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Is art the new

rock ’n’ roll?

Music producer Paul Mex begs the question of who’s more rock’n’roll –

Tracey Emin or Will Young?


Is art the new rock’n’roll? Well that was the question posed to me by an art editor whilst we were out experimenting with cocktails into the small hours of a Tuesday night, or more like early Wednesday morning...

Rock ’n’ roll appears to have fallen by the wayside since calculating corporations hijacked what was Top of the Pops. In today’s climate, one is hard pressed to find a ‘star’ that could offend anybody’s grandmother, let alone drop a TV out of a hotel window! Of course with the advent of Pop Idol and The X-Factor, things have become worse, with the bulk of new ‘musicians’ aspiring to simply be famous karaoke clowns and nothing more. Yet once there was a thin line between art and music; the well-documented art school backgrounds of John Lennon, Brian Eno and Jarvis Cocker created a blurring and merging of the two media, complete with rock‘n’roll integrity. Most rockers now reek of conformity and careerism against a digital backdrop of falling record sales and leisure market fragmentation.

Measure all this up against artists like Tracey Emin, the Chapman brothers and Damien Hirst, and its not surprising art looks like the new rock‘n’roll. Crazy yet innovative idealistic design jumbled in their work with sex and bad behaviour certainly goes a long way towards the nihilistic cause. Sprinkle a little politics into your art, something often missing from current pop music, and you get the complete package. Yet all is not as it possibly seems. Is the art world simply behind the times when compared to the music arena? Is rock‘n’roll not an outdated concept in these Post Modernist times and past its sell-by date? Certainly many of artist Banksy’s latest exploits bear a resemblance to the pop version of Situationism deployed by the Sex Pistols back in the late 70s. Yet, where does it all end up but at some LA gathering for the Hollywood ‘in-crowd’ and part of a mass money-making machine. Incidentally, LA is also now home of former Pistols Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones!

Rock‘n’roll once represented an attitude of freedom, sexuality and fun, but apart from giving a little nudge, has never ultimately posed much of a threat other than to pop culture. So if art is the new rock‘n’roll, placed within our celebrity-driven culture, it probably only amounts to being a formulated cash-cow with most of the fun and genuine attitude taken out. Besides, few really want to see simpleton bad behaviour anymore – it looks silly, is very passé and is just not polite. There’s only one thing worse than a rebel without a cause… and that’s a calculating careerist rebel! Viva rock‘n’roll!


Freelance music producer Paul Mex has sold an accumulation of nearly a million records and worked with a host of diverse artists from George Michael to Robert Wyatt. He first emerged from the 70s punk rock revolution as a live musician, moving into production during the 80s.

www.mexonerecordings.com  www.paulmex.co.uk

Extract courtesy of The Latest © 2006

www.thelatest.co.uk