CRAIG BROWN: Stars’ nick-nacks just ain’t what they used to be!
As the rock stars in lockdown were singing their solitary songs for One World, I found my attention straying inexorably towards their home furnishings.
Most of the younger stars looked as if they had only just moved in, since they had so little clutter.
Their homes were like hotel suites, with mirrors and spotlights and off-white curtains and not much else.
While one of the members of Little Mix was singing in that obligatory pained vibrato, as if undergoing a tooth extraction, my eyes drifted to the wall behind her, which was decorated entirely with Little Mix photographs in pink frames.
Singer Ellie Goulding is pictured above. Most of the younger stars looked as if they had only just moved in, since they had so little clutter
By contrast, the Rolling Stones have obviously accumulated plenty of bric-a-brac over the decades.
Though they sang You Can’t Always Get What You Want, their living rooms told another story. It looks to me as though they have everything they ever wanted — and much, much more.
Keith Richards has lived in the same house in West Wittering for getting on for 60 years.
‘I live a gentleman’s life,’ he boasted in his autobiography. And how! His sitting room looks like the Prince of Wales’s, with sober pinky-red curtains, leather-bound books, black-and-white family photographs on the wall, and pens and pencils stacked neatly in a mug.
While one of the members of Little Mix was singing in that obligatory pained vibrato, as if undergoing a tooth extraction, my eyes drifted to the wall behind her, which was decorated entirely with Little Mix photographs in pink frames
Rock stars, young and old, no longer feel the need to act like rock stars. Once upon a time, they were grubby and ill-behaved. Now, they are spotlessly clean and models of good behaviour.
Exactly 40 years ago, the late Paula Yates published a glossy picture book with the wonderful title, Rock Stars In Their Underpants. It now seems like a relic from a bygone age, a throwback to an era when rock stars lived recklessly.
For four months, Paula Yates had travelled around the world, persuading rock stars to pose in their underpants.
One or two opted out. ‘A few people didn’t want to show me their spare tyres and Y-fronts,’ she wrote in her introduction.
‘The excuses ranged from being worried they’d get piles if it was cold outside, to a spokesman for Robert Plant who said he was a little chubby at the moment.’
The Rolling Stones have obviously accumulated plenty of bric-a-brac over the decades. Though they sang You Can’t Always Get What You Want, their living rooms told another story. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts are pictured above performing
Always witty, she noted in her introduction that ‘primitive tribesmen often believed that the camera could capture the soul. Some rock stars, believing as they do that their soul lies somewhere tucked neatly down the front of their undies, seem to feel the same way.’
Nevertheless, a good many said yes. Rod Stewart posed in front of a cactus in a very skimpy pair of Y-fronts. Paula Yates’s then husband, Bob Geldof, stood in pink underpants in the middle of the desert, also by a cactus.
Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders wore black pants, identified by Paula Yates as coming from Marks & Spencer. She draped the rest of her body in a fur coat.
‘Conservationists will be glad to hear it was teddy bear fur,’ noted Paula.
Forty years on, the book has acquired a patina of melancholy: roughly half of those involved are now dead, including Paula Yates herself.
Reg Presley (d. 2013) of The Troggs pulls down his trousers in an alley backstage at the Whisky-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles, revealing brightly coloured checkered underpants beneath.
Lemmy of Motorhead (d. 2015) stands in his underpants on the fire escape at the Kensington Hilton.
‘Rumour has it that they only get washed every six weeks on tour,’ writes Paula.
Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy (d. 1986) poses in a pair of mauve Y-fronts, leafing through a copy of the soft-porn magazine Penthouse.
Lemmy of Motorhead (d. 2015), pictured above, stands in his underpants on the fire escape at the Kensington Hilton. ‘Rumour has it that they only get washed every six weeks on tour,’ writes Paula
‘In case any of you were wondering, Phil has stuffed a couple of pairs of socks down his already astonishing underpants,’ explains Paula.
Alone among the participants, Rick Parfitt of Status Quo (d. 2016) poses in his underpants while playing lead guitar, looking every bit the rock star.
Like Bob Geldof and Rod Stewart, Frank Zappa (d. 1993) also poses in front of a cactus.
His pants are even smaller than theirs, though thankfully obscured by the leaf of an exotic plant.
Zappa also wears stripy socks. In a footnote, Paula Yates notes that most of the rock stars had chosen to keep their socks on, ‘mainly in case an innocent bystander passes out from the aroma which comes from wearing the same pair until they have rigor mortis’.
Possibly, some will find these memories vulgar and distasteful. Personally, they fill me with nostalgia for those days when rock stars were at their happiest being moody in their underpants, rather than looking concerned and thoughtful, posing, fully dressed, in living rooms straight out of World of Interiors.
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