You know what? Rock stars are people like the rest of us. Well, plus or minus millions of dollars, the fame, the fans, the egos, and the rampant drug use. But still, we’re all supposed to act wild in our younger days, only to scoff at idiocy as we get older. For some of us, the consequences are pretty minor. But in rock and roll’s “go big or go home” mentality…
5. David Bowie
“I am a GOD, you hear me?!”: Three words: Ziggy fucking Stardust.
Sure, T.Rex had started glam rock a year or two ahead, but
David Bowie Ziggy Stardust’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars truly ran away with the concept. It wasn’t just campy hard rock, Bowie transformed himself from a mild mannered pop musician into an androgynous, bisexual alien from another planet. Imagine putting out music while looking like this, and then releasing an album looking like this, but even crazier. Bowie did it again with The Thin White Duke, a cocaine-fueled manifestation of a mental and physical breakdown.
After looking…contemporary for a high-profile 80’s career, Bowie mellowed out in the 90’s, and has aged with surprising grace (lookin’ at you, Cher). His modern day appearances are stylish and chic, but never bizarre. Sure, he’s been extremely quiet, a remaster here, curator there, but there’s nothing wrong with being the cool old grandpa.
4. Liam Gallagher
“I am a GOD, you hear me?!”: Some of today’s listees are in through their excessive weirdness. Liam Gallagher is in through his sheer excess. His band Oasis had a song called “Cigarettes & Alcohol”, a celebration to middle class debauchery. Once the band made it big in 1994, the title could have more accurately been changed to “Cigarettes & Alcohol & Girls & Violence & Cocaine & Ego & Sure, I’ll try some kids’ cough syrup”. Gallagher’s public image makes John Mayer look like a nerdy band kid by comparison.
You know how referring to someone as having the voice of a chainsmoker is never a good thing? Yeah, that really happens. Granted, Liam’s improved somewhat since then, but his voice hasn’t gotten over the years of dedicated abuse. Liam’s new band, Beady Eye, does more of the same rock and fookin’ roll that made Oasis famous, but on a lesser scale. At least it beats being reduced to guest judge on American Idol, doesn’t it?
3. Steve Tyler
“I am a GOD, you hear me?!”: Yep, America, we have our rock stars who lost their shit. If you don’t know who Aerosmith is, ask your mother. Then after you snap her out of the ensuing Nostalgia Stare, she’ll probably tell you about the major crush she still has on frontman Steven Tyler (but don’t tell your father). From the late 70’s to the early 80’s, Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry were known as the Toxic Twins, partly for their shared songwriting credit, but mostly for taking an entire rave’s worth of drugs between them. A night.
No, that’s not your grandma dressed as a…what is that? Gothic…cowboy? Anyway, that’s Steven Tyler in his brand spanking new role as a judge on America’s favorite timewaster, American Idol. That’s just the latest in a year or two of news that’s seen Tyler injure himself on-stage, check into rehab again, play on again off again with Aerosmith, and now land an act as an Idol judge. While Bowie’s aged pretty gracefully (well, as gracefully as a guy known for jumpsuits can manage), Tyler’s still dressing like it’s 1979 and he’s got a gig, a stack of heroin, and three groupies waiting for him.
2. Axl Rose
“I am a GOD, you hear me?!”: There’s an unspoken rule in music that the public’s willingness to deal with an artist’s bullshit is directly related to the quality of their music. It’s why Ashlee Simpson got a swift foot in the ass after the SNL incident, yet Kanye West is still a respected artist. And very few (perhaps Kanye among them) have pushed this to the limits like 80’s Axl Rose. Fronting the rock band of the decade, Axl was able to get away with damn near anything. Hell, the man has started a riot before and still kept rolling chest deep in women, money, and fame.
Now Axl nearly epitomizes the term “wash up”. Guns N’ Roses still tours, but gone is the earth-shattering lineup that made Appetite For Destruction, and they’ve become notorious for showing up hours late, playing a little, and leaving early with no rhyme or reason. All those years of media taunting have finally started to pile up, too. Axl’s had so many fights and feuds over the years that Wikipedia had to say “Fuck it”, and gave him a page just for feuds and rivalries. Not to mention the complete lack of grace with which the man has aged.
1. Eddie Van Halen
“I am a GOD, you hear me?!”: Perhaps the most talented entrant on this list (and it’s only non-singer), EVH is frequently referred to as one of the best (rock) guitarists of all time. His super technical, super speeding shredding and double tapping went on to influence an entire decade of guitarists, and between the spandex, the hair, the acrobatics, and the small-country’s worth of drugs and alcohol, Van Halen was the poster band of the 80’s.
The difference between Eddie and just about everyone else on this list is that everyone else at least had an upswing. Bowie’s become an elder statesman, Liam Gallagher still has his bloody rock band, Steven Tyler’s still a wacky personality, and Axl Rose still has…uh…heart? But EVH ain’t got shit. Decades of drug and alcohol use will take anyone down a few notches, but difference from top of his game Eddie to modern Eddie is just staggering. That, and he’s now one overcoat away from looking like the guy that keeps hassling you for smokes on the street.