The tame men of rock
Pop stars used to trash their hotel rooms; these days, they're Hoovering them. Cayte Williams is aghast
Sunday 16 March 1997
Nicky Wire of The Manic Street Preachers once taunted fans with the deaths of John Lennon and Freddie Mercury and vowed to piss on a Brit Award if he ever got one. He's changed. Wire turned up at the Brit Awards in a T-shirt bearing the slogan I Love Hoovering, and ran off when Zoe Ball tried to give him a kiss for the cameras, saying, "My wife would have killed me." He later celebrated by mowing the lawn, and when a magazine journalist called him up to ask for his reaction to the Manics' success he said, "Ring me back after the rugby."
Liam Gallagher prefers popping out to buy a pint of milk than touring the US and was recently snapped returning from Disneyland with Patsy and baby Kensit looking more family man than rock star. Meanwhile, Noel dismissed a dig from Sporty Spice with a good- natured shrug. Even Michael Hutchence, once the Wild Man of Aussie Rock, is tame enough to settle down with Paula and Tiger. It's hardly the stuff of rock 'n' roll.
It was the tedium of touring that often led to rock stars' more outrageous behaviour in the good old days. But now you are more likely to find them doing the crossword and playing computer games than 10-in-a-bed with the groupies. "Radiohead were one of the first bands to play bridge and enjoy a nice cup of tea on tour," says a spokeswoman for the band. "They weren't interested in that rock 'n' roll lifestyle. People used to laugh when dry ice came on the stage, saying, 'Is that Radiohead boiling the kettle?'"
Other bands are following suit. The Blue Tones like singing songs on the tour bus a la Summer Holiday and playing each others home-made compilation tapes. And Apollo 440, exponents of such language as "oh, my gosh" and "flippin' heck", weren't happy about leaving their girlfriends to go on a European tour.
Audioweb, the Manchester dance-ragga hard boys, admit they're all in long-term relationships and hate the "groupie thing". According to guitarist Robin: "We've got nothing in common with groupies. They only want to use you to brag to their mates. There definitely seems to be a new breed of rock 'n' roller out there who'd rather not go insanely overboard to prove their status."
It is Cliff Richard, not Keith Richards, who is more likely to be the modern rock 'n' roller's role model. "I am the only radical rock 'n' roller," Sir Cliff recently boasted to OK! magazine. "While others were dragging groupies into their bedrooms, I was pushing them out, and when others were smashing their hotel rooms up, I was tidying mine."
So, what has tamed the wild men of rock? "Kurt Cobain took the rock 'n' roll lifestyle to its logical conclusion when he committed suicide," says Steve Sutherland, editor of NME. "In comparison, everybody else's behaviour lacks credibility, so the only thing to do is to go the other way."
Will we never again see the archetypal rock star, hell-bent on self-destruction? "Rock stars getting drunk for everyone's benefit is a bit cliched," says John Aizlewood, features editor of Q. "Also, Aids has changed things. It stopped all that groupie stuff. People are thinking that this is dangerous and rock stars are particularly at risk. In the early Seventies, it was seen as fantastically manly to be surrounded by groupies, but even Oasis have always had steady girlfriends."
Well, that's the sex. What about the drugs? "Drugs are a mainstream activity now," explains Steve Baker, veteran roadie and band manager for Kaleef and Galliano. "That rock 'n' roll lifestyle is more accessible to anyone if they make it big, especially in advertising, fashion or the City. It's nothing special any more - anyone can have it."
And the rock 'n' roll? Sutherland believes that Nineties rock stars have wised up. "The Seventies was a pioneering period," he continues. "Now kids are growing up with a more sensible and business-like attitude. Touring has become much more business orientated."
Certainly, nobody's fooled about rock stars carrying their wild ways into old age. Former Yes keyboard player, Rick Wakeman, tours church halls raising money for charity. Rod Stewart is worrying about the effect of a Hollywood lifestyle on his teenage children's morals, and Pete "I hope I die before I get old" Townsend is enjoying middle age in leafy Middlesex.
"We have more access to rock star's lives so we're bound to get more of the mundane stuff," says Sutherland. "Now we all know what Noel and Liam have for breakfast. I don't think Liam was ever particularly wild. In his early 20s, he was sitting around in Manchester twiddling his thumbs. When all that money comes your way, I think it must be pretty boring getting drunk every night. Ultimately your common sense tells you what's the point in blowing it all?
"As for Nicky Wire, he's a very straightforward chap. He doesn't drink, doesn't take drugs and never has. He thinks the rock 'n' roll tradition is naff. And he's a very intelligent chap." So there you have it. Hoovering is the new rock 'n' roll. And you heard it here first.
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