Introduction: "So you want to be a rock and roll star. / Then listen now to what I say. / Just get an electric guitar. / Then take some time and learn how to play."
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Article by: Billy Parker
Written and performed by The Byrds in the sixties the song was about another band, The Monkees. Given the incredible ease at which The Monkees burst onto the top of the charts, the song was fueled by music industry mockery.
Three and a half decades later the patterns for the road to the Hall of Fame have become much more crystallized. History repeats itself time and time again as garage bands from all over the globe seek fame and fortune in the world's ultimate "life in the fast lane." In the words of Mick Jagger, "To play Rock & Roll you just need lots of energy---and three chords." To make it to the top you can follow the steps unwittingly played out by so many legacies before you. Here's a look.
Stage One: After changing names and members like underwear you finally find the band nucleus that "clicks." You inform your parents that you're dropping out of engineering school to pursue your real passion. Mom cries, "You're ruining your future," and demands you cut your hair.
You develop a local following that keeps you inspired. Zero dollars at this point, but "hey" current groupie girlfriend looks a lot like Alicia Silverstone. With a broadening fan base you take the show on the road. Pour your guts out on performances throughout the region. Wreck equipment van while in route. Write home about it. Mom asks, "When are you going back to school?"
Start writing own material. Begin searching for manager and record deal. Hire manager who promises record label connections. Meet with label executive who yawns and declares; "Don't call us now we'll call you."
Fan base and creative juices keep you propelled through next few years. Label finally agrees to give you a try.
Stage Two: Give everything you got to 1st major single to be marketed to airways. Single goes absolutely nowhere. But R&B stations that mistake you for something your not pick up B-side. FM stations catch on and you get noticed on the radio. Ask everyone you know to call and request your song. Mom calls local station but pronounces name of song wrong.
Label releases couple albums. Music is strong rocking efforts that produce cult following. Manager secures video deal. Video makes absolutely no sense what so ever. Lots of crazy costumes and gorgeous babes. Teenagers love it. Start hot romance with video vixen destined to be the next Alicia Silverstone. Wreck Chevy. Write a song about it.
Ask label executive for creative control for new album cover. Executive sighs and says "We'll talk about it later, I'm really busy." He picks up phone and calls voice mail.
Manager secures tour as opening act for super group. Blow monster group off the stage.
Stage Three: The breakthrough multi-platinum album. This is it! A huge top ten rocking hit. Another top twenty follows. Entire album is strong. A must have for any collection.
The moment you've dreamed of. Limo's, your own airplane, sold out arenas from coast to coast. You now date Alicia Silverstone! Mom declares "I knew you could do it."
Meet with executive. He tells secretary to "Hold all my calls." Professes to always being in your corner. "We're all going to be rich!" Hands you all cigars and politely asks, "Oh, by the way, which ones Pink?"
Have tight schedule for next album. Must strike while iron is hot. More chart hits and airplay. Another whirlwind tour. After two years and five continents you're exhausted (and burned out.) Looking forward to major R&R.
You only looked at the dollar signs, not the fine print. You're contractually obligated for another album and tour later this year. Wreck Porsche, write lawyer about it. Mom whines don't call home enough whiles on the road.
Stage four: We now enter the dark period. Newest album is made in haste and major haze. Falls down the charts faster than Wile E. Coyote goes over a cliff.
Latest opening acts blows you off the stage.
Surprise audit reveals your manager has been ripping you off. Not only is there no off-shore million dollar bank account on the Canterbury Islands, there is no such thing as the Canterbury Islands.
Wreck relationship with latest supermodel girlfriend. In an unparalleled move of vulnerability you find yourself weeping on your knees and scratching at her front door begging for forgiveness. She bursts open the door, steps over you, tells you to "grow up", flings her feather boa over her shoulder and jets off to Europe to be with an Italian Formula One race car driver.
The pressure is too much. You retreat into total seclusion. You're so consumed with substance abuse the inner circle has nicknamed you PAC-man.
Executive calls from Caribbean and asks if you've dried out yet? Mom sobs, "I knew this would happen."
Stage five: Lead singer proclaims himself true leader of the band. (There was never a vote on this.) Determined to recharge the band. Writes incredibly sappy ballet song that would make Barry Manilow proud. Song is a giant number 1 smash becoming your biggest hit ever. Propels you back to the top, but turmoil surrounds members who despise "selling out" rocking roots. Press catches wind of "musical direction" internal conflicts. Mom loves the song.
Lead singer meets secretly with executive who informs him, "Label has been looking to groom you for a solo career. Please continue writing more of the "pop" moneymaking stuff. Let me make some phone calls."
Stage six: After two more albums and more cities than you can remember it's over. An acrimonious split runs so strong you don't speak for years. You return home to girlfriend who "loves you for who you are." Executive only calls for greatest hits business. Mom compliments your new haircut.
Stage seven: Hall of fame calls and announces, "You've made the cut." See band mates for first time in 7 or 8 years. In an impromptu moment you all start weeping and hugging each other. You tell mountains of media, "You love each other like brothers." Mom tells reporter you were always "A nice boy." Executive pulls out cell phone and starts planning reunion tour.
Or you could follow the path of The Monkees. Rehearsals began in the spring of 1966 and the show premiered that fall. By the end of 67, from 4 LP's, they held the #1 album on the Billboard charts for 37 weeks. This includes an unconscious 31 consecutive weeks between their 1st two releases. This all before the singles Daydream Believer and Valleri, #1 and #3 respectively appeared on albums.
Sure seems to beat the arduous path most bands have to take. Is there any downside to such meteoric overnight success? Perhaps, The Byrds are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and The Monkees---are not.
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