“Long time ago, I also used to be sad, when somebody would leave. But now I know that nobody stays here for long” a colleague recently told me. It is true: A long time ago, it used to be the privilege of celebrities to live fast and die young, while everybody else was stuck with the same monotonous job in the same company from their teens until their 60s. (Unfortunately, some popstars, took their slogan freighteningly literally – just think of the infamous “27 Club” of rock musicians who died at the age of 27…).
Nowadays, everybody gets to enjoy the thrills of instability and uncertainty in their careers. But doesn’t the saying go “No risk, no fun”? Thus, since risk-free life paths do not exist anymore, that means finally everybody gets to have fun.
For musicians, Andy Warhol’s 15-minutes-of-fame estimate works out to an expected popularity span of about five 3-minute-songs per pop group. Given the prospect of painful endless obscurity following thereafter, The Who’s most famous rock’n’roll line ever: “I hope I die, before I get old” seems rather understandable.
The Who – My Generation (1965):
The few groups that do manage to keep up their success for longer than five 3-minute songs usually are hailed by the music press as having managed to “reinvent themselves” over and over again (U2, Madonna, etc.) – however, it doesn’t seem that these stars had much of a choice if they wanted to retain popularity.
Reinvention for non-pop-stars is called “lifelong learning” and involves a colorful sequence of internships, short-term-contracts and spells of unemployment. If you do happen to secure a long-term kind-of job, you relinquish your 15-minutes of fame by keeping quiet about your job towards your friends to prevent them from being jealous.
Startingly, it was The Clash, one of the most prominent punk rock bands of all times, who suddenly appeared to express a disdain for a daily-changing lifesytle and on the contrary expressed an energetic desire for bourgeoise-bohemian stability and predictability when asking one of the most famous questions in the history of punk rock in 1982: “Should I stay or should I go?”
Of course, you would expect proper punks to rebel against the daily grind and thus be happy when “one day is fine, next is black”. Yet instead, the Clash surprised everyone by exclaiming “This indecision’s bugging me”. Apparently the Clash are longing for some sort of pinned-down, unflexible personality, with the condition of unpredictability evoking symptoms of a mild identity crisis (not ‘dentity crisis, but we had that already) – “Exactly who’m I supposed to be? / Don’t you know which clothes even fit me?”
Nevertheless, what does set the rebellious Clash apart from non-rebellious non-pop-stars is their ingenious nihilistic prediction: “If I go there will be trouble / and if I stay it will be double”. Even though millions of people have to decide at some point in time whether to stay or to go, I doubt whether anyone else ever before or after sees the pessimistic possiblities that lie ahead of such a decision as clearly as the Clash did in the downright transcendental realization of upcoming troubles no matter what.
It turns out, that the clash were visionary rebels after all: In 2005, the German band “Wir sind Helden” re-confirmed the importance of continuity in pop music in there declaration “We came to stay” (which reminds me of that veni vidi vici phrase a few thousands of years earlier by Julius Caesar, but kind of more perky):
What “Wir sind Helden” figured out just as youtube and facebook were quietly developing towards fulfilling Andy Warhol’s 15-minute prophecy was that in a time where everybody is affected by and contributes towards rapid change, it is anachronistic persistence that suddenly becomes a viable means of “rebellion” against the establishment.
But you don’t have to be a pop-star to be rebellious. Perhaps simply being sad the next time yet again somebody leaves would be a timeless, fad-proof first push in the right direction.
Stay this week, if you can,