Simon Kelner: Who's going to set a bad example for the kids now?

Kelner's View


Time was when a rock star wasn't an authentic rock star unless he or she drove a pink Cadillac into a hotel swimming pool, or appeared on stage in a foul-mouthed, drunken mess or, at the very least, insisted on a rider that every pack of Smarties in the dressing room had the blue ones removed.

These days, however, your average rock star is more likely to be backstage reading a Paolo Coelho novel while sipping camomile tea and worrying about which public school to send seven-year-old Augustine. Such was the impression left by this week's Brit awards, if the critics are to be believed. Andy Gill of this parish said that the show was "perhaps the dreariest two hours that TV viewers have sat through in decades" while others have cited the procession of clean-cut, clean-living performers as the apotheosis of what has been coined "The New Boring".

Invented by music journalist Peter Robinson, this is a term which applies to some of the most popular cultural phenomena of our time. Like, for instance, Downton Abbey, or the property show presenter Kirstie Allsop, or the singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, or, indeed, almost everyone else who was honoured by the Brits the other night. It is true that none of this represents the heights of intellectual challenge, but is this an actual movement inspired by our politically correct times, or is it just a coincidence?

It is true that a show that begins with the antiseptic music of Coldplay and ends with a band whose lead singer believes that drink is the enemy of achievement, whose drummer is a Labour politician and whose bass player is a farmer who likes nothing more than a night in with a hunk of Cheddar is unlikely to scare the horses. But that doesn't necessarily mean it represents a creative shift.

After all, for every Keith Moon we had a Cliff Richard, and for every Pete Doherty we had an Olly Murs. Nevertheless, we are probably right to mark the passing of an era in rock which was best exemplified by Warren Zevon, one of the baddest boys in popular music history. In his magnificent song, 'Mr Bad Example' (download it now), Zevon lays it on the line: "I'm Mr Bad Example/Intruder in the dirt/I like to have a good time/And I don't care who gets hurt". Unfortunately, Zevon is no longer with us and were he still alive many of his songs would come with a parental advisory warning.

Of course, I'm not saying that Zevon is anything other than a bad example, but I do think those who rail against this current age of moderation may be on to something. I have remarked before on the fact that nobody in public life can do or say anything that may be considered awkward or controversial without being submerged in a tidal wave of opprobrium.

It has long been the case in politics, so it was only a matter of time before this extended to other areas of modern life. We should not be surprised by the success of the confessional Adele, or the teetotal Sheeran. It is merely an acute case of the bland leading the bland.



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