Now as I have said, I am not really interested in rock music, but I wanted to feature this one because again I thought that it was an interesting example of marketing and genres. 2001 was the year that I turned 18. It was around this time that I read the weekly music magazines for a short while. I remember they insisted that there was a constant battle on the singles chart, where supposedly credible rock/indie music was competing against dance/rap music and the like.
Of course the magazines came down on the rock/indie side, and people used to write to their letters pages (and also Teletext’s Planet Sound) to prove that they were a “real” music fan by making shock revelations like “I don’t like Westlife”. Way to smash the system. Indeed, Melody Maker seemed to take this idea to the extreme, making music genres seem “us versus them” to an uncomfortable level, and promptly closed soon afterwards.
NME did continue though, and 2001 was a curious year (they had a fancy award-winning website where music news was updated every hour!). They always defended their cover choices by saying that they featured whatever was interesting on the scene at the time, whatever genre it was in. This meant that they gave a cover to the group that were formed by ITV’s Popstars, as they tried to investigate the newly-formed manufactured TV pop genre.
They also gave covers to a lot of R ‘n’ B acts including Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, and Missy Elliott, and they probably wouldn’t have got near the cover in any other year. But NME‘s roots were in rock, which is why they were rather overcome when The Strokes and The White Stripes came on to the scene, and they could claim “rock is back, no really, it is this time, honest!!”. But then there was this.
Andrew WK was a young American rock singer. His philosophy was that life should simply be a party, and done to the full. He had rather long greasy hair, and always wore the same rather mouldy t-shirt. He just liked to put his all into all of his performances. He meant it, man. His gigs were something too. If he didn’t end with a serious head injury, covered in someone else’s blood, and a ripped pair of jeans, then it had been a disappointment.
So when the time came for him to release his single “Party Hard” in October 2001, the hype machine went into overload (“we do what we like, and we like what we do!“). Look out Boyzone, your time on the chart is up! NME said he was “so good we put him on the cover twice!”, along with an interview where he spoke about his love of music and partying. The response from readers was that he was just about laughed out of town, with most of them saying “who is this guy?”. There was also a bizarre theory that all of his songs were made by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters as a secret side project.
“Party Hard” reached no. 19, his only Top 40 hit in the UK. In November 2001 his much triumphed album “I Get Wet” barely made the Top 75. He sliced his head open for nothing. Curiously, NME went rather quiet about Andrew WK after that, as of course the next “saviour of rock” came along, and the hype cycle started once again. Andrew is still out there and making albums though. And he still probably hasn’t changed his t-shirt.