The inimitable local crooner Jordan Caress and I were discussing the nature of the British Hip Barometer as compared to the American one last night. Our discussion began with our mutual disappointment in the respective performances we caught in Austin from Britain's latest potato-faced, over-hyped export, The xx. That got me thinking about how it sucks that a country whose most massive exports were once all Beatles, Zeppelins, Stones, Whos, Bowies and Costellos is now mostly about producing Keanes, Coldplays and Muses. Hey, sign of the times, I suppose. And it's not like America's currently churning out modern Beach Boys, Buddy Hollies and Johnny Cashes -- at least no one of that groundbreaking/critically acclaimed/substantial an ilk who can sell like Elvis or Michael Jackson.
There's a point here -- a British point. And it's all about how some pop-culture scientist says Music is now Religion, but that still doesn't mean that the readers of Q Magazine have good taste.
According to the Telegraph, Dr. Clive Marsh of the University of Leicester is conducting a study about how listening to, following -- and functionally, worshipping -- modern musicians are becoming the "spiritual disciplines" of modern times.
An online survey designed by Dr Marsh has been completed by 200 people so far across Britain and the USA. The findings will be published later this year.
Dr Marsh began the study by examining the way fans of U2 interact with the Irish rock band and their music.
He believes that online fan communities form "not just to talk about music, TV or film, but to reflect on how their listening and viewing habits inform their living and help them develop their philosophical, religious, political or ethical commitments."
The study would start with U2, am I right? This is the sort of study that makes me concerned for the modern consumer (i.e. everyone on the planet), but it also makes me think both, "Duh" and, "Good." Of course it's troubling that anyone would -- literally or figuratively -- worship Lady Gaga. Last thing we need is all of our high schoolers running around in transparent suspenders and Predator gloves, talking about their poker faces. Not that that type of celebrity-worship is anything new. But if people are brought to think about the vastness of the universe and their small role in making it better via a Radiohead record rather than via a literary illustration or a list of rules written by a robed misogynist in a cave somewhere 4,000 years ago, well then I'm all for it.
But, as though to prove that the whole Music-becoming-the-new-Religion thing would in fact be much more terrible than it sounds, the Telegraph also reports on a new reader poll from Q Magazine. As writer Neil McCormick notes, "Reader polls are a bad advertisement for democracy." The list of the 20 greatest front men of all time according to Q readers (as reported by Telegraph) is as follows:
1) Liam Gallagher
3) Freddie Mercury
4) Damon Albarn
5) Chris Martin
6) Matt Bellamy
7) Jim Morrison
8) Bob Marley
9) Paul McCartney
10) John Lennon
11) Robbie Williams
12) Debbie Harry
13) Mick Jagger
15) John Lydon
16) James Brown
17) Bruce Springsteen
18) Robert Plant
19) Tom Meighan
20) Joe Strummer
First off, there's the whole Anglo-centric thing, though it of course makes sense that British readers would mostly choose British musicians. As for the other glaring transgressions on the list ... well, of course Liam Gallagher, Chris Martin and Matt Bellamy belong above Mick Jagger, two Beatles and The Boss. Why wouldn't they? This is contemporary society we're talking about. Who has time for dinosaurs when Mr. Paltrow is out there telling us via warble how he's going to "fix" us. Writer McCormick throws in his list of warranted complaints, along with his own makeshift list -- a list that makes right the snubbing of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.