Monday, April 13, 2009

The Cardinal Rules for Not Screwing the Fans

From the smallest of indie outfits to the big arena fillers, there seems to be no end to ways in which bands stumble upon ways to screw the fans. They don't always mean to, but sometimes they just can't help themselves. Below, we present our opening list of how NOT to screw over your fanbase, although we've been screwed so royally for so long, we could barely sit down long enough to write all of this. Sad, really. 

1) The Kid Paid for the Ticket

Legend has it that Bruce Springsteen played a show in London with a 104 degree fever. When asked why (and I'm paraphrasing here), he said 'Anytime I do a show, I know there are kids out there that are maybe coming to see their first concert, or some guy is going to ask his girl to marry him or something. How do you not play for them? The kid paid for the ticket.'

In contrast you have bands like Guns N Roses, otherwise known as 'The Real Spinal Tap', that kept their fans waiting for hours and almost caused riots by allowing 50,000 metalheads to beer down for five hours in an enclosed space while waiting for them to take the stage. Nice one, guys. 

Mr. Bad Example today is the guy who no doubt has crushed the hopes and dreams of fans all over Canada: Billy Bob Thornton. You know you rule when you cancel your tour because you insulted an entire nation. 

2) Give The People What They Want

A lot of bands seem to have embraced the notion that 'challenging the fans' somehow equals 'not selling out'. It seems to be a small coincidence that they roll out this old chestnut whenever they put out a shitty album. I can see the band meeting now:

'Guys, I think this album we've just made, you know, the one we made in Mexico/the Himalayas/our friend's barn probably sucks.'


'Really. We've gotten nine humps our producer found to flog away at a glockenspiel and Biff over here just keeps churning out one song after another about goblins.'

'Goblins are awesome, though.'

'Yes, goblins ARE awesome. But aren't the fans going to be disappointed?'

At this point, queue the asshole producer who plays to their bullshit artistic vanity: 'Guys, they won't be disappointed. You're not putting out a bad album, you're challenging the fans. You're daring them to follow you into a magical forest of sights and sounds unseen. You're asking them to join you as you skip through the swamp of what's been done and lead them to a fairy land of nymphs and satyrs and shit like that.'

And lo, this band was called ... 'The Decemberists'. 

3) Never Pull a Cat Stevens

How annoying is this guy? Mr. Peace and Love seemed to dig on the 9/11 attacks and generally came off like a HUGE asshole in every interview since. I can't really think of many bands in this category, although the Beatles nearly went there with the Maharishi, until they got wise to the fact that he was stocking up on fast cars and women, which is pretty rock and roll, but not very spiritual, or whatever it is he claimed to be. Side note: If I were the Maharishi, I'd have done the same thing, otherwise, why be the Maharishi? We all know sitting in a field all day contemplating your one-ness with things is pretty much total BS. 

4) Think Hard About That Rockumentary

Ask yourself this: are you kind of a pompous douche that digs on turning your own fans into the cops, talking about how you're in therapy (no one ever fucking cares) and do you have a completely overblown sense of your own self-importance? If so, you are Metallica! Congratulations, you're awful and a rockumentary is probably not for you. 

Having cameras follow you around while you all debate whether or not to get back together was a bad idea, especially when it is posed as a question of deep significance for the world. Watching this circle of leather-pantsed crybabies sit around their million dollar studio talking about themselves as if the variables added up to considering the invasion of a large nation is hysterical. How the cameramen filmed all this without filling their 'wears with urine due to uncontrollable laughter is beyond me. 

5) Double Albums Mean You Hate Us

The '90s featured a one-two punch of double album mayhem that I never really got over. This came from Guns N' Roses and Bruce Springsteen in the form of double albums that can be held up for all time as perfect examples as to why they should never be considered, unless you are Pete Townshend and you have just written Tommy or Quadrophenia. Since they have already been written, it never has to be considered again. 

Use Your Illusion had some great songs, but I cannot forget the sting of hearing 'Double Talkin' Jive' and knowing they had pulled a fast one for cash. The same goes for The Boss, with the release of Lucky Town and Human Touch. I put both of these horrendous episodes down to the pervasive and annoying influence of what is commonly known as 'California'. This fucked up state seems to put the zap on the heads of decent people when they move there. 

GnR was from there, so every wrong thing they ever did sort of makes sense in the odd logic of that state, but Springsteen's Lost Years out there are still a subject of great curiosity to many. What prompted songs like 'The Big Muddy', and why, with so many great unreleased songs, did anything like that get released? Why the hell would you leave New Jersey for a shithole like LA? What in God's name is he wearing in the album cover art? He looks like a gypsy recently assaulted at a pinata party. 

Double albums open you up to all sorts of criticism, mainly in the veins of a) you're screwing the fans and b) this could have been one good album instead of two mediocre ones.  This will always happen. It will most likely always be true on both counts. 

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