The Top 10: Rock Stars Who Became Top Professionals in Unrelated Fields

Celebrities turned missile consultants, tugboat captains, professors of particle physics – and a vicar

John Rentoul
Saturday 06 January 2018 10:33
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The Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison went on to become a medieval English teacher
The Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison went on to become a medieval English teacher

Andrew Denny suggested this list a long time ago, and started it off with Alex James of Blur (now a cheesemaker), and Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden – and airline pilot. A popular list this week, which was hard to whittle down to 10.

1. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, became a missile consultant and chair of the US Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defence. Thanks to Matthew Randall, Archie Dempster, Paul Lay, Craig Thomas and John McTernan.

2. Sterling Morrison, guitarist of The Velvet Underground, became a teaching assistant in medieval English at the University of Texas at Austin, and a licensed tugboat captain. Nominated by John McTernan.

3. Brian Cox, keyboard player with D:Ream (although he didn’t play on their best known track, “Things Can Only Get Better”) now professor of particle physics. Thanks to Xlibris1 and Raashid Shah.

4. Richard Coles of The Communards is now vicar of Finedon. Suggested by Xlibris1 and Ned Ryerson.

5. Terry Chimes of The Clash is now a chiropractor, according to Xlibris1 and John Moss.

6. Amelia Fletcher from Talulah Gosh (also sang backing vocals for The Wedding Present) was chief economist at the Office of Fair Trading, professor of competition policy at the University of East Anglia, and is now on the board of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority. Thanks to Steve Van Riel.

7. James Williamson, guitarist with The Stooges, was also an electrical engineer and became Sony vice president for Technical Standards. Not exactly “unrelated”, but a lot of nominations including from Matthew Randall, Christopher Lindsay and John McTernan.

8. Ian Anderson, leader of Jethro Tull, salmon farmer. From Paul Lay and Melanie Walker.

9. Dave Rowntree, drummer from Blur, Labour councillor on Norfolk County Council, solicitor and computer animator. Nominated by Andy Youell.

10. ‏Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, was an artist – some of whose paintings sold for $25,000 (£18,000). Suggested by Declan Gaffney.

Just outside the Top 10: Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, is another scientist, visiting researcher in astrophysics at Imperial College, London (nominated by Chris Lintott); and Feargal Sharkey, lead singer of the Undertones, became a broadcast regulator at the Radio Authority (Phil Riley).

The Ugly Rumours award for political success outshining earlier rock efforts goes to Peter Garrett, singer with Midnight Oil, who was a cabinet minister in the last Labor government in Australia (nominated by Election Maps UK, John McTernan and Ken Ferrett). Runner-up: Pete Wishart, keyboard player for Runrig, now Scottish National Party MP for Perth (Kevin Brennan and Jon W).

Louis Tomlinson of One Direction signed as a non-contract player for Doncaster Rovers, said Alasdair McGowan. Robert Dean, guitarist of new-wave band Japan, is now a noted illustrator of ornithology books and lives in Costa Rica, according to Xlibris1. Terminator X from Public Enemy became a successful ostrich farmer, said Sam Freedman. And Kelley Deal became a knitter of handbags, reported James Vaughan.

David Emmanuel aka Smiley Culture became a diamond mine concession owner with interests in Ghana, Uganda, Liberia, Kenya, and Congo. Charged with importing Class A drugs, he killed himself during a Metropolitan Police raid. Thanks again to Xlibris1.

An even more off-topic honourable mention for Andrew Ruddle, who nominated Hedy Lamarr – an actor not a rock star, but she did help develop a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes in the Second World War, which used frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming.

Next week: Lost Names of Cities, such as Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City

Coming soon: Detectives’ Hobbies, such as Morse’s love of opera

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to top10@independent.co.uk

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