Jason Gardner comments

Jason Gardner
Jason Gardner

Can Rock Stars rebel? A curious question you might ask - surely they do nothing but rebel. Surely every TV thrown out of a hotel room, every song banned from radio 1, every gesture of defiance toward government or conservative values underlines that rock is the voice of revolution.

I might have my doubts, more of that in a while, but if Coldplay's latest album is anything to go by Chris Martin and co certainly seem to be flying the flag for music as fuel for insurrection. The cover of their album Viva la Vida, is a famous painting by Delacroix that depicts 'lady liberty' leading soldiers of the French revolution over the barricades. And their updated fashion sense is a clash of Sergeant Pepper and Che Guevara - mainly muted military jackets with bold flashes of colour.

Then there's the songs, Violet Hill, an evocative fictional recollection of a city in the throes of revolt:

Was a long and dark December
When the banks became cathedrals
And the fog
Became God

Priests clutched onto bibles
Hollowed out to fit their rifles
And the cross was held aloft.

And the title track again depicts a former revolutionary reminiscing over past victories and times where he used to:

'Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"'

So why have we got rock stars harping on about military campaigns and pretenders to the throne? Well you could read all sorts of things into this kind of imagery, which is great because that's exactly what I'm about to do.

First up Rock is the new royalty, well celebrity is, so being ultra famous is like being king or queen of the world. The problem is someone's always after your throne and the powerful always have their critics.

As reactions to Coldplay's latest album has proved people enjoy taking the high and mighty down a peg or two. One journalist reviewing the album put the bands success so far down to 'increasingly windy and lachrymose stadium ballads.'

It's a pressure that Chris Martin obviously feels, as Viva la vida attests:

'People could not believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries Wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?'

It's easy to argue that thems the breaks. It's part and parcel of being famous that there are always going to be plenty of detractors to go round - and the larger the target, the easier it is to hit and few bands come bigger than Coldplay.

Also having reportedly amassed fortunes of over £25 million each, the band have plenty of sugar to alleviate the aftertaste of the bitter pills offered up by the press.

But back to the question we started with. Can a rock star be a rebel? I think that's the question that dogs sensitive souls like Martin. Is what I'm doing significant? Is what I'm doing making a difference? Am I part of the problem or part of the revolution solution? All clichés I know but as journalist Julie Burchill once said no one who wants to be a revolutionary becomes an entertainer.

So is it guilt that's the drive behind Coldplays support of so many worthy causes? Or is their generosity just due to Martin's Christian upbringing? Whatever the reason though I think he needs to spend a bit more time sitting at the feet of that grand old sage of rock and revolution - Bono.

Bono, a long time ago, came to the realisation that fame was, in his words, 'madness' but 'it's a grand madness.' I.e. don't take fame or yourself too seriously but accept that it has its benefits.

And if rock stars are the new royalty then they must learn to rule well. The U2 front man is unabashed about using fame as 'currency' to both earn and cash in favour with those who hold political power, and can access fortunes even greater than his own, in order to reap real change for the world's poor. It's no doubt a strategy adapted from the greatest radical ever who teaches in Luke 16 that a disciple is to 'use worldly wealth to gain friends for [themselves].'

It might be that rock isn't the rebellious voice it used to be but Coldplay should take comfort from the fact that, as Bono once sang, sometimes all you need to inspire a revolution is 'a red guitar, 3 chords and the truth.' CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.