A Plague of Icons

Pretty well everybody from the past is an Icon nowadays. It’s real easy: all you need is to be old and boring enough. Being Dead used to be a big help; in the early years of Iconhood, Deadness was virtually a sine qua non to Iconic sanctification but nowadays it’s a luxury. Being a member of the Living Dead, as so many past musicians have mutated into, is quite enough, thank you very much. The appetite for Icons has expanded to the point that anybody who has survived the years in some vaguely recognizable shape or form and who hasn’t made a complete arse of themselves is verging on Iconhood.

The process of becoming an Icon is easy, too. First of all, somebody sez that a particular “artist” is a Genius or “The Future Of Rock’n’Roll” or some other piece of lunacy, somebody else repeats this purely on the basis that they heard someone else say it, somebody else likewise passes it on and before you know it yet another Icon is well on the way to being born. Such is the way of public opinion: Iconhood by way of repetition. And so, musicians who were laughed at in their prime have become the object of reverence thirty years past their ostensible “best”.

Take Queen, for example: in 1974 The New Musical Express had Freddie Mercury on the cover alongside the statement, “Is this man a prat?” And you know what? They were RIGHT, but that was before the musty reverence for anything that came out of some putative Golden Era had congealed into stuff like “Classic Rock” stations that accord piffling old bores like the Allman Brothers Beethoven-like musical adulation, endless Rolling Stone lists of the Greatest Old Farts Of All Time, and TV series that devote entire programs to analyzing “classic” albums like Black Sabbath’s Paranoid without the slightest hint that they’re Taking the Piss. I mean, they must be taking the piss! It’s Paranoid, for Christ’s sake!

And so Iconhood has been devalued…and devalued…and devalued… to that point of utter meaninglessness that has become a staple of our contemporary culture. But that doesn’t stop all the reverent looks whenever a lukewarm bowl of piss like Cold Chisel make a comeback tour (with all their original members, gasp!). Jesus, the Old Farts still know how to rock! And Jimmy can still shriek and emote, just like in the Old Days! What a great singer! I think Cold Chisel…Are…GOD!!!

One thought on “A Plague of Icons”

  1. Methinks along similar lines, TOC, but this plague of icons is not limited to old fart rockers. I’ll make a list of everyone – and everyTHING – I see or hear declared an icon, or “iconic” over the next couple of weeks and report back (now watch the offending references drop off to nothing).

    Your icon plague is symptomatic of a general linguistic ill of today: the use of hyperbolic language to describe the unextraordinary (which in turn is symptomatic of a loss of nuance in the use of language and a loss of lexical accuracy and precision). It all adds up to a mass dumbing down of human expression.

    Some obvious examples that spring immediately to mind:
    devastated = covers the full range from mildly disappointed to suicidal despair
    awesome = anything better than slightly OK
    genius = someone with a modicum of talent (perhaps), OR someone with an IQ 10 points higher than the user of the word, OR someone who has developed their skill in some area through more persistent effort than the average bear is prepared to put in
    rock legend = someone who used to be in a band known to a couple of fellow Facebook ‘friends’ seeking ego strokes in return for giving ’em out, OR someone who used to be in a band that played a few gigs back in the youth of nostalgic old baby boomers assembled in virtual tribes on FB to fan the fires of a delusional idyllic past
    massive = anything larger than small

    And on and on it goes…

    PS: It’s a mistake, I venture, to assume the legions of Sabbath fans (and others who should know better) see Paranoid as a pisstake. A lot is taken seriously that shouldn’t be, and a lot isn’t that should. That’s my impressive-sounding-but-what-does-it-mean comment of the week out of the way.

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