Gimme Five: Fake Rock Accents

The Mael brothers near the Watts Towers, at home in southern California.
The Mael brothers near the Watts Towers, at home in southern California.

Take a moment to celebrate a fake European country’s impact on rock with my five favorite fake rock accents.

Robert Pollard
Robert Pollard

1. Robert Pollard

Maybe not all the time, but that Brit accent certainly comes up some of the time and enough to warrant mention (“Liar’s Tale” comes immediately to mind, amongst the billions of songs).  His accent isn’t an attempt at something obnoxious (this means you, Rancid) but a tribute to the bands that established the rock harmonies used to make his tiny, poppy songs seem so legit.  It could be a side effect of Budweiser overdose, but I wouldn’t know (this means you, Budweiser).

Adrian Belew
Adrian Belew

2. Adrian Belew

OK, I’m listing him not so much for an accent per se, but for going against his nature and dropping a perfect Bob Dylan in Frank Zappa’s “Flakes”.  Zappa demanded a lot from his musicians, including the killing of an idol or two.  I’m a bit surprised that Belew just didn’t make his guitar sound like Dylan, an act surely in his fantastic wheelhouse.

Russell and Ron Mael
Russell and Ron Mael

3.Russell Mael

See a video clip of Sparks on Music Laden, and Russell’s accent sounds like he might have driven his car to the show.  I’m not sure when the decision to get your fake accent on is made: something to calm the nerves?  Something to hide your unconfidence behind?  Whatever.  It works.  It adds great camp value to somewhat silly themes, creates some aura of mystery about the band’s origin (Los Angeles), and seasons the music with a bit of weirdness.  In my fave song, “Thank God It’s Not Xmas”, the accent kind of goes away in the chorus, but the verses make up for it with near unintelligibly.

John Lydon
John Lydon

4. John Lydon

Before John Lydon/Johnny Rotten come about, no one knew what a douchebag was supposed to sound like.  There is valuable source material now (for listeners that need a medicated douche, a Blink 182 or Sum 41 album is also available).

Brian Ferry
Brian Ferry

5. Brian Ferry

All signs point to Roxy Music’s performance of “Virgina Plain” on Top of the Pops as a life- and culture-changing event.  People must have felt either completely liberated or scared enough to get up and lock the door during the “teenage rebel of the week” line.  They all looked like they were from outer space, but in a bit of xenophobia brilliance Brian Ferry sounded like and Eastern Bloc refugee.  It was a bit more campy in the tuxedo, but in the space outfits Ferry put a foreign stamp on their glam invasion: “We look like B-movie Martians, we sound like loose Germans, and your kids are in love with us.”  Without the accent?  Silliness.  With the accent?  Danger and intrigue.

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