Last week, as I was walking through Hampstead and waiting for my mum to arrive on the train, I looked into the window of an organic food shop and saw Liam Gallagher.
Now, I don’t really ever come across many celebrities and so I just kind of shrugged it off, told my sister, who replied with: ‘Oh really? Well, I saw Victor Meldrew the other day,’ and then we both just got on with our day. For having seen such a massively well-known and influential musician, and being fairly appreciative of Oasis back in the day, I thought I would have been more affected, and certainly a bit starstruck. But no. It became just another thing that had happened. This odd encounter got me thinking about the celebrity culture that surrounds musicians and just how much a part of celebrity culture they are. Are there some people who would have thrown themselves at him, in that organic food shop, demanding photographs and signatures? Should I have?
Maybe there is a day when I would have done just that. During 6th Form I used to go to quite a lot of gigs and I was always incredibly excited at the prospect of seeing my favourite musicians in person. There wasn’t a gig I went to where I wouldn’t wait around for up to an hour after the show just to get whoever happened to be playing to sign something. I would run into the venue as quickly as possible, after queuing extra early, so that I could tear the posters from the walls and hold on to them for the night.
…I still get giddy like a schoolchild when going to see gigs…
There was even a point at the NME Awards Tour in 2008 that I caught The Cribs’ drumstick as Ross Jarman threw it into the crowd and, in spite of everyone around me showing me in a very physical way that they wanted it too, I would have sooner given them my shirt than let that once in lifetime prize slip away. However, though I still get giddy like a schoolchild when going to see gigs, I am now more eager to hear the live music and relax with a drink, rather than push my way to the front for a chance to grab the set list at the end.
This may come from my now more complete understanding that musicians aren’t really celebrities. Or at least, they shouldn’t be. Movie stars, by their definition, should be recognised and publicly noticed, because they make a living from entertaining us by acting out someone else’s work. But musicians are like any other worker, they have a product that we like and so they sell it to us; it’s true they do enjoy a lot of celebrity perks, but they still have to constantly produce good stuff, or we won’t listen.
…there really is no need to get excited…
And I think this realisation is what has made artists now seem much more normal to me; they have to have dependence and hope in their own work. I recently found out that Adele was using hypnotherapy to get over her stage fright, and this is after having performed to millions of people and written the Bond theme tune, and it made me realise that there really is no need to get excited by seeing Liam Gallagher on the street in Hampstead, because though it may be an exciting and rewarding prospect to chat with him, it’s his music that he’s known for, and the music that we’re interested in. And poor nervous Adele knows that even the biggest popstar on the planet can’t make people like a bad song.
The treatment of musicians as worldwide celebrities more often than not results in bad music. Being adored and constantly bothered must be rather distracting when you’re trying to make good music, and, if people like you anyway, whether you make good music or not, then why even bother to make anything memorable. Celebrity status is why the ‘difficult second album’ is named so, because you should never fall into the trap of thinking that if you’re famous now, we’re going to keep buying your product no matter what. We want good music, not big names.