From The Published Archives: Rock Stars’ Crocodile Tears

Here’s another previously published piece from The Hamilton Spectator Era.  It appeared on page D12 of the Entertainment section on Thursday, July 4, 2002.  Written for YourPlace, it’s all about phony celebrities, particularly the ones who claim that they’re not in show biz for the money or the worldwide attention.
The piece was precipitated by an article I read in Rolling Stone Magazine at the time.  Remember when Courtney Love, representing The Kurt Cobain Estate, and Dave Grohl & Krist Novoselic were fighting over this song called You Know You’re Right?  Dave & Krist were hoping to put it on a Nirvana box set they were working on while Courtney just wanted a greatest hits package with that song included as a special bonus. 
The fight had been going on for years.  The box set was supposed to be released around the 10th Anniversary of the band’s breakthrough album, Nevermind, back in 2001, but the legal battle prevented that from happening. 
In the end, an interesting compromise was made.  Courtney got to release the self-titled Nirvana album around Christmas 2002 which included the full band version of You Know You’re Right while Dave & Krist were allowed to release Kurt’s acoustic solo version of the song on their 2004 Nirvana box set, With The Lights Out.  (According to a 2005 interview with Spin Magazine, Courtney claims that the guys wanted to name it Sappy.  Yes, they even fought over the title of this box set.)
When you read the article, you’ll understand why I brought up this story.
As for the article itself, I’m really proud of it, despite a number of edits.  It was accompanied by a famous Associated Press file photo of Kurt singing and playing guitar during a taping of The Headbanger’s Ball for MTV in 1993. 
The piece originally ended with the line, “At least rappers enjoy being famous.”  But it was cut from the printed version.  I always felt the piece didn’t really end properly, thanks to that excision, but now I think, no matter what I had written as the last line, it was always going to get removed because of space limitation.  I’ve decided to not reinsert the line because, today, after temporarily putting it back in, I just don’t think it works.  Instead, I’ve kept the ending the same as the published article.  I still don’t think it has a good enough ending, though.
There were more significant deletions.  Near the middle of the text, almost an entire paragraph, #5, was removed with the exception of one sentence.  It went like this:
“I can’t tell you the number of times a famous musician has said in an interview how fame and fortune were never the motivating factors for establishing a music career. One is baffled by this obvious line of bull. Let’s face facts here. Musicians tend to be the kind of people who can’t hold a regular job because 1) they hate it 2) they’re too incompetent to do it 3) they’re not responsible and 4) it doesn’t pay enough.”
Obviously, it was cut because there wasn’t enough room for that part in the newspaper.  I’ve decided not to reinsert it because it is a bit of a tangent (a bad habit I can’t shake in my life) and the article flows better without it.  Sometimes, an editor sees things clearer than you do.
Also rightfully removed was this reference to MC Hammer:  “And unless they’ve blown all their dough, (like our old friend, MC Hammer) there’s a huge financial incentive involved, also.”  The line reads better without it.
I have made a few changes from the printed version.  At one point, I mention “that the media is filled with filthy liars”.  The Spec excised “filthy”.  I’ve restored it because my way sounds angrier, the way it was supposed to sound.  Also, the first line of paragraph 2 was slightly different in The Spec version.  They removed the phrase “and often”.  I’ve restored it.  The other alterations are too minor to mention. 
Other than that, this is exactly how my piece appeared 4 years ago in The Hamilton Spectator.
Rock stars’ crocodile tears
Cut the bull!  Fame ‘n’ fortune’s what it’s all about
Special to The Hamilton Spectator

Ever get the feeling life is extremely difficult for your favourite big-time celebrity? Didn’t think so. But the way you hear them talk these days you’d think they were serving a life sentence without any chance of parole.

Probably the biggest lie celebrities tell publicly and often is this: “We’re not in this for the money or the fame. We’re in it for the art. All this awful fame stuff happened by accident.” Considering that there are few accidents in the entertainment business and not much can pass for true art these days, it’s a laughable sentiment.

Recently, I was reading about the battle over Nirvana’s legacy in Rolling Stone Magazine. Dave Grohl, the former drummer for the band, told reporter Chris Heath – with a straight face  – “We weren’t in it for the fame.” Interesting considering how the band signed to a major label and sold millions of albums worldwide. None of the members ever thought to interfere with that sales bonanza or not record a follow-up album. It’s been said that Nevermind itself earned 50 million dollars in revenue. Call me crazy but I think Nirvana, especially the contradictory Kurt Cobain, didn’t exactly mind the fame and fortune that album brought.

Reading the article reminded me how the celebrities, rock musicians in particular, have become the new politicians. Whenever a new album or tour needs to be plugged, you can expect to hear only the best about these forthcoming projects. Even if the press reports otherwise, particularly the critics with their scathing views on mediocrity, the musicians will swear up and down that the media is filled with filthy liars who haven’t heard the brilliance of their new music. Or worse, they’re too stupid to get it. But then again, it’s not supposed to be good enough to be popular anyway, so why bother promoting it?

You have to remember that the music business is a crowded ocean of egos all swimming towards the shores of a multi-billion dollar island. The idea that someone starts a band so that the fewest amount of people can enjoy their music, so they won’t get paid a lot of money, so no girl will even look at them and so no one will remember them, is sheer lunacy. As Bill Maher has said many times, no matter who you are, fame is the most addictive drug of them all. And the worst part is there’s no rehab for it.

The big issue at stake in the ongoing “Nirvana Wars” is a previously unheard track called You Know You’re Right. The main issue is how to release the song. No one wants it to remain unheard, but there is disagreement.

Dave Grohl and surviving bassist Krist Novoselic were hoping to include the song on their box set of rarities. Courtney prefers a greatest hits album that would include the song has a bonus track. Either way, it’s clear that all 3 parties want more fame. And unless they’ve blown all their dough, there’s a huge financial incentive involved, also.

It is peculiar that this grudge match between the survivors of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s estate really boils down to how to make more millions and extend their fame on one song.

In his excellent biography, Heavier Than Heaven, author Charles R. Cross wrote that Kurt Cobain himself was a walking contradiction. In public he bemoaned being a huge rock star, but privately he would often bug MTV complaining that his band’s videos weren’t being played enough.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 27, 2006
5:27 p.m.
Published in: on November 27, 2006 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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