'Out On The town With G. Roy Butler'

AUTHENTICITY

After a Friday night on the town it is sometimes my wont to spend Saturday morning in the house - watching Video Hits. When I was a young pup it was called Sounds Unlimited and was way cooler as wizened ex-jockey and keen pisshead Donnie Sutherland held the reigns and really knew his pop stuff. Like a lot of old folk I think everything was better/bigger/smarter/cooler/phatter in my day and while there is no doubt everything was better/bigger/smarter/cooler/phatter in my day that is not what the kids want to hear and it is not the subject of today’s entry in the On the Town journals. Today’s entry is on the subject of authenticity.
What made me ponder the notion of authenticity was the sight of two young ladies ‘rocking out’ in a manner that surprised me and a lot of pop watchers. Firstly, Kelly Clarkson ‘rocked out’ in front of a ‘rock’ band for her latest video hit. The song, ‘Since U Been Gone’*, is a reasonably well-manufactured piece of pop-rock but Kelly Clarkson is not the singer in a new rock band, she is the winner of American Idol. So we know that while she and her band may look the part, they are not really a rock band but no more than actors playing the role of a rock band. Secondly, Ashlee Simpson came on like some kind of ‘rock bitch’ for her new video hit, ‘La La’. The last I had seen Ms Simpson she had been Blonde Uber-bimbo, Jessica Simpson’s sister, and had been trilling her way through a very innocuous piece of pop.** What a transformation!
My first feelings on viewing these video hits were suspicion and cynicism. I was unable to enjoy these songs as I believed the performers were inauthentic. I now believe I was wrong for the simple reason that every video performance is inauthentic. When the guitarist in Ashlee Simpson’s backing band wears a Ramones T-shirt he is no less authentic than Johnny Ramone (RIP) was when he wore a Ramones T-shirt. Both axemen wear the Ramones T-shirt as a signifier that they are cool and ‘down with it’. However, Ashlee Simpson’s axeman is cooler than Johnny Ramone because it is less cool to wear a T-shirt with your own band on it. If Johnny had worn a T-shirt with The Ashlee Simpson Band on it then he would have been as cool as Ashlee Simpson’s axeman.
Is Kelly Clarkson barred from rocking because she has been processed like a shrink-wrapped slice of Kraft cheese by the American Idol experience? What if she had been born in a shanty in Geelong and had formed the Magic Dirt band? Would that have given her the right to rock? Was ‘Watch Out Boys’ more authentic than ‘Since U Been Gone’? No, they are identical. The only difference is the sound.

* Deliberate mis-spelling of words was originated by English rockers, Slade, to denote delinquency and disregard for ‘The Man’s’ rules (i.e. The Dictionary)

** Authenticity warning! Simpson was recently caught miming on a live TV show. This is the ultimate act of inauthenticity in the eyes of the keepin’-it-real police. Quite frankly, I believe as soon as someone sings into a microphone they are doing something inauthentic and miming is a perfectly valid piece of inauthentic performance art.

The question of authenticity puzzled me so much that I eventually sought the assistance of the Flywheel Supacomputer. Once I had written the algorithm I fed it through the input channels then took the output and fed that through a negative mirror of the original algorithm. This way I hoped to discover the most authentic inauthentic performances in pop video history.

Adam & the Ants : ‘Ant Music’ - In truth Adam was not an ant at all but for the duration of ‘Ant Music’ one truly believed that ants could sing and dance. Good one, Adam! Great choice, Supacomputer!

David Bowie : ‘Ashes to Ashes’ - There is an alien walking on the beach and strange music. I am scared. But, no, everything is okay! Because it’s none other than pop chameleon David Bowie performing his latest hit.

Blur : ‘Country House’ - I was watching a documentary on Blur once and there was a scene where Damon Albarn chewed out some classical musician who were contributing orchestration to one of his pop masterpieces. I thought he was a vilely conceited little shit bag with a pathologically deluded sense of his own self worth. However, on ‘Country House’ he comes across as a charming little rapscallion. That is the power of inauthenticity. Well spotted Supacomputer.

Rage Against the Machine : ‘Killing in the Name’ - They were going to change the world. There was going to be a revolution. This was political with a capital P. The evil capitalist empire would fall. Then the singer crawled up his own arse and the other ones formed an abominable heavy rock act with the laughable moniker of Audioslave. Supacomputer, this is rather depressing, what about –

Nick Cave : The entire outpourings of, - Oh yes the authentic southern preacher bluesman balladeer junkie who works at his ‘art’ in an office with a piano who travelled the long dark road from Caulfield Grammar to Brighton, England. What a prissy little middle-class hombre he is.

ON THE TOWN ARCHIVES