So a guy who looks exactly like Paul McCartney gets on your train carriage, making absolutely no attempt to hide the fact that he’s the spitting image of Paul McCartney, and starts singing a medley of Beatles songs. What’s your reaction? Well, if you were on the New Orleans street car where this actually happened, you ignored him. Has our global fear of getting stabbed in the face for refusing to give a singing stranger fifty pence reached such ludicrous levels? I mean, even if it wasn’t Paul MacCartney, that’d still be brilliant.
To a degree, though, you can imagine it happening. We’re so unaccustomed to seeing our rock superstars do anything as remotely human as getting on public transport – something Jay-Z also once did on his way to a show at the Brooklyn Arena although he was surrounded by a tubeful of heavy security and film cameras – that Macca busking becomes an inconceivable impossibility unless you literally watch the documentary crew installing the hidden cameras yourself. Indeed, rather than setting us off thinking about other such ego-free rock star under-indulgences, the news sent us into raptures over the opposite end of the spectrum, music’s most extreme explosions of ego that barely stopped short of the words ‘Kanye West’ being laser-carved onto the moon. Here are our favourites.
If he thought he was being funny he vastly overestimated his wit. If he thought it’d be sexy he vastly overestimated his sex god charisma. If he thought he was creating a world-shattering arena spectacle he vastly overestimated his audience’s fascination with tits. In fact, whatever he was thinking, when Justin Hawkins demanded to his set designers that he should appear onstage with The Darkness in 2007 riding a flying chariot resembling a huge pair of breasts it was amongst the most cringe-worthy examples of rock ego gone hideously awry. Come back tiny Stonehenge, all is forgiven.
9 Bono calls up The Pope from the stage
Okay, so it was all under the guise of his ‘Zooropa’ era alter ego MacPhisto, but during the segment of U2’s 1993 ZooTV Tour where Bono would call up various numbers from the stage and leave silly in-character messages he went from calling cabs and automated weather services to various world leaders, Princess Diana and the Pope. The veneer of grand guignol artifice was phony though: at heart you knew Bono was just showing off the size and scope of his little black book and feeling pretty pissed off that the only call of note that was answered was by Clannad.
8 Liam Gallagher claims to be the reincarnation of John Lennon
Despite being born eight years before Lennon’s death, in an interview with The Observer in 2002 Liam Gallagher claimed that he was the reincarnated soul of John Lennon, further confusing the entire concept by continuing “I don’t think I am. I think I was. He’s me now”. Now alongside the fact that for this to be karmically correct Lennon would have had to have committed secret bouts of genocide while he was alive, two words, Liam. ‘Little. James’.
7 Axl Rose refuses to leave the stage at Reading
It’s one thing to expect your fans to wait several hours for you to arrive onstage while you finish watching a couple of The Wire box-sets and have lengthy and loving tantric sex with yourself backstage. But it’s quite another to expect the festival organiser to go through the lengthy local authority application procedures and resident consultation processes to have the live music curfew extended until dawn in time for your encore. And if they can’t, who cares if the festival loses its license and never happens again, you’ll have wiped your shitty, self-indulgent plod rock arse with it and moved on to the next one. Y’know, it really is a full time job trying to find new ways to call Axl Rose a dickwad, but the video of the sulky sit-in he staged when the plug was pulled on Guns’N’Roses set way past curfew at Reading 2010 saves us several hundred man hours every week.
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6 Michael Jackson floats huge statues of himself down major rivers
If Alexander The Great was releasing a half-compilation half-new album you might expect vast effigies of his image to walk on water around the globe. Ditto Michael Jackson, obviously.
5 Robert Plant claims to be “a golden god”
A moment made famous in Cameron Crowe’s film Almost Famous, leaning from a Hyatt Hotel balcony overlooking Sunset Boulevard in 1975 Robert Plant bellowed “I am a golden God!” to the passing traffic. And he was. A similar story surrounds Brett Anderson, in his early 90s narcotic heyday, yelling “I have the best drugs in all of London!” from his balcony in Hampstead. And he did.
4 John Lennon claims to be “more popular than Jesus”
Theoretically correct – the Beatles’ cultural cache was expanding exponentially in 1966 while church attendance was dropping sharply – but you don’t say it out loud. Not least because a) people pliable and impressionable enough to believe centuries-old fairy stories as incontrovertible fact tend to get a bit burny when challenged and b) fictional deities will always beat mere mortals, full stop. It was as ridiculous and pointless a statement as Dave Grohl, if he outsold C.S. Lewis one year, claiming to be bigger than Aslan, but still not quite as ludicrous as Richard Ashcroft’s more recent references to Jesus – “I love the man, I feel like him.”
3 Gene Simmons merchandises the living shit out of himself
The walls and corridors of Gene Simmons’ house are lined with reams of merchandise bearing his gnarled vizog, from dolls to condoms to nappies to coffins. Indeed, so awash is the globe with Kiss merchandise that I am writing this piece within three feet of a large cardboard Simmons wearing an actual Download backstage pass. No, really.
2 Kayne West demands awards
When Kanye wasn’t leaping onstage at awards ceremonies to try to rob Taylor Swift of her award and give it to Beyonce, he was interrupting the Best Video acceptance speech of Justice Vs. Simian at the 2006 MTV Awards to complain he hadn’t won it himself. It “cost a million dollars, Pamela Anderson was in it,” he ranted. “I was jumping across canyons… If I don’t win, the awards show loses credibility.” Hey, Kanye, do you like fish-sticks?
1 David Hasselhoff claims to have ended the Cold War
Forget years of protest, political maneuvering and tactical diplomacy, what really brought down the Berlin Wall – in David Hasselhoff’s head, anyway – was the success of his album ‘Looking For Freedom’, which he believes united a fractured Germany behind his mullet-headed, needle-dicked limp-rock schmaltz. “I find it a bit sad that there is no photo of me hanging on the walls in the Berlin Museum at Checkpoint Charlie,” he said in 2004. There is David, it’s on the staff room dartboard.