“Brits fans wonder if Alex Turner is drunk after rambling Arctic Monkeys speech” ran the Metro headline. Peaches Geldof took to Instagram to call the singer an “ungrateful twat with glaring insecurity issues.” On Twitter people shook their heads (‘smh’) and called the speech “arrogant”. Ha! You can have 140 letters and still not understand a character.
Turner’s a character, and that makes him a dying breed right now. I guess that’s what happens when rock’n’roll has been absorbed into the turgid waters of traditional establishment showbiz. It’s a shock when anyone comes along and reminds you what a rock star really looks like. Arrogance is in the fucking job description.
You see, “rock’n’roll’ can never die”. Neil Young said that, and Neil Young is a man who knows. It’s a timely subject for that young greaser Turner to start preaching about from the podium: just this week George Ergatoudis, head of music at Radio 1, said that he thinks the time is right for guitar music to return to the Radio 1 playlist, like it’s his decision whether rock’n’roll lives, or rock’n’roll dies. Rock’n’roll never went away. And I mean SHITTING CHRIST if even he’s bored of the anaemic crud Radio 1 are currently playlisting then how in the living hell does he think the rest of us feel?
Is it any wonder that even the big cheeses at the BRITs have admitted that last year’s event was boring? It’s as if all the confidence has evaporated from mainstream music, and yet we all know that isn’t the real story.
You, me, in fact every single one of us who’s out going to gigs and hearing new bands twist our worlds into shapes we never knew existed know that there are plenty of bands out there fighting the good fight and yet not breaking through.
We’ve seen Fat White Family tearing up dingy clubs. We’ve heard Eagulls play our ear drums like taut animal skins. We’ve watched Wolf Alice turn gigs into the best parties you’ve ever dreamt of. Parquet Courts, Palma Violets, Radkey, The Orwells, Hookworms, Perfect Pussy, King Krule, Merchandise… it’s easy to see that rock’n’roll isn’t a slumbering beast that can be beckoned at whim to save anyone’s playlists. It’s already out there, fucking and fighting and clamouring to be heard.
What Turner was calling for is for rock’n’roll to find some of its old swagger again. It’s not about saying that we want more people picking up guitars for the sake of it if they’ve got nothing to say. It’s about an attitude to music, life and yes, even award show speeches that says shaking things up is why we’re here. It’s about talking shit to power. Yet conversely, rock’n’roll also means knowing that you come in a long line of rebels and truth-seekers. There is a red cord that runs through rock’n’roll and it’s in Alex Turner and it’s in David Bowie and it’s in you and it’s in me. You’ll find it at the front of the sweaty gig in the toilet venue. You’ll find it in the festival fields. You’ll find it in the grooves of your vinyl or you can even download it as an MP3. You just might not find it at the BRITs or on Radio One.
So the question, dear reader, is this: is it you he’s looking for? If someone gave you five minutes on a podium would you have something to say? Would you drop the mic? If someone didn’t give you the chance would you take it anyway?
We’re a nation of rock stars, let’s make ourselves heard.
Hey hey, my my.
Rock’n’roll will never die.
Originally published in NME, 1 March 2014.