Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What If It Turns Out Joan Jett Isn't the Queen of Rock and Roll?

I have just read Camille Paglia’s new biography of Fleetwood Mac frontperson Stevie Ray Nicks, and found it fascinating. I have always disliked her singing, and Stevie’s too, and was unaware that her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham-Palace had been abusive, as I’d further been unaware of her having been the second cousin, once removed, but later replaced, of the 37th president of the United States, the one who spelled their surname Nixon, resigned in disgrace, and then made a fool of himself by trying too hard to look exultant as he boarded the helicopter that whisked him out of American public life. 

Honestly, I can understand trying to put on a brave face while enduring the most intense public humiliation of any American politician ever, but all that desperate grinning and tennis backhand waving and V-sign-flashing, intended to evoke his glory days on the campaign trail, succeeded only in making us think, "Jeepers, he really is stark raving mad."I have often wondered if, when inside the chopper, and out of sight of the photographers, he let out a bloodcurdly wail, burst into tears, and tried to slash his own wrists with a shard of broken glass. I'd be willing to bet Donald Trump doesn't show us half Nixon's courage when he makes his own Last Walk to Marine 1. 

I know Stevie Ray Nicks, in any event, to be a person of great shortness from having stood next to her for a moment in the early 1980s, at a time when young people routinely pelted her with stuffed animals and bouquets every time she stepped on stage. Even in her trademark platform boots she barely came up to my solar plexus, and I’m only 6-1. 

Of course morbid shortness is hardly rare in popular music. I think Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones is around 5-4. The band had to hire Brian Jones to play rhythm guitar just so Bill wouldn’t feel self-conscious about being so small, in much the same way Tom Cruise, who’s 4-11 if standing on last week’s Variety, is always cast opposite a very, very short leading lady. I think a great many rock stars became rock stars in the first place because they thought it was the only hope anyone as stumpy as they had of getting laid. When I met Tom Petty backstage at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood, I felt as though being introduced to an eight-year-old. Benmont Tench, his organist, came to audition for my band The Pits before Tom became the dance sensation that swept the nation, and was shortish, but not an embarrassment. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there are no photographs of him and Tom standing side by side.  

I was intrigued to learn that, when Bon Scott drank himself to death, AC/DC tried, in the interest of continuity, to draft the then-unknown Jon Bon Jovi to replace him, but that he demurred because he was even then making plans to captivate the world with his affected singing and hypergeneric rock music. The band then approached Stevie, but she was iffy about changing her name to Bonnie, worrying that people might think she was trying to leap aboard the Bonnie Tyler bandwagon, even though she had by that time sold many, many more records than the raspy-voiced Welsh songbird, whose marriage to Steven Tyler was rumoured to be on the rocks. One has to wonder about a person who decorates his microphone stand with scarves. 

Stevie apparently decided to stay with Fleetwood Mac largely because of very lucrative offers from McDonald’s and Kraft Foods. The former wanted to licence the band’s name for a new midrange hi-fat/lo-nutrition menu addition for diners who found the Quarter Pounder inadequate but the Big Mac excessive. Kraft, on the other hand, believed that Fleetwood Macaroni would be very popular among college students, and those on fixed incomes. In Mark Haddon’s The Pier Falls, there is a deeply harrowing story you should read about a morbidly obese man who eats a ghastly paste he makes out of sugar and butter. 

Stevie Ray's Wikipedia entry suggests that she's widely acknowledged as the queen of rock and roll. I'd always imagined it was the prolifically talented Joan Jett, about which I am of course only kidding. No sensible person disputes that the late Chrissy Amphlett of The Divinyls is the greatest performer in the genre's long, and soon to end, history.

[And now a word from our sponsors. I've written three rock-themed novels you may very well enjoy. Formerly Wanton is a detective story set in the tawdry milieu of late-‘80s Hollywood hair metal. Who is Keri Fetherwaite? is a satire about a no-talent little dweeb from a TV singing competition who attains Taylor Swift-ish success. Every paragraph will make you roar with laughter! The Mona Lisa's Brother  is a heartwarming fable about an amateur guitarist who does a good deed and suddenly finds himself playing like Hendrix, except better! 

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