Corporate Attire For Corporate Rock (or The Old Guard Adopt the Suit Jacket In The 80s)

12 10 2007

Top Five Ageing Rockers In Suit Jackets

1. Eric Clapton

2. Rod Stewart

3. Phil Collins

4. Don Henley

5. Stevie Winwood

It is a strange fact that the Eighties did not kill off the careers of baby boomer rockers, but instead saw them play endless charity shows in suit jackets.

eric clapton

Why should this be surprising? Well, this was the decade after all where the re-invogoration of pop music from the twin forces of ’77 were finally felt commercially. Punk had slow filtered to the mainstream to make long solos and beards genrally unacceptable, and Bowie’s Berlin tryptiche had ushered in the looks and sonic tectures of Romo and synth pop, quite at odds with hoary old faces from the 60s. Moreover, the introduction of MTV properly allowed for the full synergy of multimedia marketing; it is of no surprise that acts such as Jacko, Madge and Prince prospered – but surely the old guard should have died off?

 rod stewart

Well, that’s not how it went down. Unholy forces intervened to make the Eighties a great decade to be an ageing Rocker past your prime. For one thing their baby boomer audience had grown up with them, and now they were ready to buy whole back-catalogues again on CD. For another the Live Aid / Princes Trust era reintroduced the world to these people as “legends”, forever getting together to be feted at superstar charity bashes.

phil collins

There was a time in the late 60s and early 70s where wearing a suit (often a white one), was a provocative act for a Rock Star, only confirming their countercultural status (think Dlyan at the Isle of Wight, George Harrison at the Concert for Bangladesh, Lennon on Abbey Road). Noone would confuse these guys with someone on their way into the office – the contrast to the wild hair, the impractical colour, the flared cut.

don henley

The same cannot be said of the 80s suit jacket of your typical dinosaur. Instead, we have the offensive near-admission that Rock music has become just a job to these guys, and this is their uniform. Sometimes made to look “funky” worn with a T Shirt and Jeans, the suit jacket successfully allowed a bunch of greying tossers to have perfectly popular vidoes on MTV by allowing them to tap into the woeful corporate fetishism of the era.

stevie winwood

I am not suggesting that attempting longevity of a Rock career is in itself sinful, but this was a period where record companies must have had a standard bulletin to older artists:

  • Get yourself a suit jacket – if you need tips look to that young gun Huey Lewis.
  • Lose your hippy hair and any sense of your identity- you may want to learn to blow dry.
  • Stop recording with a proper band – get Phil to show you how to achieve that gated drum sound and where to use some awful synth sounds.
  • If you ever were a songwriter, now would be a good time to stop and let someone completely soul-less take over those duties. Remember – we know the market.
  • Don’t forget to turn up to the next charity bash – I hear Tina Turner will be there!