By Z.S. Roe
When I was younger, I wanted to be in a band. Like many teens, I idolized my favourite rock musicians, hoping one day that I too might take the stage and woo a crowd with my super rock hits. Sure, I wanted the fame and fortune, but what I wanted more than anything else was to be a wonder at the guitar, to leave all those who saw me play in a state of complete awe. I’d be a pro and my fans would love me for it.
But as much as I tried to emulate my favourite musicians, I never did understand the compulsion among rock acts to destroy their instruments. Apparently, the practice really took off after Pete Townshend of The Who smashed his Rickenbacker guitar at the Railway Hotel in 1964. Since then, we’ve seen similar instrument destruction by such acts as The Clash, Nirvana, and even Arcade Fire.
Most recently, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt smashed their guitars this month during a performance at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. As rumour has it, Armstrong was upset that his set time had been cut to accommodate the night’s other acts, which included Usher and Rihanna. He threw a profanity laced fit, and then smashed his guitar in protest … or something. See for yourself below:
Interestingly, Armstrong’s guitar-smashing tirade seems to fully capture the problem with instrument destruction. Traditionally, the practice is seen as an act of anarchy or anti-materialism. And maybe there’s some validity to the destruction when it’s a starving artist doing the smashing. But when it’s a millionaire rock star like Armstrong obliterating his instrument, I can’t help but roll my eyes. After all, the act becomes meaningless when you have countless other guitars (click here to see what I mean).
But, really, the whole thing is just silly and juvenile. Music is about creation, not about destruction. And, yes, I’ve heard people argue that destruction is in itself a kind of creation, but I don’t buy it, not completely, anyway, and not when you’re a hot shot musician making millions.
Let’s move past this caveman smashy-smashy mentality. Hey, let’s even go one further: how about from now on we respect the tools of our creativity. Maybe then we’ll be doing something that’s actually worth emulating.
Opinion is a bi-monthly column of just that, my opinion. While opinions are like noses and everyone has one, mine are especially snotty. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.