In rock ‘n’ roll, you are what you wear. Black T-shirt? That’s good. Black is the industry standard: the magnolia of metal. Denim jeans? That’s fine. Denim is the great leveller, from the skinny-fits of the Swiss finishing school to the boot-cuts of the blue-collar brigade. But white? If your outfit is more than 50% white, you’re either Dame Shirley Bassey or you’re in deep shit.
White is the colour of delusion and megalomania. It’s the dress-code of the ivory tower. It’s the shade of shit-eating smugness, on the Homebase colour-chart from hell. The moment that a white suit appears in the walk-in wardrobe of your favourite everyman rock star, you know it’s only a matter of time until they start being winched above a troupe of faux-adoring dancers while an industrial fan billows their smock. They have officially ‘gone messiah’.
I was reminded of white’s chilling connotations by the return of Glasvegas, and the further monochromatic adventures of James Allan, who now appears to be participating in some sort of Daz doorstep challenge. Now, there’s always been a strange duality about our James – he’s a bristling working-class hero who burns with a higher purpose – but I truly hope he’s not about to become another pristinely-dressed rock ‘n’ roll cautionary tale. On the basis of ‘The World Is Yours’, this one could go either way.
After all, it’s easy to sling mud at the countless singers who’ve fallen prey to ‘white syndrome’ (and trust me, they hate it when people sling mud…). Take Axl Rose, resplendent in arctic hot-pants circa 1991, diving into the pit like a mad swan to retrieve an imagined camera.
Or Lennon, strutting across Abbey Road in a suit that his 20-year-old self would have gleefully squirted with ketchup.
There’s Jacko doing ‘Earth Song’, Billy Corgan modelling a crumpled Kleenex at the Pumpkins’ damp-squib reunion shows…
Even James Dean Bradfield looked like a bottle of Matey in his early-’90s sailor suit. And let’s not forget the great white hope himself, Johnny Borrell, zooming irony-free around Tinseltown on a Harley while the last grains of sand ebbed from his career.
White gets dark, too. Consider the case of Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green, whose fashion makeover in 1969 (“messianic white robes today, I think!”) dovetailed with his descent into a truly precarious mental state and the incident where he allegedly fired an air-rifle at a bloke trying to deliver a royalty cheque.
Cause or effect? Christ knows. The point is, what seems like a benign sartorial choice often represents the signing of your divorce papers from reality and entry into a synthetic fantasy world where everyone laughs at your jokes and your shit no longer stinks.
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In fact, if you’re wearing all-white, chances are you’re not even reading this blog yourself, but having it sung acapella by a Welsh male voice choir while a tame tiger (white, naturally) prowls around your sedan chair and a midget fans you with an ostrich feather.
Sort it out, James. It’s a slippery slope…