Amy Winehouse showed the world how rock stars are supposed to party
Now that the corpse is cold, the funeral service has been paid for, and Back to Black has resurfaced at the top of the charts, it’s time to congratulate Amy Winehouse for a job well done.
Take a bow in heaven sister, for showing the Twitter generation exactly how a real rock star is supposed to behave. We haven’t seen that kind of performance since Kurt Cobain burned out in Seattle 17 years ago.
Making Winehouse’s above-and-beyond effort doubly commendable was that she wasn’t even a rock ’n’ roller, except in attitude. What the beehived U.K. soul singer was, however, was a real, honest-to-god, genuine throwback to a time when being famous was a licence to stagger through life completely fucked up.
And, admit it, we all found it fascinating because there’s nothing we love more than a fuck-up. We always have, and we always will.
Winehouse was flat-out incredible in her devotion to kicking things old-school. One of the major downsides of the modern-era music business is that you can no longer get away with being a sad, drug-and-booze-addled mess. The reason? To the everlasting chagrin of those asswipes in Metallica, no one buys records anymore. Instead, they pull them off the Web for free, which isn’t exactly great for the old bank account when you’re relying on royalty cheques to pay your bar tab.
Back when everything went platinum, rock stars were truly blessed. The fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers sold mega-millions in the’90s enabled singer Anthony Kiedis to disappear for months on end to do enough smack to paralyze a donkey. Keith Richards wouldn’t have had the luxury of sitting around snorting his father’s ashes if he’d had to worry about being on the tour bus at 9 a.m. every morning. Same goes (minus the snorting-their-parents part) for an endless list that includes Elvis Presley, Axl Rose, Keith Moon, Nikki Sixx, Sid Vicious, Scott Weiland, that guy from the Butthole Surfers, and every long-gone member of the fabled 27 club.
If you want to make money as a musician in 2011, you have to commit to hitting the road and playing live. And—unless you’re a heritage act like the Rolling Stones or the Who—you can’t tour if you don’t have a new product to pimp. As a result, downtime becomes a luxury that few can afford. It’s write an album, tour, write an album, tour, and then repeat endlessly, taking the odd day off here and there to pray that someone likes one of your songs enough to stick it in an iPod or Volkswagen commercial.
Think about that for a second. The days of shambling around 15-bathroom mansions with a bottle of Jack in one hand, a syringe in the other, and a feedbag of blow strapped to your face are now officially gone.
Except, that is, unless you were Amy Winehouse. To be fair, she had the luxury of having a record that skewed old enough that fans actually bought it on compact disc rather than pillaging it from the Pirate Bay. So, with plenty of disposable royalty cheque income, she did exactly what rock stars were once supposed to do: partied her fucking brains out.
We’re talking sucking back enough vodka to make Ronnie Wood wide-eyed. Smoking enough to make Alison Mosshart seem like Luba. Doing enough drugs to impress, in no particular order, Bob Marley, John Frusciante, Shaun Ryder, Stevie Nicks, and Fatboy Slim.
And not only did Winehouse give ’er like Mí¶tley Crí¼e back in the Bullwinkle, hairspray, and dink-revealing Spandex days, she didn’t try to keep it a dirty secret. She obviously didn’t give a shit who knew. This explained why, on any given Sunday, you could find her staggering around Camden barefoot in a bra, looking like she’d just crawled out of Pete Doherty’s crack shack. And why she seemed on a mission to redefine the term trainwreck, slurring through live sets in Serbia, punching out fans at Glastonbury, and puking all over the stage at Rock in Rio in Lisbon (where she added extra flavour to the mix by giving a glassy-eyed performance charitably described as totally fucking out of it). And why, when she would overdose, she didn’t half-ass it, but instead loaded up on cocktails that were a shit-mix of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol.
It all added up to the kind of ongoing, real-life performance that, amazingly, overshadowed anything that the singer—who was one of the monster talents of her generation—ever did on-stage or in the recording studio. So take one final curtain call, Amy Winehouse. The entertainment business has produced some fascinating substance abusers over the decades. Few ever had the balls to go as hard as you did.
And even fewer have flamed out so brilliantly that they’ve become instant icons. If there’s a happy hour in heaven, Cobain should be showing his admiration by buying.