Famous and Tired

Pop stars complain about their jobs like everyone else. Here's what's happened when some of their gripes have actually made it to tape.

"Success is a wonderful thing but it is very, very tiring."

That was yawnin' Sir George Martin, recalling how battle-fatigued The Beatles were at the end of 1964. Sure, the Liverpudlians hinted at needing a rest months earlier -- you'll recall the "I've been working like a dog/I should be sleeping like a log" admission in "A Hard Day's Night" -- but when EMI demanded a fourth album in less than 18 months so Santa would have something new to stuff under millions of Christmas trees, the weary Fabs boycotted smiling on both sides of their next album cover, the bitter Beatles for Sale. No one got the hint, so their next album title was a little less subtle -- HELP!

It wasn't the first or the last time in pop-music history that sleep deprivation collided with martyrdom to create what you are certain to refer to from now on as the "I'm Famous, I'm Tired" moment -- that instant when an overindulged and frankly pooped pop star mistook YOU, precious listener, as his one-man complaint department. Recently both 'N SYNC and Mariah Carey brought their gripes into the Top 10, and, in Mariah's case, the Internet and mental wards, but you need only recall how Sinatra admonished George Michael for complaining about autograph hounds to figure out what the "I'm Famous, I'm Deceased" league thinks about Celebrity and Glitter -- "Dumbass kids. They should only know suffering!"

Bob Dylan's unflattering Self-Portrait.
Bob Dylan's unflattering Self-Portrait.
Rick Nelson: Poor little teen idol.
Rick Nelson: Poor little teen idol.

Rick Nelson, "Teenage Idol" (1962): Ozzie and Harriet didn't raise their boy Ricky to complain, but once he dropped the "y" he began asking questions. Like how come this teen idol's got fame, fortune and fans, yet he's lonelier than the Beav on a Saturday night? Only after this miserable 45 was issued did the hackneyed phrase "Oh, you poor, poor teen idol" enter the popular vernacular.

Gene Pitney, "Backstage" (1966): In this melodramatic ballad, Pitney portrays a star pining for a lost love. Why does he need this ol' flame so desperately? Just so he can sign autographs and hold interviews secure in the knowledge that his old standby will be waiting backstage for him, no doubt holding a moist towelette to wipe his rapidly swelling head! The arrogance of this song gets misinterpreted as autobiographical when it reappears on a best-of collection titled Greatest Hits of All TIMES that alienates everyone from the Paleozoic Era on up. Fans wonder -- can Gene really be that big-headed to think that future generations will never be able to come up with a tune that's better than "Half Heaven, Half Heartache"? As if to humble their star performer, Pitney's fans don't send a single one of his mope-a-thons into the Top 40 for all of 1967.

Elvis Presley, Easy Come, Easy Go soundtrack (1967): The King could stretch his "I'm Famous, I'm Tired" moments out for decades, as his lackluster '60s filmography and '70s discography proved. But he never complained directly to the fans on record unless you count this 1967 outtake, one of the few RCA will probably never get around to releasing. In the middle of cutting vocals for "The Love Machine" and "Yoga Is As Yoga Does" (his duet with estranged bride of Frankenstein, Elsa Lanchester), Elvis briefly remembered he was the King of Rock 'n' Roll and muttered to the engineers "What are you supposed to do with shit like this?"

Bobby Sherman, "Easy Come, Easy Go" (1970): Some will call this a stretch, but not me. Seeing as its title invokes the King's "I'm Famous, I'm Tired" moment and possibly his very worst film, I'm taking this one very seriously. Even after having his first hit single, Smiling Bobby's a one-man Mott the Hoople on the inside, convinced that the loser game of rock is already into extra innings. "Whatever made me think that I was number one? I oughta know. Easy come and easy go!" he croons, looking over his shoulder to see David Cassidy already stenciling his name on Sherman's parking space. And the hits keep coming and getting more desperate. Remember the insecure "Julie, Do Ya Love Me"? The chart-slipping "Cried Like a Baby"? The finality of "The Drum"?

Bob Dylan, Self Portrait (1970): The height of "I'm Famous"? People are rummaging through your trash searching for enlightenment. The height of "I'm Tired"? Putting your most incomprehensible trash out as a double album.

Neil Diamond, "I Am . . . I Said" (1971): When you start obsessing about a chair not listening to you, it's time for a rest. But where's ol' Neil gonna sit now?

Osmonds, The Plan (1973): After countless world tours playing for millions of screaming girls you can only touch if you marry, the Osmonds put out a preachy concept album about their faith with one song questioning the existence of God, or Mormo, or whoever it is these guys worship. "Are you up there? Are you everywhere? Do you really care?" The boys got their answer when The Plan became the first Osmonds album to escape Top 40 consideration. On to Plan B: "Get Marie's ass in here!"

The Rolling Stones, "It's Only Rock and Roll" (1974): No one looked more famous and tired than Brian Jones, whose eyes get progressively baggier with each album cover. But since Mick and Keith wouldn't record any of his songs, the musical approximation of baggy-eyed Brian is this chucked Berry anthem. Clearly, Mick's getting less than no satisfaction out of pleasing his pimply little fans. "If I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on the stage/Would it satisfy ya? Would it slide on by ya?" he bitches to the current crop of Alice and Bowie fans, knowing full well all he's gonna do to improve the live show is wear more glitter goo on his eyes. Then comes the condescending chorus, his way of distancing himself from the rest of the rock milieu, while scoring buddy points with "tired and famous" pals like Lee Radziwill and Truman Capote loitering backstage.

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