On this week in 2000, Yusuf Islam (previously known as Cat Stevens) joined the campaign to fight the government’s repeal of Section 28. Section 28 was the ban on homosexuality being ‘promoted’ in schools. By ‘promoted’, what it really meant was ‘being told that it existed’.
Those that sought to keep Section 28 thought that it was an essential piece of legislation that was all that stood between the bottoms of our innocent schoolchildren and a queue of 2000 predatory gays with unquenchable erections, such is the uniquely paranoid perspective of the bigoted mind.
Luckily the Section 28 thing has been forgotten and despite his high-profile religious conversion he is still mainly famous for writing some pretty ditties. Other tunesmiths have not been so lucky though and have become better known for other, similarly embarrassing behaviour.*
We’re not talking about the standard rock exploits for which people achieve notoriety. We’re talking about the things that mean the music is overshadowed and sometimes forgotten about completely.
So here’s a a list of them in an order we’ve given no thought to whatsover (except for number one).
10. Pete Doherty
Whether you think he’s Peter the libertarian poet, or Pete the professional junkie, there’s no denying that unless he’s deliberately saving some evidence of songwriting ability to wrongfoot us, he’ll be remembered as the latter.
9. The Brian Jonestown Massacre
The terribly-named band are famous for the singer coming across like a brilliantly amusing arsehole in the film Dig! which documented the his rivalry with the Dandy Warhols. Even those that have seen the film can’t remember any of their songs.
8. Marianne Faithfull
Even with a music career that’s lasted (give or take the odd 10 year drug binge) for almost 50 years that includes a critically lauded album (1979’s Broken English), Marianne is known by many as Mick Jagger’s ex. Whether this is because she became the personification of a time and a place (60s London), or simply that the world was unable to deal with a woman living a rock n roll lifestyle is up to debate. What sadly isn’t up to debate is that she’s more famous for something she certainly didn’t do – being caught by drug raid police with Mick Jagger eating a mars bar out of her vagina. As Marianne herself articulates it:
The Mars Bar was a very effective piece of demonizing. It was far too jaded for any of us even to have conceived of. It’s a dirty old man’s fantasy — some old fart who goes to a dominatrix every Thursday afternoon to get spanked. A cop’s idea of what people do on acid!
7. Marc Almond
Speaking of things that aren’t true, we come to a rumour that has plagued Almond since the 1980s. We’re not saying Marc Almond isn’t well known as one half of Soft Cell. We’re not saying he didn’t knock out some ace synth-pop in his day. We are however saying that at the quieter points of his career he’s been more famous for having a pint of semen pumped out of his stomach in hospital. It’s obviously bullshit for a variety of scientific reasons and indeed this sticky story has been attached to almost every popular but reviled pop star in the last 30 years. Most of them ride it out, but Almond has never shaken it.
6. Lady Gaga
We know Gimmers likes her, but he can’t be right about everything. Her music is undoubtedly the least interesting thing about her. Say what you like about Madge, but at least the sinewy one is singer first and controversialist second. Very few Lady Gaga conversations start with “do you feel her new album is an improvement on the last one”. Nope they either start with “I heard that Lady Gaga has a dick” or “I saw that piss-bag Gaga on the telly last night. She was wearing meat in a successful attempt at making me have this tedious conversation today.”
5. Kanye West
We love having Kanye around, his massive insecurity dressed up an unconvincing arrogance makes the world a more interesting place. You have to admire a man who can become one of the successful recording artists in the world and yet he’s still slightly more famous for being a douchebag at awards shows. Kanye, the boy who cared too much.
4. Samuel Preston (Ordinary Boys)
Do you know that Ordinary Boys song? No, not that one- that was the Lady Sovereign one that they remixed. To be fair the Ordinary Boys were groundbreaking. Most bands achieve success and their singer leaves to pursue a solo career. Ordinary Boys didn’t achieve any success and their singer pursued a career in reality television and as one half of a couple who divorced a year later. Oh and he walked out of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. What he hasn’t done is make any music that anyone’s heard of. (see also Towers of London, and when we say ‘see’ we mean ‘don’t see’)
3. Milli Vanilli
Poor poor Milli Vanilli. You’re one of the half of the hottest new pop band in the world. One minute you’re proclaiming yourself “the new Elvis”, the next you‘re frantically running offstage when the tape to which you’re lip-syncing jams and then starts looping. Next thing you’re handing back Grammys. Before you know it, 9 years have passed and you’ve died as a result of all the drugs you’re taking, thereby finally achieving that ‘New Elvis’ status. The saddest thing is that if Milli Vanilli had been popular twenty years later, the controversy would have a stepping stone to further riches rather than an obstacle.
2. Kerry Katona
It’s very hard to work out whether Kerry is very lucky or desperately unlucky. All that can be said with any certainty is that when it comes to being a celebrity, Kerry is rubbish at it. She started out as a member of rubbish pop band Atomic Kitten and then managed to leave before they became famous (the most rubbish time to leave, surely). Since then she’s had a rubbish marriage, rubbish boyfriends, a rubbish mum, some rubbish addictions and starred in rubbish adverts for the most rubbish supermarket.
1. Gary Glitter
‘The winner is of course Gary Glitter’ is not a phrase uttered often at awards ceremonies but on this occasion the gong goes to the leader of a gang with an ever-dwindling membership. No-one else has managed to destroy their own career with quite the same enthusiasm as Gary. He went from being the most famous glam-rocker in the world to being the most infamous paedophile in the world. For years he’d only be photographed with wig and shiny shoulder pads. Not so much a costume as a disguise, once removed immediately revealing a look that screamed ‘sex offender’ so successfully that people did just that, and a freshly grown goatee designed to remove any potential doubt a jury of his peers may have had.
After his 1999 child conviction for child pornography he obviously thought “bollocks to it, if everyone hates me anyway I might as well move to Vietnam and really go to town”. Weirdly the Vietnamese authorities noticed the most famous child-porn user in the world shacking up in the jungle and he got done for that too.
The result is that the Western world has made an unspoken agreement that there was never a pop star called Gary Glitter and there we certainly didn’t own his albums.
*= trying to keep Section 28 is the embarrassing thing to which we’re referring, not converting to Islam. Whilst we think religion is a bit silly we understand that Yusuf is probably jolly proud of himself for doing it.
To be fair he’s probably proud about the Section 28 thing. But he bloody should be embarrassed about it.