18 January, 2020

10 reasons why the best rock stars are nerds

Being a rock star is of course the coolest thing you can possibly be. But it doesn’t mean everything about you is cool. In fact, some of the biggest rock stars you know are nerds just below the surface.

Jimmy Page
Page started his career as a session guitarist and can be heard on dozens singles that would be deemed far too poppy and cheesy for any Zep aficionado. Led Zeppelin themselves dropped several references to The Lord of the Rings into their early songs and Page is such a fan of Aleistair Crowley he bought Crowley’s former home.
Nerd score: 7/10

Brian May
The Queen guitarist is a Doctor of Astrophysics, a passionate campaigner for animal rights – particularly badgers – and plays a guitar which he built himself as a teenager out of timber from the family fireplace. With a sixpence!
Nerd score: 12/10

Their image is heavy but Metallica are music nerds at heart. Their rhythms are meticulously crafted and they will never play eight bars of 4/4 where a mix of 5/8, 3/4, 12/8 and 6/4 will suffice.
Nerd score: 8/10

Frank Zappa
Although the bulk of his lyrics were aimed at frat boys, Zappa’s music was all nerd. Auditions for his band bordered on the cruel. Applicants were required sight-read ridiculously complex parts and then improvise over bizarre time signatures like 11/8. Having learned from his father, Dweezil has said that 4/4 is the hardest rhythm for him to play.

When Zappa discovered he had a namesake in ’cellist and composer Francesco Zappa, Frank made an album of Francesco’s work by programming it into his Synclavier – an instrument he used for composing parts that were practically impossible for a human to play.

In the early 90s, Zappa had planned to set up a consulting business to facilitate trade between former Soviet Union states and the west. Czechoslovakian president Václav Havel had named him Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism but the appointment was nixed by then secretary of state James Baker.
Nerd Score: 10/10

John Lennon
The working class hero was never really working class. He was brought up by his middle-class aunt and went to art school. He published two volumes of absurdist verse, prose and cartoons in his lifetime and another was posthumously published.

Having once described avant-garde as “French for bullshit,” he fell in love with conceptual artist Yoko Ono, and embraced her experimental style on the albums Two Virgins, Life with the Lions and Wedding Album.

Later, during his house-husband years, he would take Polaroid photos of the loaves of bread he baked and send them to friends.
Nerd score: 8/10

George Harrison
The Quiet One discovered Indian music almost by accident while filming the move Help! He took to it with a passion and studied the sitar under master Ravi Shankar. His interest in non-western instruments influenced almost all of late 60s music. He signed Radha Krishna Temple to Apple Records and inadvertently invented WOMAD.

He was a supporter of the Natural Law Party, a political offshoot of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

A lifelong Monty Python fan, he appeared as a reporter in Eric Idle’s spoof The Rutles, and financed Life Of Brian after big studios balked at the subject matter.
Nerd Score: 7/10

Jeff Baxter
The Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist has probably the most interesting side hustle of them all: he is a consultant to the US Defence Department, with a particular focus on missile defence. Stemming from an interest in how objects can be used for things they weren’t designed for, he wrote a paper in 1994 about how an anti-aircraft facility could be adapted into a missile defence system and passed it on to his representative. He’s been on the Pentagon payroll ever since.
Nerd Score: 7/10

David Bowie
Bowie’s earliest releases flopped at the time, and it’s probably just as well. He later admitted that if his first album had been a hit, he would probably have ended up in West End musicals. His first album is pure music-hall, with songs the likes of Uncle Arthur and She’s Got Medals that make his novelty song The Laughing Gnome sound positively hip by comparison.

Bowie was also a keen reader who could easily drop Philip Larkin quotes into an interview. He played the lead role in the cult classic Labyrinth, and in the 90s, set up his own internet service provider so subscribers could have their email address @davidbowie.com.
Nerd Score: 10/10

Art Garfunkel
Garfunkel is a voracious reader and keeps his books in chronological order of when he read them. He once walked across America by getting a friend to pick him up at the end of the day, drive him to the nearest motel, and drop him off at the same place the next morning.
Nerd score: 8/10

Gordon Sumner’s day job was as an English teacher. He practices tantric yoga (among other things if you believe the rumours), and learned to play the lute for an album of 16th century British compositions, released on Deutsche Grammophon.
Nerd Score: 14/10

1 comment:

  1. This is great, it made me smile so very much!
    Especially the Steely Dan dude!!!