Monday, May 06, 2013

The knees are the mirror of the soul - which is why rock stars can't go on stage in shorts

I was talking to David Ford about our upcoming Word In Your Ear show on May 20th.

He'd recently compiled a list of dos and don't's for live performance and his first one was Don't Wear Shorts.

Soon as he said it my mind performed a Google image search of rock stars in shorts. Here they came, a cavalcade of charismatic heads and distinctive upper bodies mounted on the same strangers-to-sunlight pipe cleaner legs. The Beatles filming Help in Bermuda. Bob Dylan diving into a hotel pool in the 60s. Keith Richards in the basement at Nellecote during those Exile sessions. There was even some long forgotten snap of the otherwise muscular Bruce Springsteen torso perched on legs that wouldn't keep Peter Crouch off the ground.

Ford concedes that there are exceptions. Angus Young of AC/DC is clearly one. Sir Freddie Mercury of Live Aid is obviously another - but gay shorts are another variety altogether.

Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys could wear shorts with pride because he looked like a beach boy before he was a Beach Boy. And obviously this advice does not apply to women with good legs.

I've been thinking about this ever since. There is something about rock stars wearing shorts that is so profoundly wrong that it makes you wonder if contained within it are the secret codes defining rock star mystique as a different species from movie star mystique or any other form of mystique.

Maybe it's because legs don't lie and they remain there as a repudiation of every other form of re-invention. You can cover your face with hair, place a hat on your baldness, even make a feature of your pigeon chest but your knees are the true mirror of your soul.


  1. REM's Peter Buck was always hip to the notion of long trousers. I remember a Select magazine cover around the time of Monster where 3/4 of the band dropped their kecks to reveal baggy boxers & knobbly knees. Not so Buck.

  2. The knuckle-dragging element of the loathsome Nu-Metal scene seemed happy to amble on stage in baggy, low-slung cargo shorts. I'm not sure what look they were aiming for, but they resembled overgrown kids who had been held back a few years at school.

    In comparison, Henry Rollins used to take to the stage in a pair of black shorts and always looked great, the raw intensity and unflinching commitment of his performance over-shadowing his personal dress-code.