Rock ‘n roll at the Hollywood Bowl…

Do you remember your first rock concerts?

I do, but that’s because I’ve always been an incorrigible list maker.  I have a list of every album I ever bought, every CD I ever bought, every cassette mixed tape I ever made.

I also am sheepish to admit that I have a comprehensive list of every concert I ever concertattended — who played, who warmed up, where it was, when it was, and who went with me!

From 1968 to 2018 — that’s 50 years — I’ve been to more than 360 concerts, many of which I reviewed as a rock critic for newspapers.

In this post, I thought it might be fun, and instructive, to share my recollections of the first dozen music concerts I attended.  Perhaps these memories will get you thinking about your first concert experiences.  I’d love to hear about them!

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My first “live in concert” experiences were comedy shows, which don’t really qualify for this list, but just for the sake of completeness, I’ll list them here:

July 1966, at age 11:  Jerry Lewis, at Musicarnival, a tent-like summer theatre in the suburbs of Cleveland, with my parents.

August 1967, at age 12:  Phyllis Diller (seriously?!), also at Musicarnival with my parents.

January 1968, at age 12:  Bill Cosby, at Public Hall in downtown Cleveland, with my friend Ben.  Cosby recorded his classic LP “To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With” that night, and once it was released several months later, we were thrilled to have been in attendance for that.  (Never mind what became of Cosby later in life…)

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But let’s get down to the music shows.  Here we go:

October 27, 1968:  Simon and Garfunkel, at Public Hall, Cleveland

sg-backgroundI don’t recall this, but apparently, for my first live music concert, my friend Paul and I went without our parents’ knowledge.  We were only 13, and we went with his older brother and his friend, via his friend’s parents’ car (we assume), into downtown Cleveland on a Sunday night to cavernous Public Hall to enjoy the dulcet harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel.  It was a poor venue for their quiet music, but the crowd was reasonably respectful, so the sound was relatively okay.  We had a crummy vantage point, more than halfway back on a flat auditorium floor, craning our necks to see the two men singing along to Simon’s lone accompanying guitar.  They were touring in support of their hugely popular “Bookends” album, which included “America,” “Fakin’ It,” “Hazy Shade of Winter” and the #1 hit “Mrs. Robinson”, so I was thrilled to be there.  But I must confess I don’t remember much about it…

October 24, 1969:  Led Zeppelin, with Grand Funk Railroad, at Public Hall, Cleveland

LED-ZEP1_1545027cWhat a difference a year makes!  I was in ninth grade, now buying a lot of rock music albums to complement my Simon & Garfunkel stuff, and I was eager to check out Led Zeppelin, the new British hard rock/blues band I’d turned on to only six months before.  My friends Steve and Andy were hell-bent on going, and I eagerly agreed.  I have no idea why my parents agreed to let me go, but sure enough, the three of us headed downtown several hours early that Friday afternoon to the same huge venue I’d been to the previous year.  If you can believe it, tickets were only $4.00 each (!), and they were general admission (!!!), which meant we might get really good seats if we got lucky.  When they opened the doors, there was a crush of people fighting to get in, and once we survived that, we ran to claim seats in the 20th row.  Damn, I was so excited!  Eventually, the announcer said, “Will you please welcome, from Flint, Michigan, GRAND FUNK RAILROAD!!”  I thought, damn, did we come to the wrong place?  But no, this was a warm-up band, so I thought, “Wow, a bonus!”  This trio blew the hinges off the place for 45 minutes, songs like “Time Machine” and “Are You Ready,” and the crowd responded thunderously.  Me?  I was in such total awe, I was almost satisfied to leave at that point.  But of course we stayed, and soon, out came the soon-to-be-legendary Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, still young and hungry, and ready to slay us with songs from their brand new LP, “Led Zeppelin II,” featuring the new single, “Whole Lotta Love.”  We watched with our mouths agape as they played “Dazed and Confused,” “Bring It On Home,” “Heartbreaker,” “Good Times Bad Times” and others from their first two albums.  We inched closer to the front as the evening drew to a close, and by the encore, we were leaning against the stage, watching Plant howling into the microphone right above us as Page wailed away on his Gibson Les Paul only a few feet away.  A life-changing experience!!

November 22, 1970:  Chicago, at John Carroll University, the suburbs of Cleveland

hqdefault-3The huge 1970 hit singles “Make Me Smile” in May and “25 or 6 to 4” in August had transformed Chicago from a cult favorite to a mainstream favorite, but at this stage, they were still finishing off a set of gigs scheduled in college gyms.  John Carroll was a small college only 10 minutes from home in the Eastern Cleveland suburbs, so it was conveniently located, and my friend Ben had just scored his driver’s license, so he drove.  He and our friend Steve and I waited with the crowd outside and, again with general admission tickets, made our way in and sat midway back on the left-side bleachers.  The band, with its original lineup, was in top form, with guitarist/vocalist Terry Kath, bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera and keyboardist/vocalist Robert Lamm leading the charge.  They performed just about everything from their widely praised first two LPs (1969’s “Chicago Transit Authority” and 1970’s “Chicago”) and a couple from the soon-to-be-released “Chicago III.”  I remember the band exceeding my expectations, especially on “Beginnings,” “Does Anybody Know Really Know What Time It Is,” “25 or 6 to 4” and the album tracks “Poem for the People” and “In the Country.”  Great show!!

August 29, 1971:  Roberta Flack, with Cannonball Adderly & Les McCann, Blossom Music Center, outside Cleveland

74309972Blossom Music Center had opened in 1968 as “the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra” in an idyllic plot of land between Cleveland and Akron.  The featured acts in those early years leaned toward jazz and folk artists, in keeping with the wishes of the conservative board of trustees.  (The profitable rock bands showed up in the mid-’70s and have dominated the proceedings pretty much ever since.)  My friend Paul, who had moved to Canada but was back in town for a visit, had become an aficionado of jazz, and he suggested we check out Blossom to see the Cannonball Adderley Quintet and Les McCann, who were warming up for Roberta Flack.  I knew next to nothing about any of these artists, but it sounded like fun, so I agreed.  Neither of us can remember much of anything about the music we heard that night — I later learned to like Flack’s songs, and now have enormous admiration for Adderley as well as McCann and his other jazz cohorts.  But all we seem to recall of that evening is the horrendous traffic jam getting in and out of the place (and it’s been a perennial problem at Blossom ever since).

October 3, 1971:  Gordon Lightfoot, at Music Hall, Cleveland

glThe downtown Cleveland facility that housed the 10,000-seat Public Hall also included a smaller, 3,000-seat theater called Music Hall, which featured artists and stage shows that attracted smaller audiences.  I got my first taste of that venue with my high school girlfriend Betsy when we went to see the great Gordon Lightfoot, Canada’s premier singer-songwriter.  We were crazy about him, and at the time, he was riding the success of his marvelous Top Ten hit “If You Could Read My Mind” and the impressive repertoire he’d built up since his debut in the mid-’60s.  We both recalled hearing just about every song we’d hoped to hear — “Minstrel of the Dawn,” “Summer Side of Life,” “Talking In Your Sleep,” “Me and Bobby Magee,” “Did She Remember My Name” and his tour de force story-song “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.”  He had a three-piece band accompanying him, and they put on a thoroughly entertaining show.

March 26, 1972:  Yes, at Lakeland Community College, outside Cleveland

Betsy and I had become big fans of Yes, the British progressive rock group, due to their h_00083173amazing 1971 release, “The Yes Album,” which included the hit “I’ve Seen All Good People.”  Then they released the enormously popular “Fragile” LP in late 1971, and “Roundabout” become a big hit single in early 1972.  We jumped at the chance to see them in March of that year, even though the concert was to be held at the brand-new Lakeland Community College gymnasium about 20 miles east of Cleveland.  We had to endure 15-degree weather as we waited outside for nearly two hours (again, general admission tickets), but that afforded us the opportunity to grab seats very close to the stage.  It was an excellent show, with most of our favorites in the set list (“Yours is No Disgrace,” “The Clap,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Runaround,” “Heart of the Sunrise,” “America”), but the sound was so insanely loud that we suffered ringing ears for nearly two days afterwards.  This is the show that taught me to try to be more careful of how close I should sit to the loudspeakers…

April 28, 1972:  Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor, at Cleveland Arena

hqdefault-6In the spring of 1972, liberal candidate George McGovern was vying for the Democratic nomination in hopes of unseating President Richard Nixon, and Hollywood celebs like Warren Beatty were actively supporting McGovern.  He put together several fundraising events, one of which was scheduled in Cleveland, and to me and my friends, it seemed too good to be true:  Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor all on the same bill!  hqdefault-7We stood in line to successfully snag tickets, but it was clear from the very beginning that this would be a disappointing evening.  It was held at the decaying, acoustically miserable Cleveland Arena, a hockey/boxing venue that, although it had been the site of Alan Freed’s “Moondog Coronation Ball” in 1952 (widely considered the world’s first rock concert), was well past its prime and was torn down only five years later.  Simon, who had just released 8454c81a75fdf7a005ffd6d27bdb9b25--neil-young-music-concertshis solo debut LP three months earlier, played his hits (“Mother and Child Reunion” and “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard”) and a few Simon & Garfunkel classics, but left abruptly due to the noisy crowd.  Mitchell fared even worse — her music was best suited to small halls and respectful audiences, and the Cleveland Arena crowd was apparently not there for the music.  Only Taylor had much success getting through to the hob-nobbers — he was riding the success of his huge “Sweet Baby James” and “Mud Slide Slim” albums and the Top Five “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve Got a Friend” hit singles.  Betsy still has a photo she took of film stars Julie Christie and Jack Nicholson, who walked by our seats near the back of the arena at one point.  Not a great evening musically, that’s for sure…

August 17, 1972:  Bread, with Harry Chapin, at Blossom Music Center, outside Cleveland

hqdefault-4Bread, the soft-rock favorites from LA, were at the peak of their success in the summer of ’72, thanks to multiple Top Ten hits like “Make It With You,” “It Don’t Matter to Me,” “If,” “Mother Freedom,” “Baby I’m-a Want You,” “Everything I Own,” “Diary” and “The Guitar Man.”  Inexplicably, I corralled my ex-girlfriend Jody to come up from Mansfield to join me on a triple date with my friends Ben and Rod and their girlfriends Leesa and Darcy for this second attempt at Blossom.  Harry Chapin, brand new and enjoying success with the hit “Taxi,” warmed up admirably, and Bread put on a solid, thoroughly enjoyable show, according to our collective memory.  Sadly, our most vivid recollection was of Ben’s father’s station wagon overheating as we tried to leave, which resulted in us not arriving home until nearly 3 am, to our parents’ consternation (no cell phones back then!)…

October 21, 1972:  Jethro Tull, with Gentle Giant, at Public Hall, Cleveland

guild1This was my ninth concert, but technically only my second rock show.  Jethro Tull was hugely popular with the stoners and the critics, and their most recent LP, “Thick as a Brick,” had, against all odds, somehow reached #1 on the charts in May 1972, despite it consisting of one 45-minute-long piece of music.  The group, led by the indefatigable flautist/singer Ian Anderson, performed it that night in its entirety before also treating the crowd to several tracks from 1971’s classic “Aqualung” material (“Cross-Eyed Mary,” “Wind Up,” “Locomotive Breath”).  My friends Rod and Tim joined me for this amazing concert, and other friends were there that night as well.  Our seats, sadly, were only average, halfway back on the left side of the Public Hall auditorium.  I have little memory of Gentle Giant’s set, although I enjoyed one of their albums Rock bought afterwards.  We all look back fondly on this gig and were glad we were savvy enough to attend, because Jethro Tull went to become the biggest concert draw in the world for a spell in the ’70s.  I have since seen the band in concert more than two dozen times, and Anderson still performs Tull music today in 2018.

April 17, 1973:  James Taylor, at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

hqdefault-5Kent State, famous for the polarizing National Guard shootings in May 1970, is an hour’s drive south of Cleveland, but my friend Ben and our dates and I loved James Taylor enough to make the drive down there one rainy night our senior year of high school.  Taylor was late in arriving, and put on a rather muted show, which was mildly disappointing, because his most recent record, 1972’s “One Man Dog,” had plenty of additional instrumentation, including horns.  But that night, it was pretty much just Taylor sitting quietly on a stool with almost no accompaniment.  We certainly enjoyed it anyway, even if only because Taylor’s songs back then were so good (“Country Road,” “Long Ago and Far Away,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” “You Can Close Your Eyes”)…

April 1973:  George Carlin, with Kenny Rankin, Allen Theatre, Cleveland

MV5BMTY3NTU3NDM5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjIxMDU4Mg@@._V1_UY317_CR132,0,214,317_AL_This almost doesn’t qualify as a music concert, because my friends Chris, Fiji and Rock and I were there at the storied Allen Theatre to laugh at the outrageous comedy of George Carlin, who didn’t disappoint (his “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” was all the rage at the time).  But warming up that night was label mate Kenny Rankin, an astonishingly talented singer-songwriter whose song”Peaceful,” as covered by then-popular Helen Reddy, was climbing the charts.  Rankin wrote wonderful songs and also was adept at covering songs by The Beatles and others on albums like “Like a Seed,” “Silver Morning,” “Inside” and “The Kenny Ranking Album” throughout the ’70s.

July 10, 1973:  Stephen Stills/Manassas, at Blossom Music Center, outside Cleveland

Menassis-1973-6About ten of my friends and I made the spontaneous decision on this night to head out to Blossom and buy tickets at the box office (I think they were only $4 each) and party on the huge lawn that faced the outdoor amphitheater.  We all knew and admired Stephen Stills for his work with Crosby, Nash and Young, but I don’t think too many of us knew much of the material he did with his erstwhile country-influenced band Manassas at the time.  (I have since gone back tardily and am a big fan of the original double LP “Manassas” from 1972, which includes The Birds’ Chris Hillman, CSNY’s Dallas Taylor and Al Perkins from The Flying Burrito Brothers, among others).  I remember it was a wonderful, good-vibe kind of evening, with plenty of funny cigarettes being smoked.

Share your memories!  Music matters!

 

 

 

 

 

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Rock is dead, they say, long live rock

What does the term “rock star” mean to you?  What did it mean in the ’70s versus what it might mean today?

Let me introduce you to an extraordinarily perceptive author who has written a very intriguing book on this subject.

5aa66baa65232_eventDavid Hepworth is an accomplished and respected music journalist, writer, and editor in England.  He was an on-air personality for BBC programs in the 1980s, has written for and led the charge for such influential rock magazines as Mojo and Q, and still contribute regularly to The Guardian newspaper.

His recent book, “Uncommon People:  The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars” (Henry Holt & Co., 2017), offers a thought-provoking series of 40 short essays that take a look at defining moments and turning points in the lives of 40 rock stars between 1955 and 51kdXSxa1bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_1995.  He busts myths and creates new ones.  He has deftly zeroed in on many of the key players and events that shaped rock music during that 40-year span (which conveniently covers roughly the same period Hack’s Back Pages has always sought to examine).

The names you’d expect to see are there:  Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin.  You’ll also find a few names that aren’t as familiar to American audiences:  Hank Marvin, Ian Stewart, Ian Dury.

And Hepworth also latches on to key developments that have affected the arc of the rock star era:   Rock tour excesses, the deaths of Elvis and John Lennon, the rise of music videos, ironic rock star parodies, the glitz of Michael Jackson and Madonna and Prince, the increased move toward drug rehab, the rise of the Internet and social media.

His main premise, which I happen to agree with, is starkly stated in the book’s foreword:  “The age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed.  The idea of the rock star, like the idea of the cowboy, lives on.”

Although rock ‘n roll and its first big names emerged in the late 1950s, nobody was yet calling those people rock stars.  As Hepworth notes, “The term rock star didn’t come into widespread use until the ’70s and ’80s, when the music business was looking to sustain the careers of its biggest names.  The industry was beginning to realize the value of brands, and there was no better brand than a rock star.  A rock star was supposed to be somebody you could rely on, somebody whose next record you had to have, regardless of its merits.  Eventually, it was applied to everyone from Morrissey to Madonna, from Ozzy Osbourne to Bjork.  By the 21st Century, the term had been spread so thin as to be meaningless.”

He finds it preposterous to label current celebrities like Adele or Kanye West or Justin Bieber as rock stars because they came of age in an entirely different set of circumstances.  “The age of the rock star ended with the passing of physical product, the rise of automated percussion, the domination of the committee approach to hit making, the widespread adoption of choreography, and, above all, the mystique-destroying rise of the Internet.”

pasted-image-0-1He adds, “Rock stars were the product of an age when music, and details about rock stars’ lives, was harder to access and was treasured accordingly…  Today, you simply can’t live the life of a rock star anymore.  The mobile phone alone saw to that.  That was when the rock star’s all-important mystique came to an end.”

Since 1973, he says, “We have grown increasingly used to ‘rock star’ being employed as a descriptor.  Bill Clinton was supposedly the first rock-star president.  Andre Agassi was a rock-star tennis player.  Russell Brand was a rock star comedian.  These days you can even be a rock-star fund manager.”

The reason I have chosen to delve in detail into Hepworth’s book goes beyond his provocative premise about the demise of the rock star era.  Quite simply, he is a hell of a writer.  I marvel at the superb descriptive phrases and metaphors he offers in his examination of the people and events of that time.

led-zeppelin-1980-79b0dc3f-9670-4b70-8c05-5d952da34af7When he discusses how, in 1979, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant seemed to lack the confident swagger he had in the band’s heyday, he attributed it in part to “the death of distance.”  He was referring to how rock stars had once been able to behave recklessly with impunity in the ’60s and ’70s, engaging in shenanigans without their wives or the public at large ever knowing for certain.  There were rumors, of course, but no visual proof, no culpable evidence, no 24/7 speculating.  Rock stars were untouchable mythic beings “who did things you wouldn’t dare do with people you would never meet in places you could never afford to go.”

little-richard-1957His piece on Little Richard as “the first rock star” describes how he came up with “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-lop-bam-boom” when he let out a yelp while playing a beat-up piano in a Macon, Georgia, hangout.  “It was just a little riff, an imagined percussion fill that Richard was in the habit of beating out on the lunch counter, and this time it tumbled out without interruption into a song, if song it could be called.”

davidbowieziggyIn an essay entitled “A ‘rock star’ retires,” Hepworth looks deep into David Bowie‘s Ziggy Stardust persona, which he sees as “the rock star as tragic figure, doomed to enact his own suicide on stage.”  In 1973, he theorized, rock musicians felt “they could indulge themselves in the world of limelight while still retaining some intellectual standings.  They felt it ought to be possible to play the part of a rock star for a while and then walk away without a scratch on them.”

Janis-Joplin-ASC-550x350On Janis Joplin, Hepworth had this to say:  “Before Janis, there had been female musical stars, like Dusty Springfield or Aretha Franklin, who were much admired for their artistry but were not permitted anything as vulgar as a personality.  They were as prim and proper as young women were expected to be at the time.  The idea that the might have a love life was hard to imagine.  A sex life would be wholly out of the question.  Janis came to the fore in the age of ‘let it all hang out.’  She understood what she needed to do to be a star, and she worked at it.  She was smart enough to know that the appearance of spontaneity was something that must be worked at.”

alg-buddy-holly-jpgIn his essay on Buddy Holly, Hepworth explains how early rockers found themselves to be popular paupers:  “Holly figured in his naiveté that there wold be a simple accounting of monies from which everybody would be able to walk away satisfied, but this proved not to be the case.  As 1958 drew to a close, Holly found himself in the unenviable position of being massively famous, widely celebrated, and functionally penniless.”  Holly, therefore, felt he had no choice but to go along with sketchy plans to perform on unpleasant bookings in unpromising venues, traveling on unsafe vehicles in ungodly weather conditions, which ultimately killed him (“the day the music died”).   

ian-stewart_1866315b-600x375

Ian Stewart (left) pictured with The Stones in 1963

Rolling Stones fans know the name Ian Stewart as the unofficial band member who played keyboards on albums and in concert.  He was heard but rarely seen because the group’s manager said he didn’t work visually.  As Hepworth points out in “The man who didn’t fit in”:   “Stewart spoiled the look of the group.  He didn’t fit the picture.  In fact, ‘Stu’ looked as if he came from an earlier decade.  The look the Stones were going for was a look that the presence of Stewart simply ruined.  Furthermore, he wasn’t temperamentally suited to being a rock star.  He seemed impervious to the passion for fame that drives rock stars on.  He could never have been a rock star for the same simple reason that the rest of us aren’t rock stars:  Because we can imagine not being one.”

792913Conversely, drummer Keith Moon of The Who was ideally suited for the rock star world, Hepworth contends.  “The very same things that made Keith Moon an impossible child made him the perfect rock star.  He was hopeless at school and left at the age of 14.  He had a need to be admired and noticed that could be satisfied by being the center of attention all the time.  As a civilian, Keith Moon would inevitably have to find a way of growing up, fitting in with other people, and curbing his excesses.  If he became a rock star, he wouldn’t have to do any such thing.”

The essay “sex, violence and television” explores the rise of MTV, which Hepworth Olivia_Newton-John_Physicalclaims increased the visibility of both rock stars and would-be rock stars.  “Marginal acts with strong visuals (The Stray Cats, the Go-Go’s, Duran Duran) quickly went mainstream.  Older acts worried about how the close scrutiny of the camera could reveal the shortcomings of their appearance.  Elton John’s hairline was retreating and thus his video was shot from one side only in a darkened room, and Olivia Newton John happily cut her hair, toned her body, and belatedly transformed herself into a sex symbol for the ‘Physical’ video.”  

198In discussing Bruce Springsteen‘s rise following the painstaking development of his monumental “Born to Run” song and album in 1975, Hepworth noted that great rock records had often been made quickly.  The recording of the debut LPs by The Beatles in 1963 and Black Sabbath in 1970, he points out, had both been hammered out in a single day.  “If popular music history had one thing to teach, it is that time spent polishing records is usually time spent ruining them.”  But there are always exceptions to the rule, and Springsteen, who was “possessed by a lust for rock and roll glory,” worked for six months to hone the words, and another three months to perfect the arrangements and recorded layers of “the title song’s titanic thrust.”  The result, he said, “felt like some lost masterpiece that had been awaiting discovery for decades.”

Hepworth’s piece “The absurdity of the rock star” reviews the impact of the 1984 rockumentary “This is Spinal Tap.”  He remarks that rock had been parodied before by older funnymen like Phil Silvers and Peter Sellers “who didn’t really understand what they were spoofing, but the difference this time is that Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer knew whereof they spoke.  They slid in the stiletto with loving tenderness.  They revealed the overarching truth of what was now a rock industry:  It relies on the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief.  Once you have seen the world of rock through the lens of ‘Spinal Tap,’ the standard bunch of rock demigods are instantly revealed before you as middle-aged men in unsuitable trousers.”

MV5BYmNjYzYyNjItODNhMS00ZjdiLTk4ZjUtOGMxZDM5YTcyMDBiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQ0NzE0MQ@@._V1_Here is Hepworth’s take on the pre-fabricated lack of spontaneity that characterized 1990-era Madonna in “Rock star as celeb”:  “The Blonde Ambition World Tour was what a generation raised on MTV had come to expect of a live show, which was a very big, very loud multimedia assault.  It was an experience that was so beholden to click tracks, autocue machines, and technological whizzbangs that nothing could stand in its way or alter one step or one word from night to night.  The performers were elements in a production rather than autonomous individuals who might at any stage stop what they were doing and change their mind.”

Nirvana-Kurt-Cobain-630x420Kurt Cobain, Hepworth believes, qualifies as “the last rock star,” if only because his death affected his generation of fans as much as, if not more than, Buddy Holly’s death did to ’50s fans.  “Nirvana’s second album, ‘Nevermind,’ which had been released in 1991, did something more for Generation X than other, better-known albums had done for their parents,” wrote Hepworth.  In the note Cobain wrote before shooting himself in 1994, he quoted Neil Young’s “My My Hey Hey,” which insists, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”  Hepworth concludes:  “These aren’t just the words of someone who has fallen out of love with playing.  These are the words of a man who has grown up with all his hopes and dreams invested in the single purpose of becoming a rock star…and has found that he simply can’t live up to the demands of the role in which he has cast himself.”

Finally, there is Hepworth’s view on how things are today, and why there are no rock stars anymore, or at least, none in the traditional/original sense of that term:  “Because there are fewer and fewer places to play, and the audience now has too many options to be willing to put up with and evening’s entertainment from somebody who is only just learning their trade, it’s harder and harder for people to establish the balance between entertainment and invention.  It’s never been easy to make it, and it still isn’t.  You no longer need a record company to make a record, but you might need the record company’s money to make you a (rock) star.”

I heartily recommend this book.  An excellent read.