||Pop art will eat itself
What on earth makes pop stars think their limited musical abilities extend to all other fields of the arts? Caroline Sullivan wishes they wouldn't
Tuesday January 8, 2002
The vexed question of whether pop stars should branch out into other areas of the arts has been raised again after rock musician Bryan Adams photographed the Queen for an official Golden Jubilee portrait.
Better known as the perpetrator of the stodgy (Everything I Do) I Do it for You, which spent a record-breaking 16 weeks at number one in 1991, the raspy Canadian rockster was chosen by Buckingham Palace in recognition of the photographic exhibitions he has staged in aid of cancer charities.
If this is part of the Palace's modernisation drive, it might also consider commissioning Rolling Stone guitarist Ron Wood to capture the Queen on canvas, and appointing Robbie Williams poet laureate.
Both boast dubious qualifications for the posts - Wood was recently hired by the Ivy restaurant in London to paint a mural of its celebrity customers, while Williams has released a very slim volume of his poetry, titled F For English.
Should both be otherwise engaged, her majesty could ring Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres, who has exhibited his "expressionist" paintings in New York, American songwriter Jewel, whose thoughts fill two books of poetry, or Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, who published a book of Polaroid photos of hotel TV screens.
There are a dozen other examples of musicians who, constrained by merely making music, find artier outlets for their not always overwhelming talent.
Such has been the case since the 60s, when former art student John Lennon got his random doodlings published as the book, A Spaniard in the Works, and Bob Dylan cobbled together under the name Tarantula some verses that didn't make it into songs.
Obviously, what rock stars choose to do behind closed doors is their own business, but few can resist sharing, and the fact that they are household names means there will always be a publisher or gallery prepared to indulge them.
Some, perhaps, are assailed by the feeling that pop fame is somehow less credible than fame as a painter or actor - the upper-crust Eno, now renowned for film-making and installations, has always seemed faintly embarrassed that he started out as a keyboardist.
As for Bryan Adams and the rest, they're apparently empowered by the idea that once you've had a number one record, anything is within reach.
It's as if a talent for playing guitar correlates with an ability to excel at any art. Moreover, they assume their public will be equally enthusiastic, though sales figures suggest otherwise (that said, Jewel's first book, A Night Without Armor, sold 1m copies).
Now could be the time to unionise the arts. Then, when Myleene from Hear'Say, for example, decides to take up sculpting, she would be prevented from exhibiting it without sculptors' union membership.
It's worth thinking about.