Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Talking of lovely ruined things, I've been plotting a few short story ideas and came across a bunch of reference material on Keith Richards last night. I have files like this stacked up in the basement. You know how I'm always banging on about how nothing is ever wasted as a writer? If something grabs your attention, jot a note, rip a photo out, because even if you can't use it now it will trigger a story at some point. If ever I'm stuck for a character or twist, I flick through all these files until something jumps out at me. Every image, every quote grabbed me at some point over the last ten years so this system is guaranteed to work each time. (In fact, next year I'm working on an exciting new web project with a brilliant team of designers that's going to develop this idea. More news of this in the new year).
There's something quite Dorian Grey about that Rolling Stone cover isn't there? In fact there's something quite miraculous about the man full stop - he must have the constitution of an ox. I've always loved the Stones but it wasn't until reading Marianne Faithful's bio that I realised quite why Richards is so compelling in a way that the others aren't (at least to me). She famously dated Mick (Mars bar anyone?), but Richards was her first great love. He was beautiful (if not quite Johnny Depp he was at least seriously attractive when young), brilliant, intelligent - and dangerous, he still epitomises Byronic rock star excess. A lot of the great rock partnerships are like marriages aren't they? So which way are you drawn - Mick or Keith? John or Paul? Actually trick question - I'm with George. I wonder why someone like Keith has survived when so many rock stars are hellbent on destruction - what do you think, luck or intelligence? Apparently he lives near here - if I ever see him when I'm walking the hound around West Wittering I'll ask him.
I've loved hearing your reactions to Michael, the pop star boyfriend in the first book. It's good that you all wanted to slap him - he's the bad habit that's hard to break, the beautiful disaster that your friends despair of. Who hasn't had at least one relationship like that? You know it's bad for you, but you just can't help yourself ... When I was writing him, I had pictures of another Keith (Urban) plastered on the wall. Urban is a talented musician, married to Nicole Kidman, and is a recovering alcoholic. He'd been in the news recently for going back into rehab shortly after the wedding, and he was the perfect prompt - a real life rock star battling his demons, fighting for his relationship to work.
It must be a difficult balance, moving between adulation and real life. Unlike my brother, I never became a musician or performer, but at some point I'm going to write that character inspired by Richards. It's an enduring, potent mix - sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, groupies, money. A friend at college was dating a musician - I remember driving round Trafalgar Square on the way to a lecture with about 20 awestruck girls crammed in her red Golf listening to the latest song he'd written her. She dated Mick Hucknall of Simply Red for a while after that - beautiful girl, great stories. It's one of those compelling fantasies isn't it? Being singled out by a rock star. I wonder what the reality is (I'm just thinking about dear Jo Wood and her recent troubles with Ronnie, or St Jerry Hall whose mantra 'lady in the drawing room, chef in the kitchen, whore in the bedroom' didn't stop Mick's antics). Would you want the reality - or is it one of those fantasies that's better off staying just that - a fantasy?
TODAY'S PROMPT: Can you remember what it was like to be obsessed by a group or singer? Do you think it's something we grow out of? Is 'fame the thirst of youth' as Byron said? Have you ever dreamt of being a performer - or have you ever met one (or dated one)? I read an interview with Stephen Fry recently where he was talking about fame. He said one of the most difficult questions he hates being asked is 'What's it like?' What do you think it is like - would you want it? Would you want to be as famous as Persil like Victoria Beckham - or be like Madonna 'I won't be happy until I'm as famous as God.' Or perhaps as Erma Bombeck cautioned: 'Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one, Helen Keller is the other'. Which would you want? Do you think there's something bizarre about the obsession with celebrity? What does instant fame do to you? X-factor, Pop Idol - young girls aspiring to be WAGs ... where's this all going? Why not take some time today and jot down a few ideas about celebrity and fame - or start your own 'inspiration' files. You never know when they will come in handy.