I hate to pooh-pooh the artistic process, but you’ve got to raise a quizzical eyebrow when a successful band puts a casting notice on Craigslist, calling for extras who are "unattractive," "rough around the edges", and even "a little slow,” for a video set in “a dockside bar in New England, where life has been hard.”
How hard? This hard: “scars, pockmarked skin, physical abnormalities or deformities are welcomed!!!!”
I dunno about you, but those exclamation marks frighten me. Can you imagine what facial expression is represented by four exclamation marks? It’d look like someone has grabbed a fistful of skin at the back of your head and yanked hard. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what I’d like to do to the person who wrote that ad.
Now, I’m not comfortable describing myself as a disabled man. I am a blue badge holder, my left leg is considerably shorter than my right, my knee doesn’t bend and yes, I trip up a lot when I walk. But if I say I’m disabled, people think I’m overstating the case to get sympathy. And they’re probably right.
I have scars, so I guess you could say I’m deformed, but not to my face; and if anyone calls me “slow” I will stamp on their foot with my big shoe.
Not that I’m unsympathetic to Kings of Leon. One of the great impossibilities of being a rock star is that you are expected to be an alien-pheromone-stallion, but a really humble one. You have to be supernaturally compelling, but carry yourself as if you belong with the bums on skid row. Two extremes, both romanticized, both daft.
For ‘Radioactive’ the Followills used a gospel choir and a backwoods picnic to demonstrate that they have soul, and now they want to prove they’re also gritty and real. It’s the kind of reactionary humility you can only express if someone has been telling you you’re a golden god for too long.
The irony is, music is one of the few areas of public life where a person’s “deformity” genuinely doesn’t seem to matter. Look at Ian Dury, Stevie Wonder, Gene Vincent, Ray Charles, Robert Wyatt – astonishing talents all, physical differences all but lost in the glory of their achievements.
I don’t have glorious achievements. But if Kings of Leon want some help keeping their feet on the ground, they’re welcome to borrow my shoe.