Rock: Yielding to the star machine

It is possible to admire the sheer professionalism and go-getting ambition of today’s actual and would-be pop stars without much enjoying where the trend has led. People used to start pop groups because (a) they liked the noise they made and (b) they wanted to show off; nowadays the generation of Duran Duran and Sigue Sigue Sputnik places such a high value on sharp marketing campaigns that a gold disc seems a less appropriate honour than a Queen’s Award to Industry.

This dismal and unoriginal thought was prompted by the succession of acts making up the first of a series of concerts called ‘Sound Waves for Greenpeace’ this week at the Albert Hall. Of course, one should first of all acknowledge the pop world’s Geldof-inspired contribution to charitable work over the past year; and on Monday the gesture made by Nik Kershaw, Belouis Some, Drum Theatre and Kim Wilde deserved better than the thin house which greeted it. Nevertheless, one could not help being struck by the lack of musical spontaneity on display, and by the thought that such old-time impresarios as Larry Parnes and Dick Clark would be astonished by the alacrity with which the aspirants of 1986 yield themselves to the star-making machinery.

For Drum Theatre and Belouis Some, who have enjoyed a little success, the aim is to sell themselves at all costs. Drum Theatre try to cover all bases: a blond Duran clone at the keyboards, a black funk-master on the bass, a tamed heavy-metal guitarist, a beatnik percussionist and a solid, nondescript drummer. Their singer, Gari Tarn, is actually rather good, like a less affected Boy George, but the music is, as you might expect, a real hotch-potch. Belouis Some, a middleweight Clockwork Orange lad with a brutal peroxide crop, offered an insistent and effective collage of borrowings from Ferry, Bowie and Chic, while Kershaw’s middle-of-South Moulton Street electro-pop was produced with his usual efficiency.

Naturally, I preferred Miss Wilde, who is more Yamaha and Kawasaki than Yamamoto and Kenzo, suffered from dreadful sound quality, sang the first verse of ‘Cambodia’ in the wrong key and delivered a version of ‘The Kids in America’ that provided an unusually clear demonstration of how tedious it can be to have to sing your old hits every night. ‘Love Blonde’, though, was Absolute Beginners in three minutes flat.