Saturday, March 14, 2009

OPINION: Who is Cool?

Ray Charles (Ray Charles via

"Cool" - Who Is, Who Isn't, Who Wants to Be and Who Can Never Be - Music Part 1 by Julian Huntly

I looked up "cool" in the dictionary, which is actually a pretty uncool thing to do and this is what I found: "fashionable, stylish, chic, up-to-the-minute, sophisticated; informal trendy, funky, with it, hip, big, happening, groovy, phat, kicky, fly."

Which to be honest is not very helpful, I then remembered the Monks of Cool from the Terry Pratchett novel Lords and Ladies. In their passing-out test a novice monk must select the coolest thing to wear from a room full of clothes. The correct answer is "Hey, whatever I select", which I think gives me the right to write this article and tell you all who I think is cool and who is not, and my reasons for doing so.

Lets start with the world of Music.

Where to start, well I suppose one of the longest running arguments in music is Stones vs. Beatles. Well obviously the Rolling Stones are cool and the Beatles are not. Why is this? Both bands got busted for drugs, both bands made a massive worldwide impact with their music. The Beatles were arguably more inventive and creative than the Stones, but that does not make a band cool.

First, the Beatles had Paul McCartney (The Frog Song) and Ringo Starr who John Lennon said wasn't even the best drummer in the Beatles. Sure the Stones had Bill Wyman who was sleazy and pretty uncool but I think the Beatles lose on that one.

Secondly, the Stones had two very cool things happen early in their career, the death of their self proclaimed leader Brian Jones under mysterious circumstances in his own swimming pool and the murder of an audience member at their open air gig at Altamont by the coolest of gangs, The Hells Angels. The Beatles went to India and got ripped off by the Maharishi, and then played on a roof.

Thirdly the Stones had the newspaper headline "Would you let your daughter go out with a Rolling Stone" every mother would have loved their daughter to marry a Beatle. I suppose to totally nail the argument, one band has Keith Richards who despite falling out of trees remains the gold standard for Rock Cool.

So who is next, Ray Charles so cool, Stevie Wonder not. Ray Charles was a pathfinder a rebel, a true genius and although it could be argued that Little Stevie Wonder was a child prodigy and that his work between 72 and 76 was incredibly creative, Innervisions, Talking Book and my favourite Songs in the Key of Life, it only takes one slip to become un-cool and lets be honest "Ebony and Ivory" and "I Just called to say I love you" were definite slips and a duet with the UK boy band Blue put the nail in the coffin. The movie Ray was awarded with an Oscar; a movie of Stevie's life would probably be quite boring.

Aerosmith are so cool, Bon Jovi so not. Here is an example of two bands, same genre, both from the East coast, playing the same venues at the same time. Alright one started in the 70's and the other in the 80's but I think the comparison stands as they have both been going well over 25 years, and one is still cool and the other just isn't. Maybe it is because the writing team of one got the name the "toxic twins" or because Jon Bon Jovi starred in some pretty rubbish movies including the U-571 and National Lampoons Pucked, and one gave us Liv Tyler, but for me the argument is made simply by the fact that Jon appeared as a guest on American Idol.

Jay Z or Sean "Diddy" Coombs. Well I am no expert on Hip Hop but I think it is pretty clear Jay Z is the man, great music, Beyonce for a girlfriend, runs his own record label within the massive Universal Music Group, whereas "Diddy" for us in the UK is the most stupid nickname anyone would choose outside of primary school. He claims to be a ladies man but with a name like Diddy it must be the money attracting them.

U2, it is claimed by some, are in a class of their own. This may be so but they are deeply un-cool. Any band that is around for as long as these guys have been, tend to have some pretty near scrapes with the law. Not U2, strike one. The preaching on poverty when they have a combined personal wealth of a small country. And then there are the celebrity friends and the sucking up to the rich and the powerful.

I could go on and probably will in another article, I am sure many of you will agree with my musings on who's cool and who's never going to be, and I am sure there will be an equal number who disagree, well share your thoughts.

I will leave you with this question, do you agree that Johnny Cash was so much cooler than Elvis?

Julian Huntly, Digital Music Marketing Consultant:

Article Source:,-Who-Isnt,-Who-Wants-to-Be-and-Who-Can-Never-Be---Music-Part-(1)&id=2062509


  1. I agree with all of these except that I think U2 is very cool. Johnny and Elvis can't be compared, they were both cool in their own way

  2. Without question Johnny Cash is the coolest of the cool!