wed 18/09/2019

I'm in a Rock'n'Roll Band, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

I'm in a Rock'n'Roll Band, BBC Two

I'm in a Rock'n'Roll Band, BBC Two

Lead Singer Disease comes in all shapes and sizes

Doors frontman and 'erotic politician' Jim Morrison, in his heyday

This new series proposes to examine the individual roles played by the members of successful rock groups, but you could tell there was trouble in store from the narrator's opening question: "What is the DNA of a great rock'n'roll band?" Like the rest of this first programme, which tried to draw up a job description for lead singers, the question didn't quite make sense. Shouldn't it have been "What is in the DNA"? And were we about to see a Horizon-style scientific analysis of chromasomes and double-helix molecules, or did it just mean: "What kind of people join rock'n'roll bands?"

It turned out to be the latter, but the more snippets of interview, archive material and horrible cartoons last night's film shovelled into the mix, the more it demonstrated that there was no way we were ever going to get definitive answers. That was instructive in itself. It reflected a basic truth about rock music, which is that singers and bands become legendary because they invent a unique identity which enthralls an audience. They don't understand how they do it, and 999 out of every 1,000 bands fail. Simon Cowell might be able to invent prefabricated phenomena, but he'll never create The Clash. Come to think of it, where was Joe Strummer in this programme?

Thus, every time I'm In... turned the spotlight on some preening rock legend or other and tried to draw instructive lessons from their life and career, it merely came up with another individual with a different set of characteristics. Many singers have been more conventionally "good looking" than Mick Jagger, but he created his own niche by combining athleticism and sexuality with formidable organisational powers and an accountant's brain. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters has a knack for making informal contact with a club audience or a sea of faces in a football stadium, but admits he has no comprehension of how David Bowie can instantly turn a festival crowd into his own personal cult of worshippers. Radiohead's Thom Yorke hangs off his microphone like a starving refugee and makes moaning noises, whereas The Doors' Jim Morrison could (so they say) hypnotise his audiences into a collective erotic trance.

You have to give the show credit for doing loads of interviews, but having bagged them, they didn't know what to do next. You'd get a droll nugget from Alice Cooper about what really happened the night he was supposed to have slaughtered a chicken onstage, or Juliette Lewis talking about how the lead singer is usually an unstable egomaniac who knows nothing about music, and then the narrator would ruin it all by saying, "Jim Morrison was like some kind of Oedipal stormtrooper." They even tried to tell us that Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was a singer "totally without artifice," as if Kurt was just singing in the bath every time he went onstage.

It's rock music's misfortune to have become old enough to be turned into a minor branch of sociology, in which all its original meaning has been regurgitated by geeky rock-spotters as fourth-hand soundbites and received wisdom. They'd have done far better here to pick one singer and use him/her as guide and presenter, which might have brought some coherence to what was, frankly, a shambles. Bit late now, I suppose.

The Rolling Stones play Brown Sugar

Share this article

Comments

I think it's disgusting how they portrayed Thom Yorke as the only singer who had another musician (Gene Simmons) criticizing him. Not to mention no members of Radiohead were interviewed, nor could we even vote for Thom Yorke in the crappy poll they put up (Jarvis Cocker, best frontman in rock? really? I mean, seriously?) For a channel paid for by the people, BBC can be downright bias and retarded sometimes.

It seems that they only included signers with who they had interviews (or with their surviving band members). We had flashes of Debbie Harry, Freddie Mercury and Morrisey, but they were not even discussed. No sign whatsoever of Robert Plant? (Who is on the Top 10 list compiled by the BBC panel however.) No Bryan Ferry? A reluctant front man at first, who turned Roxy Music in to his vision completely, and as front man was a massive influence on the New Romantics, especially Simon le Bon and Hadley.

Difficult to please everybody with a programme like this, but there were some howling omissions. As Deborah points out, no Robert Plant, but also no Axl Rose, John Lydon, Bono, Paul Rodgers, Brandon Flowers, Ian McCulloch or Springsteen. Maybe they'll have better luck with the drummers.

fancy not putting Queen, Pink Floyd Led Zeppelin, Wham, Spandau Ballet, Frankie goes to Hollywood, etc on, we had to sit through all the drivel from 2nd rate groups not one of them worth the air time they had!lets hope the drummers come off better

How can the BBC introduce the program (guitarist) to ACDC's 'You shook me all night long', but fail to feature Angus Young. Also, no mention of Jimmy Page, yet the BBC think it appropriate to feature the riff to Whole Lotta Love....Whole lotta rubbish again from the BBC.

were was Brian May on 2nights show...

Has the BBC had some kind of a legal rights dispute with Led Zeppelin? I saw the opening 'singers' programme & thought "what, no Plant? - maybe big feature next week when they have to devote considerable time to the master rock'n'roll guitar hero Jimmy Page..." Then I tuned in this week & OMG - talk about 'elephant in the room!!' It was embarresing to say the least! Not only no Led Zeppelin feature yet again but far far too much lower-league pale American imitators (bon jovi van halen guns+poses... yuk!) I know the beeb thought Zepp 'old-fashioned & unconvincing in 1969 but they now seem to have developed a very warped view of the history that us true, knowedgable music fans know & understand... Don't think I'll tune in for next week's drummers episode (...episode being the right description for this fiction!) Like I say "old-fashioned & unconvincing!!"

TOO right Simien!! ...Gene Simmons sounded like me grandad! I suppose if you base a whole career around a gimick like dressing up as a clown, it must start to rub off on you...

vocal section..... no david coverdale,no ian gillan,no steve perry,no dio r.i.p,no kate bush,no bruce dickinson,no layne staley,no lennon etc etc....guitarist section...no ritchie blackmore,no gary moore,no satriani,no john sykes,no pete green.no gilmour,no george harrison,no peter frampton,no michael shenker etc etc....drum section ....no ian paice...exept to tell us bonham was a great bloke...no neil peart ...unbeleivable....no cosey powell,,no brian downey...and no steve smith....etc etc ..........to put it in a nutshell....without these artists the programme has no credibility at all....i mean the drummer from hole? ...jarvis cocker?....enough said......can,t wait to see the bass players top 10 ....no 1 colin grigson from bad news......and where was vim fuego???

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.