The New Musical Express has recently carried out a poll to determine the identity of the greatest musical icon of the past 60 years. In doing so they have affirmed a belief that I have always held close to my bosom; the belief that the general public are utter, irredeemable morons. If we examine the Oxford English Wikipedia definition of the word ‘icon’ (or cultural icon to be more exact) we will learn that it is a symbol, logo, picture, name, face, person, building or other image that is readily recognized and generally represents an object or concept with great cultural significance to a wide cultural group. It is therefore a reasonably loaded question that the NME has asked, ‘Who is the ultimate icon of the last 60 years?’, for the youth are not necessarily going to feel represented by the icons of the 1970s. Sense, it seems prevailed for the most part as John Lennon was the deserving winner. Yet the shortlist was not so fair. Here are the 5 biggest reasons why.
1) Freddie Mercury came ludicrously low
The man that placed 55th was a singer often credited with being the greatest performer in the history of the planet. It is impossible for anyone who saw it to forget the Live Aid show where he held 72, 000 spectators at Wembley, and millions more worldwide, in the palm of his hand with nothing more than some guttural yelps that could be vocal warm ups. His lasting legacy includes changing the way people think about live music shows and the writing of some of the most enduring pop hits in the modern era. Yet he was so much more than this. He was an openly gay man in a time when being gay was only recently legalized, never mind accepted by society at large. He was a man that fought a debilitating illness that eventually claimed his life by carrying on making music. As a result of his tragic death from AIDS the Mercury Phoenix Trust was set up by the remaining members of Queen to fight for the spread of awareness of the disease. Although perhaps more than anything he was unique. He was totally unorthodox in everything he did. His yellow leather jacket and white skinny jeans are images that are etched onto the retinas of everyone that has seen him. He is the definition of an icon. Why then, did he come so preposterously low? I mean really, he was beaten by Lily Allen…
2) Where are all the women?
In the top 60 list there are 11 women. Now this may seem like a reasonable proportion, however when one considers that in the top 20 there is only 1, the figure seems less palatable. Indeed, the list as a whole has some very notable omissions and some baffling inclusions, (see point 4). One of the most shocking of the former is the absence of Aretha Franklin. It is truly sad that Amy Winehouse, credited with bringing classic soul and R&B music into the 21st century can be number four on the list, when the woman who made soul music popular in the mainstream in the first place cannot get into the top sixty musical icons list. It is akin to suggesting that the person who invented low fat crisps deserves more plaudits that the person that invented crisps. She was a hugely significant figure in the Civil Rights Movement, one of the most important of the century, indeed one could say of the past thousand years. On several occasions she sang alongside Martin Luther King at rallies to further the cause. I defy anyone to suggest a person that is more worthy of icon status than her. Bjork? I don’t think so.
3) Liam Gallagher came ridiculously high
It is impossible to think of Liam Gallagher as the second greatest musical icon ever because he is quite simply a poor imitation of the greatest. Oasis have made a career out of copying The Beatles songs and their style. Gallagher is the biggest plagiarist since Samsung decided to make app icons with slightly rounded edges (the swine!). The only feature of his persona that is not totally ripped off from John Lennon is his attitude, but that in turn makes him less of an icon and more of a notorious gimp. A testament to his status as possibly the most overrated musician of the modern era is the fact that his new band, Beady Eye, makes music that is as unlistenable to as someone farting the German national anthem through a walkie talkie.
4) Where the f*ck is Mick Jagger?
The Rolling Stones were potentially the biggest band of the past sixty years. He is the original sex crazed rock and roller. A legend? Yes. Obviously. Then what on earth were people doing not voting him in. Let’s take a look at some of the others on the list. Courtney Love has made a career out of being married to the most inspirational figure of the 90s and making some ‘music’ of her own, or something. She is as much a musical icon as John Terry is a UN Peace Ambassador.
5) Beth Ditto was actually in it
It has become very apparent to me that it is impossible to escape this American singer songwriter. Despite a reasonably consistent low standard of music, she refuses to go away, or more pertinently, the media refuses to drop her. She is everyone’s favourite leftfield figure whose inclusion is bound to get any publication some respect points for being edgy. I would like to point out that I am no dinosaur. The only thing about her that I have issue with is the fact that she fills no criteria to make her an icon. Firstly, she is not worthy of inclusion in terms of musical accomplishment. And while I am not asking her to be the next Beethoven, it seems to be no coincidence that the majority of the shortlist are at least reasonably good songwriters. Secondly, at least the ones that had no clue were symbols of a particular movement or a feeling. Sid Vicious was as good at the guitar as Chris Brown is at not being the scum of the Earth. Yet he defined the anarchy in the UK period. He was punk music. Beth Ditto will eventually be remembered as the woman who sang the Skins music and was always naked on the cover of magazines.
Freddie Mercury image by kentarotakizawa
Aretha Franklin image by bo mackison
Liam Gallagher image by ant217
Mick Jagger & interviewer image by Ben Lawson
Beth Ditto image by trash world