I find that the best idols are the ones who have actually been, or rather still are, fans themselves. There are a number of reasons for this, but the first and most obvious, is that they know what it is like. They understand how it feels to be a fan. They haven’t forgotten.
That would indicate, of course, that many people HAVE forgotten. They have been celebrities, stars, or what-have-you for so long, or they believe their own BS to the point that they’re convinced of their godliness.
Now, I know that sounds harsh, and perhaps it is in some respects. All I can tell you is that there are people out there that you and I may idolize who just cannot quite believe they’re actually still human. Then there are others, like John Taylor, just to name one for example, that seems to still be a fan. He is someone who gets it. I need point no further than his induction speech [into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] for Roxy Music, or even his own autobiography, as proof.
He writes about going to see Roxy Music at the Birmingham Odeon with Nick. They initially stood in the lobby of the theater, and were told that the band was in the building (words that I myself have heard many times). “…if we hurried down the alleyway that led down the side of the Odeon, we could hear them playing. This is where I learned about the secret world of the sound check….We couldn’t see Roxy, but we could hear them, vaguely, playing songs from their new album, Country Life.”(47)
It gets even better…and strikingly familiar
As they’re standing there, clearly excited by the music (I can imagine this – I mean, I may have heard a sound check or two in my lifetime as a Duran Duran fan. Just once or twice….you know, in passing….), the sound comes to a halt and they see a black limo pull up. Just as quickly, Roxy comes rushing from a side door and straight into the car, which pulls away at lightning speed. A girl yells that she knows where they’re staying – at the Holiday Inn – and that she knows a shorter way. “off we went, Birmingham’s twelve biggest Roxy Music fans sprinting across the city at full pelt. This was a club I wanted to belong to!” They arrive at the hotel before the band, of course. (any self-respecting fan willing to follow the band would, you know.)
The part that makes me smile and chuckle most though, is this: “I asked one of the drivers to give me the champagne cork I spotted on the back shelf of the limo. I was proud of that. Was this strange behavior for a fourteen-year-old suburban boy? I didn’t think so.” (48)
Even reading the words again today, nearly seven years after I read them the first time – I still grin. I can’t help it, because in some bizarre twist of fate, I feel like I’ve found something in common with John. He knows what it is like to be me. I mean, sort of like me, anyway. I highly doubt he still goes around asking for champagne corks, but then again, neither do I, now that I think about it. For me personally, my love and respect for John grew a hundred-fold after reading his autobiography, and much of that has to do with the fact that yes, he really does know what it means to be a fan.
Sign of the Times
By that same token, I see Harry Styles in a bit of the same light. Now, I’ve never been a One Directioner (I can’t name one song beyond “That’s What Makes You Beautiful”), but I’ve been doing some research for a project. It turns out that Harry gets it too.
Some of this is not that hard to imagine. Harry and 1D came to be during the heyday of social media. In some aspects, they embraced the connectivity to their fans. They also became famous as teenagers, and I don’t think it is so awfully difficult for them to remember what it means to idolize. Harry displayed his admiration for Stevie Nicks during her induction ceremony [RRHOF], but he’s also talked about his teenage fans in a positive way.
“He’s always had a fervent female fandom, and, admirably, he’s never felt a need to pretend he doesn’t love it that way. “They’re the most honest — especially if you’re talking about teenage girls, but older as well,” he says. “They have that bullshit detector. You want honest people as your audience. We’re so past that dumb outdated narrative of ‘Oh, these people are girls, so they don’t know what they’re talking about.’ They’re the ones who know what they’re talking about. They’re the people who listen obsessively. They fucking own this shit. They’re running it.” (Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, “The Eternal Sunshine of Harry Styles” August 26, 2019. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/harry-styles-cover-interview-album-871568/ Accessed August 26, 2019)
Have the time of your life
I too, was one of those teenage girl fans once. It is a breath of fresh air to see an artist actually embrace the people who critics tend to write off as “know-nothings”. I appreciate that Harry continues to defend those people, and that he doesn’t talk about how there’s more men in his audiences these days, as if that is suddenly going to convince anybody that he’s suddenly relevant. He doesn’t need to do that, because guess what? He already matters to the music world. I know this because his first album was the fourth best selling album in the UK in 2017, and was the ninth best globally.
In some ways, I am defiant when I research fandom, or when I write about being a fan. There is plenty of judgment out there about fan girls like me. The assumptions about who I am, or the productivity of my life simply because I am a female Duran Duran blogger, writer and fan are pretty outrageous.
Even so, I’m not one of those super-enlightened “I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me” people. I wish I were. I’m still in the struggle between not caring, and worrying endlessly if I’m doing enough as a person. I say I don’t mind being called a “crazy fan”, in some attempt to tell myself that it really doesn’t matter. I’m not doing anything weird or wrong, even if I’m the only person in my family who writes a blog about a band, or travels to see concerts. Sometimes though, I wonder if I should have stopped doing all of this years ago. Then I’ll read something, and be reminded of why I still do.