Last summer a funny thing happened. One day, unbeknown to me, Radio 1 DJ Jamie Theakston reported his single of the week to be Less than Jake’s “All My Best Friends are Metalheads”. Soon after, Simon Mayo declared this to be “the summer of ska”, and when I found out, I have to admit, I was horrified! I’d always prided myself on being the guy with spiky hair, who never tucks his shirt in and sits at the back of the classroom. I was happy to be different…or special, whatever you want to call it. When this all changed and everyone from class-geek to class-clown asked to borrow my “Hello Rockview” CD, I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t lend them my CD for one thing. Less than Jake, my favourite band for the past 3 years had suddenly and without warning been cast into the ‘limelight’ and while their success was only brief (15 minutes of fame being taken far too literally here) I found I was asking myself a number of questions. How was I going to cope with all the teeny boppers and twelve year old kids at LTJ shows?!? Could I ever look at my heroes in the same way again and how long would it be before they stripped naked and ran around in their videos to gain even more popularity?!? Cries of sell-outs rang out among punk communities, louder even than when LTJ had joined a major label. I was scared…
And now, almost a year later I realise I was stupid. Firstly, the term ‘selling-out’ is not one I use anymore. Being in a band is a job. It puts food on the table and supports families. Frankly, if there’s any families I’d want to see supported, it’d be Less than Jakes’! Selling out is a very rare thing. It happens only on a number of occasions, when a band actually changes its style of music to become popular. See Face to Face’s ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ record for an example. And so, Blink 182 aren’t sell-outs, they’ve always been 3 good looking guys singing about girls. Green Day aren’t sell-outs, they’ve just gotten older and the Offspring aren’t sell-outs, they’re just shit. Less than Jake have definitely not sold-out. They’re now back on an indie label (Fat Wreck Chords) and their latest album, ‘Borders and Boundaries’ is a masterpiece. As for the teeny boppers, they’re there but I can always go skank in the corner. I still look at Less than Jake in the same way, and thankfully, I haven’t seen them naked yet! They’re still the fun-loving, energetic kings of ska punk that they always have been and they'’e still my favourite band.
I used to relate to NOFX’s lyric “It’s my Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite” but now I don’t even know what it means. Is keeping the scene ‘elite’ actually just exposing it to the smallest number of people possible and denying others the chance to experience the best music in the world? (That’s just my opinion before you complain) I don’t agree with that. Now, I admire more the lyrics of the Hot Water Music band, ‘Live your heart and never follow’, or the Ataris’ ‘Don’t ever compromise what you believe.’ Be punk and stay true to what you are- that’s what Less than Jake did. They can play on Top of the Pops for all I care. In fact, that’d be cool. Spread the word and don’t complain when a band makes it into the mainstream, it’s as simple as that. If it weren’t for the popularity of Green Day I wouldn’t be writing this now, and you probably wouldn’t be reading it. And so I’ll finish with the words of Bigwig, who put it a lot better than I ever could:
“Now the band has made some money, you’re the one that bought the CD. You told all your friends they were cool, seems to me that you’re the fool. So before you open your mouth, and say a band has sold-out, do you know what they’ve been through, know what they’ve gone through to play in front of you?!?” Bigwig, from the song ‘Sell-out’
P.S. Less than Jake- I’m sorry I doubted you!