To be a star is to own the world and all the people in it. After a taste of stardom, everything else is poverty. – Hedy Lamarr
Many of our favorite rockers would disagree; stardom, they say, is more of a burden than a blessing. Listen to our Top 11 Songs About Stardom and let us know what you think.
11. Fame by David Bowie
David Bowie and John Lennon often discussed the unrelenting pursuit of fame. “Fame itself, of course, doesn’t really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant,” Bowie told Performing Songwriter. “I’m just amazed how fame is being posited as the be-all and end-all… However arrogant and ambitious I think we were in my generation, I think the idea was that if you do something really good, you’ll become famous. The emphasis on fame itself is something new.”
When Bowie invited Lennon to Electric Lady Studios in New York to help on tracks for the Young Americans LP, their conversations led to the 1975 chart topper, Fame. “With John Lennon, it was more the influence of having him in the studio that helped. There’s always a lot of adrenaline flowing when John is around, but his chief addition to it all was the high-pitched singing of Fame,” Bowie related in Who Wrote the Book of Love. “Most of the lyrics came from me, but it wouldn’t have happened if John hadn’t been there. He was the energy, and that’s why he’s got a credit for writing it; he was the inspiration.”
10. Turn the Page by Bob Seger
Bob Seger’s Turn the Page, from his Back in ’72 LP, chronicles the loneliness, boredom and animosity encountered on the road early in his career. “Back then, we did like 300 nights a year. We were doing cafeterias, gymnasiums, teen clubs, halls, everything. We just kept working night after night. We used to travel 110,000 miles a year,” Seger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I wrote the song in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It was about an actual event, in 1970… We pulled into a truck stop, and our two big roadies were sleeping at the time. We wander in, and we’re all skinny little guys. These big traveling salesmen started calling us girls and longhairs and all that. That’s where the song came from. The next night, we played Madison. While I was waiting to go over to the venue in my hotel room, I wrote the song. I literally wrote the whole thing and put it in a little tape recorder.”
Heavy metal band Metallica scored a #1 hit with a cover of Turn the Page in 1998. “I heard a song on the radio singing about the road life, a kind of somber, gruff, honest lyric in there,” said singer James Hetfield. “I kinda felt it could be Bob Seger, but the lyric and song itself was great. So it’s all to do with that song rather than Bob Seger itself. The lyrics are us. We’ve been road dogs since day one.”
9. So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star by the Byrds
The success of the Monkees’ 1966 TV sitcom – a watered-down version of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night – helped inspire Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of the Byrds to write So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. McGuinn told ZigZag, “We were thumbing through a teen magazine and looking at all the unfamiliar faces and we couldn’t help thinking: ‘Wow, what’s happening… all of a sudden here is everyone and his brother and his sister-in-law and his mother and even his pet bullfrog singing rock ‘n’ roll.’ So we wrote So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star to the audience of potential rock stars, those who were going to be, or who wanted to be, and those who actually did go on to realize their goals.”
South African musician Hugh Masekela contributed the song’s tasty trumpet lick, the first time brass was heard on a Byrds record. The screaming fans were recorded during the Byrds’ tour of the UK in 1965.
8. Garden Party by Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band
Rick Nelson had been a teen idol since the mid-fifties, with hits like Hello Mary Lou and I’m Walkin’, but the British Invasion helped sweep Nelson and other legacy rockers from the charts. Nelson by 1971 had moved on to country rock but reluctantly appeared at a rock revival show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where his new music was greeted with boos. Nelson stormed offstage and in response wrote Garden Party, a Top 10 hit in 1972.
Garden Party brims with musician references: “My old friends” were Garden co-stars like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley; “Yoko and her walrus” of course was John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who were in the audience; and the puzzling “Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes, wearing his disguise.” Mr. Hughes was Nelson’s LA neighbor, George Harrison, who used the alias “Mr. Hughes” when travelling; Harrison had planned an album of Bob Dylan covers at the time. In Where Are You Now, Bo Diddley? Nelson said, “The Garden crowd wanted the old Ricky Nelson. After a while I realized that, so the hurt went away. I had disappointed them. That booing wasn’t a putdown; it was just a tribute to what I had done in the past.”