Rant Of The Day
Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

THIS RANT 26/09/2000

Rock stars and their underpants

When the news that Paula Yates had died first hit the presses last week, I'm sure that obituary writers everywhere began rushing out to dig up dates, place names and sordid details of her troubled relationship with Michael Hutchence. Only the most efficient, however, remembered to mention one of her early bids for fame, one that preceded her TV hosting work and eternal tabloid presence: the 1980 book Rock Stars In Their Underpants.

The concept of this book was extremely simple: Yates persuaded all the rock stars that she knew to pose for Polaroid pictures in their jocks. (Inevitably, this means more pictures of stripped-down members of the Boomtown Rats than you might otherwise expect.) As she herself admits, she had great trouble in operating the camera, and the photographs are unlikely to give Herb Ritz too many sleepless nights. Indeed, fully 10 of the shots were actually taken by other photographers (including, in one instance, Linda McCartney). This makes RSITU one of the earlier examples of a book sold on the celebrity of the author's name, rather than their actual participation -- a trend also highlighted by the apperance of publisher Richard Branson's appearance in the foreword sans trousers.

Within the sparse text of the volume, there's also a running gag in which Yates opens with the phrase "far be it from me to gossip", before expounding some virulently fictitious myth about the star in question. The irony here is too obvious to expand upon. And then there's the prescient comment of Peter Cook in one of the book's three (!) forewords: "When I showed the proofs to one prominent dissident gardener he gasped in amazement and said 'In Russia the author would be locked up in a psychiatric ward'. He was relieved to hear that the same thing will probably happen in this country."

All that aside, though, the amusement value of this book rests largely in the fact that, in a mildly less body-image obsessed era, most of the predominantly British, predominantly male rock stars pictured in this volume have bodies that are more than a touch on the weedy side. You know that you're in a troubled era when the best-built person on display is Leif Garrett.

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