David Bowie’s “Fame” is a pretty good take on the elusive nature of stardom (“Could it be the best, could it be? Really? Really?”), but music is full of cautionary tales – and occasionally heartwarming ones – of fame. If you listened to rock music in the 1990s, you knew Oasis. They were the second coming of the Beatles, we were told. (Mostly by Oasis.) And then… nothing. C’mon, admit it, you thought they’d broken up. When I started watching Lost on TV, and the band Driveshaft was introduced in a character’s backstory, I immediately recognized the story of Oasis: dueling brothers, too much sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, a brief high point in pop music, and then a breakup and a quick fade into obscurity. Only one problem – the band never broke up. They’ve been around all this time, releasing records in what can only be described as a musical proof of the Law of Inertia.
Then there’s Rodriguez, whose album “Cold Fact” was apparently recorded in 1969 and released in 1970 to almost universal disinterest. But a little flicker here and an unexpected spark there has suddenly, 38 years later, burst into a small but nicely crackling fire. The music press is hailing his reissued album as a reclaimed relic of the psychedelic 60s, and a measure of fame has finally entered a life that has featured factory work, landscaping, and several failed runs at local elected office.
Of course, the internet was heavily involved in Rodriguez’s “rediscovery.” And perhaps it has changed – a little – the nature of fame. Youtube in particular seems to be built on Andy Warhol’s premise that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. And we now readily accept degrees of fame. Rodriguez’s is not the same as Oasis’s was 12 years ago. Although strangely, they might be on a more equal footing now…
What do you think? Is the nature of fame changing?