Alcoholier Than Thou: do falling stars burn brighter?

Diane Ofili asks, do falling stars burn brighter? As we the public ravenously feed off a legacy of self-destruction from our music stars, is there any room for career longevity through clean living in the industry these days?

All good things come to an end. Actually everything, good, bad and in-between meets an ineluctable demise.

However, the trails of debauchery blazed by some of our favourite musicians achieve immortality through guaranteed headlines and conspiracy theories. Be it induced by death, the desire to cheat it or mere boredom, the days of mindless drinking, drugging and shagging do not maintain their appeal forever.

That said, the rejection of vices does not always happen after the effects of excess. Greater numbers of young people are shunning a stereotypical booze-hound image,  no doubt the consequence of financial woes. It’s not a concern for those who’ve ‘made it’, yet there are some rock ‘n’ rollers who are following in the very same footsteps.

Dominic Howard, drummer of Teignmouth’s finest export Muse, was recently spotted ‘using’ an e-cigarette at the Brit Awards this year. Not exactly ‘Straight Edge’, but enough to incur the wrath of one Noel Gallagher. Jo Wood’s recent admission of supplying drugs to her kids in their teens will not have boosted their street cred any.

A reckless image does not a superstar make, but it goes hand-in-hand with their iconography. A dependency on chemicals legal and not are not only what we come to expect from them, but what we practically demand (Leona Lewis anyone?). Is that not why we buy their memoirs, or tickets to see them smashing sh*t up? The reason why many a fan pores over lyrics for debauched meaning and hangers-on prove their moniker?

We want to see them make their way unencumbered by the vicissitudes that poorer, less famous folk have to deal with. We vicariously want to see how copious self-indulgence plays out without suffering ourselves from the inevitable downsides. Buffered by legions of staff and towering bank balances they live out a melodrama that we admire, envy and deride as it suits us. As we buy less drink, junk and scan the likes of Ebay, Kelkoo or even EC 24/7 (I wonder what it sells?) for cheap deals, they can, to quote The Beautiful South, ‘ carry on regardless’.

Those downsides are not visited on stars alone. We like reading about the shenanigans they get up to , but not having to get that refund when the gigs are cancelled (the ones due to ‘exhaustion’, ahem). A fag dangling from the lips will always epitomise cool. A singer losing their voice from it, not so much.

In fact, Mariah Carey promised she would never smoke again, having tried it only once, should her voice return from the consequent laryngitis; a pledge that has since earnt her at least of $500 million so far. Asceticism is not always exciting but hedonism is not part of the job description. Morrissey’s mouth is his only obvious vice, which has not stopped him lending his eloquence and talent to some of the finest British music of the last four decades.

The transaction between artist and music lover will always provide the purest hit of all. Fame, pills, money et al. attract signatures to record contracts like flies to steaming turds, but rare is the soul who would deliberately let their habits interfere with their real raison d’etre. Fair dos, clean-living has not inspired the likes of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, but Muse is still around. Oasis are where, exactly?

All words by Diane Ofili. Read more of her writing on the site here or follow her on Twitter.

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