The Winklevoss twins were ready to rock! It was June 2022, and the billionaire entrepreneurs roared into Asbury Park in a 45-foot Prevost tour bus that announced, in huge letters, that MARS JUNCTION had arrived to bust the house down. From CREEM 002:https://t.co/TrP5qDbfqc
— CREEM (@creemmag) December 24, 2022
… In the 20th century, the label “rock star” was the ultimate statement of individuality, a license for generations of swaggering, staggering musical geniuses to trash greenrooms and hurl televisions off balconies. In this century, the term has an extra meaning. This new usage came from the workplace, and originally implied virtuosity, like “ninja” or “guru.” By the 2020s, however, the term seems to have further devolved into something closer to “productive.” In many offices around America, telling someone they’re a “rock star” is now the same thing as telling them they did a really good job, a verbal downgrade so widespread it’s rendered the term meaningless. A quick search on my local Craigslist jobs board found “rock star” applied to a dental sterilization technician, a Jimmy Johns delivery driver, and a commissary kitchen prep cook in Canoga Park. One board management software company markets itself with a web banner reading “Become a Compliance Rock Star.”
Another switch happened this century, one that feels related in ways visible only to future historians. The bosses are rocking out. The late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen played guitar in Paul Allen and the Underthinkers. Lamar McKay, BP oil executive, plays guitar in the pro-whiskey Southern Slang. Both bands sound like Home Depot commercials. The founder of Xerjoff hired Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi to jam with him on an instrumental track promoting a new line of perfume. David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, is also known as DJ D-Sol. His peppy EDM tracks sound like hold music for a Finnish airline. “No matter how much money you make or what you do, everybody wants to be Keith Richards,” Mangano Consulting CEO Charles Mangano said of his Rolling Stones cover band in a 2006 interview with The Wall Street Journal. Cablevision CEO James Dolan once booked his own band to open for the Eagles, at Madison Square Garden, which he owns…
I’ve spent years touring with bands. Most of my friends have as well. For us, memories of touring are memories of grueling slogs. Not just the physical labor, the amps lugged up stairwells and the epic quests for clean restrooms, but the emotional labor, the enforced downtime of sound checks, the slow-motion exhaustion of driving hundreds of miles to play to dozens of dinkompoops for tens of dollars, night after night after night after night.
“Dinkompoops”—what a terrible word to call your own fans, the people who came out to see your touring band. And yet, you begin to resent them, the people who support you, because you are so goddamn fucking tired; tired of the driving, and the bad food, and the no sleep, and the ugly odors, and having less privacy than a convict, and at some point you project your fury outward, at these nice but ultimately anonymous people you meet every night, an endless procession of them, these wonderful people you’ve started to call “dinkompoops” in your head because you just want to go home. Money can only shield you from so much. I’ve seen biohazard horrors in nightclub bathrooms I’ve never shared with my therapist or wife.
So what is it about this lifestyle that would attract someone who can do, literally, anything? If you could race Ferraris, or hang glide in the Sahara, or explore the ocean floor, then Christ on the fucking cross, why on Earth would you do this?…
My personal guess: ‘Rock star’ looks like an easy gig! Buy some instruments, hire a(nother) personal trainer, throw couch-cushion money at booking agents and touring companies, and VOILA! You’re Mick Jagger, who gets all the sex & drugs despite looking like last week’s leftovers from the back of the frig! No heavy lifting, no unbought competition, no having to show up on other peoples’ schedules to exert physical or mental effort… or so it seems, to the bored and incurious.
It’s the 21st-century version of the maxim about why rich people prefer visual art to literature: It’s much easier to walk through a gallery with a cocktail in hand, gaze blankly at a bunch of carefully-labelled capital-A Art, and pronounce it all So interesting, than it is to sit down and read a whole, y’know, book. These days, music is ubiquitous, and with the help of relatively inexpensive technology, anyone can convince themselves they’re just a few social-media hits away from being the next… Rock Star. (Of course, the people actually making careers out of YouTube and TikTok clips are not actually ‘rock stars’, but can you expect a bunch of bored billionaires to parse that?)