As everyone in the universe is by now surely aware, two members of the boy band One Direction have been caught on video smoking what they refer directly to as marijuana. In the wake of this incident, there has been a fury unleashed the likes of which has not been seen since Beatles records were burned in America in 1966 after John Lennon said that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”. It was already an open secret, incidentally, by 1966 that the Beatles smoked weed. It took blasphemy forty-eight years ago to stir up dissent amongst fans; these days, just the pot smoking is enough to cause kids to bonfire their One Direction tickets. Rebellion tolerance, it seems, has slipped backwards over the course of two generations.
It is symptomatic of what we’ve all known for quite sometime: rock n’ roll is dead. And by that I mean, rock n’ roll has joined jazz and classical music as “museum” forms; people still love the music, but only the old styles and the old purveyors. Any evolution within the form has ceased to be possible.
X-Factor, the show that launched One Direction, is the ultimate symbol of this. Its unwavering popularity represents the victory of light entertainment over rock n’ roll, a development long foreseen and feared. The show sort of dances on rock n’ roll’s grave in a sense. Its weekly four-hour deluge shoves in your face just how dead the record industry is, as well as how perished is the idea of a new, creative voice in popular music coming from nowhere. The bar is set too high now and, more crucially, with the advent of the digital music age the money isn’t there to be made anymore. An interesting stat I heard recently was that “Gangnam Style”, the South Korean pop hit that was the first item to gather one billion hits on YouTube, made five million dollars gross. Twenty years ago, cracking the top 40 for a week would have got you that much, never mind what the biggest hit of the decade managed to rake in. Rock n’ roll has fallen victim to one of Marx’s great truisms: behind everything that happens in the human world, economics is almost always the driving force.
The saddest thing is, with their huge fan base and global reach, One Direction could single-handedly re-invent rock n’ roll. I even have a blueprint. Now, we all know that another One Direction motion picture is an inevitability, right? So why don’t they just really go for it with the thing, given all the kiddies will come and watch anyhow? With this in mind, I’ve come up with the plot for a One Direction film that will reinvent rock n’ roll for the 21st century.
At the start of the movie, we find that the band have got themselves into financial straits. Their fame and fortune have both been sunk following a video showing two of the members smoking pot goes viral. They are forced to borrow money from a loan shark to make ends meet. They bank everything on their appearance on an X-Factor like programme propelling them back into the spotlight; unfortunately, their performance on said show goes over like a lead Zeppelin and having not recaptured their fame and the fortune that would have gone along with it, One Direction need some way of paying of the loan shark. The mobster gives the band seven days to pay up what they owe.
But they can’t pull it off and the loan is still extant come day seven. They are then called in front of the loan shark, who tells them he will forget the loan if they do him one, simple favour. He wants them to kidnap Ringo Starr and bring him to the criminal. They reluctantly agree. So One Direction kidnap Ringo Starr successfully, upon which they ask the ex-Beatles drummer if he knows why the loan shark wanted him kidnapped. Ringo tells them that he has in his possession a priceless object – a short story, which if read out magically gives the listener worldwide fame. The boy band then beg Ringo to tell them this story so that they themselves can be famous again. But the drummer refuses, telling the boys that they are not worthy. They are not rock n’ roll enough.
They figure that holding Ringo and trying to extract the magical story from him is worthwhile – their only shot at regaining fame and all that – but there is the matter of the angry loan shark to consider. To make matters worse, as soon as they got their hands on Starr, they informed the gangster. A huge battle plays out, during which One Direction realise that they needed to discover the rock n’ roll animal inside each member of the group. The loan shark is defeated and Ringo tells them the magical story, making them world famous yet again. The end.
The whole thing would be a musical, obviously, with all of the numbers being songs from the Guided By Voices back catalogue. Bob Pollard would finally get the audience he’s always deserved. The title of this masterpiece of world cinema? “Game of Pricks”.
Obviously the above film is a fantasy that will never exist. It is the kind of movie that would come out in a different world, in a different time. Perhaps one in which more people smoked weed, probably. All I can say to One Direction is the following two things: one, give up the ganja, boys, it’s no good for you. And two, the future of rock n’ roll is in your hands. Ringo Starr is only a phone call away.
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Rap/hip-hop/black music has a similar problem. The question is always do the artists have the discipline, artistic integrity, and business sense of a Miles Davis to continually reinvent themselves while retaining artistic integrity. There is a fellow doing this is in rap music. I went to school with him. His name is Ryan Leslie. #renegadenation #blackmozart