They benefited from the mystery of celebrity, living in that golden age when we didn’t know what famous people thought about the world. Remember that time, before social media, when we weren’t aware that most of the musicians from our youth were complete cranks, who wouldn’t put a vaccine inside them because of some YouTube video they’d seen, despite spending most of the 80s and 90s shoving coke up their nose and God knows what.
What a lost Eden that was. Now, sadly, we have Twitter, which has given us so many insights into the workings of famous peoples’ minds.
I don’t go in much for nostalgia, but this is one case where I wholeheartedly agree that things were better in the past, even the relatively recent past, when reticence was much more common. Sure, even in the 90s, Oprah and her talk-show epigones were creating the atmosphere for today’s climate of exhibitionist oversharing — as I said, there never has been a golden age. But it was also a time when a popular musician like Mark Sandman could manage to opt out:
After earning a BA in political science from UMass Boston, he spent a period of time traveling — at one point working on a giant fishing boat out in the state of Washington. Details like that about his personal life and his past were hard to come by. There were things he just wouldn’t talk about on the record. And in the age of the confessional talk-show interview, I grew to respect that. “I like to keep the personal personal,” is how he once put it. “I try to be a pretty private person.” He wasn’t trying to hide anything, except perhaps his age, because he was older than your average rock-and-roll star. In fact, the only time I ever pissed him off was backstage at the Conan O’Brien show in 1995, when after listening to him tell me about a Rolling Stone reporter’s desperate efforts to find out his age I joked that I was going to dig up his Newton North high-school yearbook.
Only twenty-eight years ago, it was still possible to keep something like that a secret from prying journalists! And yet, it seems like a lost world.