I Am The Passenger: A Brief History of Pop Appendages

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Stuart Sutcliffe:

basically useless

He was handsome. He wore shades. He was a modernist painter. Apart from that, there was no other reason for him to be in The Beatles. He certainly couldn't play bass. People also often wonder what that other great bass-playing black hole, Bill Wyman, did in the Rolling Stones. Plenty, is the answer.

He had a big amplifier. He played bass. He looked after the group's press cuttings. The only other true archetype of the Useless Bassist genre was Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. His attributes were many and often remarked upon, but playing bass wasn't among them.

Linda McCartney:

back-up vegetarian

Nice woman. Committed vegetarian. Married to Paul McCartney. Otherwise not over- qualified to be the keyboard player and backing singer in the ex-Beatle's pan-global hit-machine of the Seventies, Wings.

Andrew Ridgley: spare parts and broken hearts

The saddest thing about Andrew was that he wasn't even the one in Wham! who people fancied.

Still, he is a key figure in a noble tradition of occasional-bits-and- not-many-pieces players that includes such greats as Chaz Smash of Madness (he did a funny walk and also looked like he was pretending to play the trumpet), Brian Eno of Roxy Music (wore bacofoil, Boots' No 7 and a ferocious pout while randomly twiddling knobs on old radio receivers), and Paul Rutherford (shouldered the responsibility for looking gay in Eighties' band Frankie Goes To Hollywood).

Bez: you sing it, I'll dance around a bit

The Happy Mondays had rhythm, they took loads of drugs, they were uncouth and they had Bez. Bez did nothing at all apart from shake himself and a pair of maracas into a lather, although his cylindrical head did give him the startled look of a man in a totem pole, which was apt. Older readers may also recall Stacia. Stacia was a well-endowed feature of Seventies space-biker boogie band Hawkwind's live show. They would play their hit "Silver Machine". Stacia would take her clothes off and dance around.

Bananarama: it ain't what you do...

There is also a great tradition of entire groups who sing on their own records but do so so wearily that you wonder why they didn't get someone in to save them the trouble. Conversely, there is a tradition of groups who don't sing at all on their records but prance about with such brio that you think, blimey, yes, they must eat a lot of yoghurt. They are the essence of pop passengerhood. Their name? Milli Vanilli.