic ware
And in a week or two if you make the charts
The girls will tear you apart

What you pay for your riches and fame
Was it all a strange game
You're a little insane
The money that came and the public acclaim
Don't forget what you are
You're a rock'n'roll star


So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star
The Byrds

Cover Versions of So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!

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