Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 27, 2005


It is now time for my annual rant against that idiot Sting who thought he needed to expand his artistic horizons and instead exiled himself to the Siberia of adult contemporary (read: shitty) music. Was it too much to ask, I ask, for you to stay the frontman of the Biggest Band In The World? Artistic freedom? Sting will never read this, because he is too busy learning from shy, bald Buddhists how to ejaculate into his scrotum, but if he ever did, he would read that being the frontman of the Biggest Band In The World allows one almost unlimited artistic freedom. But that’s not what this was ever about. It’s about the kind of ego that made Simon split from Garfunkel, a delusion that comes to most rockers at least once in their careers that says “I’m the reason why this band is great, and all these other guys are dead weight.” Unfortunately, Sting had a bout with this delusion that he was unable to fight off.

In rare cases, like Peter Gabriel (who wisely put a safe distance between himself and Phil Collins), the artist is correct to move on, in others, like Paul Simon’s, the artist is technically correct that his bandmate is dead weight, but overlooks the fact that only as a duo did they capture anyone’s imagination (Note to Paul: over 500,000 people showed up to see the Simon and Garfunkel reunion in Central Park. Think about that.). In Sting’s case, it was the normal instance of a egomaniacal star making a gross miscalculation about the roots of his success. Yes, Sting, you wrote all the songs. Yes you were the lead singer. Sound like a solo career to you? Hardly. He forgets that Copeland’s drumming was what made a song like Walking on the Moon even listenable. He forgets that Andy Summers’ guitar effects were the perfect foil for his own melodic and rhythmic bass lines.

Of course, the situation most conducive to embarking on a successful solo career is if your original band sucked, but inexplicably sold lots of records. Matchbox 20 is a perfect example of this. Rob Thomas will, no doubt, have an equally sucky yet commercially successful career as did his former band. Looking to the future, I would be willing to bet about $100,000 that the annoying singer from Maroon 5 releases an annoying solo album, which will be at least as irritating as the current Maroon 5 effort, within the next 5 years. Look for no dropoff in sales. If you suck, the solo career is more of a possibility, if only because no one cares about your band breaking up in the first place. Also, if you suck there’s no reason that your band should stay together, because, well, you suck, and there’s really nothing there to break up anyway. But this sets a dangerous example for bands who are actually good. Because the frontman will inevitably have a moment when he says, “you know, I could be a successful solo artist just like Rob Thomas, I don’t need these guys, as a solo artist I can hire whatever musicians I want, I can have a guy who just plays the pan flute, and don’t even have to put his crappy song on the album! I can just tell him to fuck off and get a new pan flute!”

But with a band like the Police, who took not-sucking to new heights of commercial success, to break it up is a crime. When you have a good band, many factors contribute to its success, but topping that list is the underrated and, more often, largely unnoticed contributions of all the bandmates. Listen to the bass line on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and tell me that Bono’s doing it all himself. Bono is that rare artist who knows that his band is bigger than the sum of its parts and certainly bigger than himself. Bono has not and would never go solo because he’s an exceptionally smart man who actually realizes how rare it is for a rock and roll band to be truly awesome. The exact opposite of Bono, rock and roll god, is Rob Thomas, suckmeister. In much the same way, U2 is to Matchbox 20 as Chanel No. 5 is to pureed hot horse shit.

Sure, maybe Bono can’t front a quartet of xylophones, maybe his artistic freedom has been compromised by the fact that he can’t do an a capella album with Tuban throat singers, but like I've said, there are worse things that being the frontman of the Biggest Band In The World. Bono would never work as a solo artist. Mick Jagger would be a disaster as a solo artist. And I guess I should be thankful that he offered to prove my theory for me, allowing us to see exactly how to break up a good band at the height of their powers and drift into the vague periphery, but nevertheless Sting has indeed been an absolutely awful solo artist. And by awful, I mean utterly irrelevant. But I guess shaping the landscape of rock and roll isn’t quite as fulfilling as laying down a track of some background yodeling. Way to go, Sting. No more Police, but at least you’ve “found your center.” You bastard. But hey man, I feel you. When I feel the need to expand artistically, I run right to my local lite rock station, too.

granny said...

Matchbox 20 split up?

agitprop said...

Nice musical rant. You're right about ego being the death of these bands. There aren't many musicians who can do well as solo artists. Even The Beatles had hit-and-miss albums as solo artists.

Violent Disagreeing Man said...


Horatio said...

Yeah. Lou Reed sucked as a solo artist.

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