Nov 292011

Anakin Skywalker never had a chance. Fawned over and treated as something special since a child, he became a somewhat churlish and petty, albeit supremely talented, young man who was vulnerable to the seductive promises of an older and evil mentor. Sure, we were led to believe that Anakin was merely trying to save his wife, but we know the truth—he sold out his principles for wealth, power, and the cool black uniforms and helmets that became his daily garb. So what if it cost a few limbs, most of his skin, and an internal organ or two? It was worth it—he was a superstar for the Dark Side and the ride was great for a while. Stuff like this happens to rock stars too…


  51 Responses to “To The Dark Side: Selling Out”

  1. Did Rod Stewart take a tremendous fall? Certainly! Was it the result of “selling out?” I don’t know. The older I get the less sure I am of what that means. Stewart never played to a “small” stage, even in his “humble,” hat-in-hand acoustic-driven rocker persona. He had a strong 6- or 7-year run, rivaling the work of the Stones in the ’70s, as I argued a few years ago, then he got bad. Worse, he then got REALLY bad and never seemed to regret how far he’d sunk since.

    Compare him to Elton John, who’s done as little of note musically since the same mid-’70s period, yet has ingratiated himself with charity work, frequent apologies for poor taste, etc. Stewart, meanwhile, still parades around like he’s settled permanently on some pinnacle. Maybe, in his mind, he is. In that way, he’s not any different from Mick Jagger, is he? If he’s musically out of gas, like so many artists seem to get after a certain run, is it wrong for him to act like he does? As a solo artist Stewart doesn’t have the benefit of a sidekick like Keef to give him bad-boy/rock ‘n roll lifer cred.

  2. In the article, I might have overstated Rod’s case for effect by a little bit, but there’s an important difference between Jagger and Stewart. Jagger took a temporary and somewhat unfortunate sidetrack with his ’80s solo albums, but he never entirely abandoned the Rolling Stones and their legacy. No matter how bad the Stones got, you could still pretty much tell it was them. By the late ’70s, Rod dropped just about everything that made his older albums appealing in his quest for maximum commercial impact. He still had the unique voice, but even then he camped up the singing with exaggerated mannerisms and accents. It all seemed that Rod no longer cared as long as product was being moved in platinum volumes.

  3. BigSteve

    One thing you gotta give Rod is that he made a ton of money for Tom Waits by covering Downtown Train.

  4. jeangray

    Too true.

  5. Not to mention the money he made for Dylan by needing to settle on royalties for Rod’s “Forever Young,” with a young Simply Red in the video.

  6. The last 15 Stones lps are exercises in brand management. Maybe Rod saw himself as pushing forward. Did Steve Winwood sell out when he went Miller Hi-Life in his productions, or did he just let himself be dragged through a new era of production?

  7. tonyola

    Winwood did sell out to some degree, but at least he tried to appear “authentic” in songs like “Roll With It”. Plus Winwood never really tried to push himself as a celebrity sex god or a “singing coach” on American Idol. He didn’t have so far to fall since he was never the superduperstar that Rod was at his true prime.

    It comes down to a matter of degree. Gene Simmons was a sellout from day one, so his later antics are in character. Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes got scorn from his bandmates when he licensed “Blister in the Sun” to Wendy’s but he’s not exactly a multi-platinum household name. Rod hit such a pinnacle in the “Maggie May” era on the strengths of his talent and charisma. He sold it all for mega-stardom.

  8. We agree in most of this. I guess what I don’t see is Stewart ever having some solid base that he betrayed. Talent, soul, etc yes, but like so many show-off lead singers i think he always wanted more, more, more.

    I’ll think about artists I’ve felt have sold out to a more surprising degree.

  9. mockcarr

    I don’t know enough about them as a group, but is there a gradual slope for the Bee Gees from their youthful Aussie take on Merseybeat, and their psychedelic late 60s excursions to the full-on fame grab with Saturday Night Fever or was it as sudden a move to the dark side as it seemed at the time? I suppose they would be more characterized as chasing trends rather than becoming a sith band.

  10. Happiness Stan

    I aired my thoughts on Rod recently in the Nickelback thread, and the more I think about it the more inclined I am towards the view that all he ever wanted was the success and money and women, and didn’t care how he achieved it, doing so with a great band with a lasting legacy was a bonus, but anyone who he could have used to get there would have been acceptable.

    Legend has it that he very quietly helped Ronnie Lane and Long John Baldry during their final years when they were broke and with huge medical bills. If that is the case, then for that he has my respect.

  11. pudman13

    I have no idea why, but I actually really like that idiotic song “Hot Legs.” Talk about a guilty pleasure.

    In the 80s everybody sold out. Some people came back, some didn’t, but I can’t imagine there are many artists who look back at that time period and say they actually like the way those records sounded.

  12. I honestly think the Bee Gees peaked artistically when they moved into their dance music commercial peak. That stuff is the real deal, for as real as that kind of music could get. I think their top 8 disco-era songs match the best of mid-’70s R&B, the proto disco of TSOP and records by those Miami cats (eg, KC, George McCrea). I think they pulled that stuff off earnestly. In their “British” phase they put out some catchy stuff, but a great chunk of their catalog is really hokey, second-rate Hollies.

  13. Happiness Stan

    I’ve long thought of them as songwriters and tunesmiths who moulded their songs to the sounds of the times rather than chasing bandwagons. Even the full-on disco cheese era songs could have been adapted to other genres, I could easily imagine a metal band doing a hard-rockin’ version of Stayin’ Alive. They had a few lean years hits-wise between about 72 and Saturday Night Fever, unless my chronology is way out I think there was a fairly smooth transition – plus, of course, the disco cheese was written to order for a film about disco. I’ve a lot of time for the Bee Gees, and hope that Robin (who’s receiving treatment for cancer at the moment) pulls through and makes a speedy recovery.

  14. “Talent, soul, etc yes, but like so many show-off lead singers i think he always wanted more, more, more.”

    Whoa! That was clearly a thinly veiled attack on the Velvet Foghorn. There’s no need to air out the dirty laundry in public.

  15. mockcarr

    Yeah, if nothing else Do You Think I’m Sexy was comedy fodder for old ladies singing it on TV and in movies for a cheap laugh.

  16. It perhaps bears mentioning that Rod did try to atone for his sins in the ’90s, in a way. He did an Unplugged album with Ron Wood, featuring new versions of “Maggie May,” “Gasoline Alley,” “Reason to Believe,” etc. The next few albums had lots of acoustic guitars and Faces-like rockers. He even covered Oasis and Primal Scream. Of course, he was still working with slick session players and it was all a bit desperate and kind of Hollywood. But he tried. And I do remember some interviews where he acknowledged that the early stuff is what he’s well-regarded for and he kinda lost his way. I guess after the little lift he got from Unplugged, it didn’t really stick commercially, so it was back to drawing board and all bets were off.

  17. Mostly agree about Winwood, but “Roll with It”‘s juke joint video is most certainly a faux-authenticity rock crime.

  18. tonyola

    That is why I put “authentic” in quotation marks when I made reference to Winwood.

  19. Happiness Stan

    Ladeez and Gennelmen, I give you – Elvis Presley!

  20. diskojoe

    I do remember that 90s period. I think he also did a cover of a Graham Parker song.

    This thread reminded me of a radio commerical I hadda listen to during the baseball playoffs in 2008 for some sort of music download system where the parents & kids name their favorite music acts & the mother & duaghter both giddly squeal out “ROD STEWART!!!”

  21. Rod, for the most part, has always had great taste in covers. Much like his own work, his execution of those covers has gotten steadily worse. His versions of songs like Angel and Reason to Believe are nothing to be ashamed of. But his versions of Downtown Train, Forever Young and all of the American Songbook stuff are a shonde.

    And this is the first time that I’ve been willing to admit this in public but count me in on Team Do Ya Think I’m Sexy (even though I very well may be the only member). Sure the words are absurdly bad. But the bass line is cool and the melody is pretty great. Note how well it works here (at 1:15) in the song from which Rod stole it:

  22. alexmagic

    Mod’s exhaustive, controversial Stewart vs. Stones showdown from a few years ago helped me come to terms with Rod and let me embrace what a great song “Stay With Me” is despite any lingering issues I have with the man’s later career. I highly recommend seeking out that week-long RTH event for anyone who missed it.

    Rod’s biggest problem is probably lack of quality control or taste. This is the guy who refused to sing Ooh La La. I suspect that, if you showed Rod the infamous Ja-Bo “Dancing In The Streets” video, Rod’s reaction would be a genuine “Ah, that’s great, man!” He would be incapable of picking up on any of the things that made it the Rock Crime of the 20th Century.

    More specifically in specific Jagger vs. Stewart issues, I think Rod lacks any of Jagger’s skills as a visionary leader. Mick makes plenty of bad choices, of course. But recall the slightly-less-well-known Ja-Bru incident. Would Rod Stewart have anywhere near the planning and leadership skills to recognize what was going on and deal with it so effectively? If you swap out Mick for Rod in that scenario, I think it ends with Rod and Mike Love in a fist fight on stage, Bruce quitting the business and a sad but confused John Fogerty standing in the background watching it all unfold.

  23. At the end of tonolya’s piece I linked to the last part in the Stewart vs Stones Battle Royale. From there I think you can keep linking back to previous rounds. I’m glad I could help. Of all the things people stop me on the streets and thank me for, that series may take the cake.

  24. Alexmagic, I just reviewed the Ja-Bru commentary and, although the video is unfortunately no longer available, I commend you for yet another stellar analysis.

    One question: are you anti bolo tie in general or just with regard to Bruce? I recall in the Who Would You Hire thread, you took Bruce to task for wearing a bolo tie, going so far as to disqualify him because you suspected that he might not even own a regular tie.

    On a related note, is the bolo tie one of Rock’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas? There might not be enough source material for a full analysis.

  25. alexmagic

    The bolo tie is probably acceptable if you’re an aging turquoise afficianado from the American Southwest or a Texas oil baron (though even then you may want to consider a Western Bow Tie instead), but not for a guy like Bruce who had been trading on his Mid-Atlantic background. Bruce donning the sports coat and bolo tie has long struck me as his sell-out moment.

    If Bruce wanted to wear the bolo, he should have had the guts to go for a full-on nudie suit for his look on Tunnel of Love.

  26. The bolo could make for a great piece in that series, cdm. Let me look into it, thanks. I personally despise those things, only making allowances for them in the circumstances alexmagic has listed, so research may put a strain on me.

  27. 2000 Man

    There;s no question Rod sold out, but I think the question is when? I think I’d say Day 1. I like his early career a lot, too. But he was selling tons of albums then, and The Faces kind of kept him in good with the Cool Patrol. But he was shooting for the stars from the outset. He has always played a lot of covers, and the goal of those covers was to get a hit. Hell, he covered Drift Away when I swear it was still in the charts (so did The Stones but they didn’t release it).

    Maggie May and Hot Legs don’t seem all that different to me. Maggie May crushes all the singer/songwriter songs of the era, and Hot Legs was certainly the kind of thing that moved up the charts in that era. Neither one would have done anything had they been released the other way around. I think a lot of us just like the style of music in general when Rod’s classic period was and dislike it more when he really started hitting the charts.

    He wanted to be a Top 40 success, and he did it for a long, long time. He still sells a ton of records, because he knows what sells.

  28. Oh man, if I ever had both the money and a high profile gig as an excuse to wear it, I would get a nudie suit in a heartbeat.

  29. jeangray

    OMG! Guess I’m #2 on the team. Carmine Appice on drums. Represent!

  30. jeangray

    Does he really still sell a ton of records??? Does anybody these daze???

  31. tonyola

    Rod made some unfortunate choices in covers even as early as 1974, like his gender change of the hugely-famous Aretha Franklin song “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)” to …Natural Man” on the Smiler album. It’s not so much the performance, which is bland but adequate, it’s the “what was he thinking?” moment that prompted him to choose this song over a zillion other soul/R&B picks.

  32. tonyola

    Am I imagining things or is it physically impossible for Appice to not twirl his sticks whenever a camera is on him?

  33. tonyola

    His 2010 album of R&B covers (Soulbook) made it to #4 on the Billboard Top 200 album charts. Still pretty respectable if not up to 1979 levels.

  34. jeangray

    Dude! That’s not respectable at all. You can shift less than 10,000 units, and have the No. 1 album in the country.


  35. Happiness Stan

    I rest my case, I like neither disco or metal, but that demonstrates the quality of a song which can stand up to the almighty kicking which both of those genres give it.

    Here’s a death metal version, and I wonder if there was ever a version of it by Darlene and Jonathan Edwards? Oh yes, here it is

  36. 2000 Man

    I just saw him this morning on the Graham Norton Show, and he was very proud of the fact that he’s sold 250 million albums in his career, and Norton even mentioned that even in this day and age, he’s one of the few people that sells a lot of records. Taylor Swift and Adele may be the only ones that sold multiple millions recently, but Rod has hit multiple platinum and platinum in the last five years.

    Oh, and the 250 million may be a little high. Wikipedia says he sold 100 million, but Rod didn’t seem interested in correcting that.

  37. Yea, Rod sold out for money fame and progressively younger blond models. I always figured him for one of the few true, unvarnished working class lads in the late British invasion. The Stones, the Who and so many others were Art School guys who later developed all of these pretensions. Rod recognized early that his voice was his ticket out of gravedigging. He made chart singles for as long as he could with anyone who could help him get there. Who among us would have done different?

  38. He was counting each album side.

  39. cliff sovinsanity

    To answer the question at hand, I would like to nominate Paul Westerberg as an Anakin candidate. It started around Let It Be. Paul wrote one of the most important anthems of the 80’s, Unsatisfied. The Replacement were lauded much praise by critics and unyielding adoration by like-minded fans. It all went to his head for good and/or ill. The result was a move to a major label with Tim. This time the anthems (Left of the Dial, Here Comes A Regular) were directed at a mainstream audience. The mainstream didn’t bite. Nor did they bite on much of Please To Meet Me. His next stab was the polished, self exploratory Don’t Tell A Soul. He finally scored his “hit” with I’ll Be You.
    Ever since then he’s been trying to replicate those magical anthems with little success.
    If the two songs on the Singles soundtrack don’t sound like blatant attempts at selling out, then I don’t understand what selling out is.
    But none of this really bothers me greatly. I still love The Replacements and some Westerberg’s solo stuff. I just wish he wouldn’t try so damned hard.

  40. ladymisskirroyale

    I would nominate The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’ll leave it to some other Haller to expertly explain why (and make witty Star Wars references) but all I know is that they went from great to horrible in about 4 albums.

  41. misterioso

    I would defend RHCP against charges of selling out Such an accusation is patently unfair. In fact, they sucked from day one. I just thought someone should stand up for them.

  42. misterioso

    Cliff, I wouldn’t go quite so far but there is some truth in this. I remember being fairly appalled by Dyslexic Heart though I rather liked Waiting for Somebody. But it says something, probably about me, that I think Tim and Pleased to Meet Me–which I think you see as fairly blatant attempts to sell out, if unsuccessful ones–as his best work.

  43. jeangray

    Pretty soon there won’t be a Musik Biz for anyone to sell-out to.

  44. Ha! My sentiments exactly, misterioso. The musicians are good enough but Anthony Keidis is horrible. I would call his lyrics and “singing” juvenile and grating but that would be to insult grating juveniles everywhere. I think that he’s a misogynistic meathead who seems to be trying to present himself as some kind post-hippie free spirit. Once the novelty of the wacky pants made out of stuffed animals and fire helmets wears off, you have to realize that there is nothing of substance or interest going on underneath.

  45. The RHCP’s new album is the best new album I’ve heard this year. Not that I pay attention all that much to what’s new anymore, but it’s a very good record, particularly the first ten songs or so.

  46. cliff sovinsanity

    Tim is my highpoint as well, despite the sloppy production and the inclusion of Lay It Down Clown and Dose of Thunder.

  47. ladymisskirroyale

    I think I was solely referring to their tattoos.

  48. Happiness Stan

    Hi Mr M, unfortunately all the earlier links appear to have floated away to Seventies Rock Heaven.

  49. shawnkilroy

    Michael Jackson never recovered from the success of Thriller. He just got weirder and creepier. He never made another decent album after he stopped working with Quincy. Not the same kind of selling out as Rod, maybe, but he def went to a dark side.

  50. I think there is a lot to like on some of the later day Replacements records and some of Paul’s solo stuff.

    I particularly like–
    Achin’ To Be
    Someone Take The Wheel
    What A Day (For A Night)
    Lookin’ Up In Heaven

    A couple of years ago, he did a download only release on Amazon called 49:00 that was taken down because he threw in some weird cover snippets at the end that he didn’t clear. If that stuff ever resurfaces, there are some real nice songs on there like Devil Raised A Good Boy and Who Ya Gonna Marry.

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