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kottke.org posts about Nick Duerden

The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2022

For his forthcoming book Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars, journalist Nick Duerden interviewed pop stars who had made it big about what happened after the bright spotlight of fame moved on. Here are a few interesting bits from an adapted excerpt in The Guardian:

"The pain I feel from the Slits ending is worse than splitting up with a boyfriend," Albertine wrote, "This feels like the death of a huge part of myself, two whole thirds gone ... I've got nowhere to go, nothing to do; I'm cast back into the world like a sycamore seed spinning into the wind."

So what's it like, I wondered, to still be doing this "job" at 35, and 52, and beyond? What's it like to have released your debut album to a global roar, and your 12th to barely a whisper? Why the continued compulsion to create at all, to demand yet more adulation? Frankly, what's the point?

[Suzanne] Vega's tour, haemorrhaging money, was cut short. When she arrived back at JFK, she looked out for the car her record label would always send to collect her. But there was no car. Not any more. "I took a taxi," she says.

When Tanya Donelly, of 90s US indie darlings Belly, quit after winning a Grammy (and promptly suffering burnout), she craved normal work and became a doula. When 10,000 Maniacs' Natalie Merchant grew tired of being a marketable commodity, she quit for the quieter life of a solo artist, and was then duly horrified when her debut album, 1995's Tigerlily, sold 5m copies, because "then came the treadmill again". The next time she tried to retire, she did so more forcefully, and now teaches arts and crafts to underprivileged children in New York state. "I look at people like Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney," she says, referring to the way both legends continue to tour, "and I think to myself: 'If I were you, I'd just go home and enjoy my garden.' It's a question of temperament, clearly."