Kate Moss’s fags and Joe Strummer’s notes: should we loot the rock star car boot?

Fans can buy Sonic Youth’s kit off a gear-flogging website. When there’s cash to be made from a the rock retrospective exhibition, it’s a risky move

Reverb.com is a strange website. Primarily, it’s a place for musicians to geek through the technology side of their craft. But it has lately developed a sideline in flogging off the gear of the famous. Green Day have sold stuff on there. Moby just disposed of 100 drum machines. Right now, you can buy a vast range of Sonic Youth’s old kit, including more than 100 effects pedals and a blue Fender Precision bass played by both Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore in the group’s heyday.

If you wanted to start a Sonic Youth museum, here’s your chance to buy one off the peg. Yet, at the same time, a band whose legacy is always discussed in breathless tones are symbolically giving up the opportunity to curate that legacy. Perhaps someone else will. In an era when actual music has become devalued, music fans seem to be craving ever more to get close to the stuff.

Most noticeably, in 2016, David Bowie’s exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum attracted 320,000 punters, setting a new gold standard for the rock retrospective. Last year, Pink Floyd launched their own massive exhibition, Their Mortal Remains, featuring 350 artefacts including “instruments, music technology, posters, designs”.

David Bowie’s Starman costume at the David Bowie Is exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2016.
David Bowie’s Starman costume at the David Bowie Is exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2016. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

This boom in showing off artefacts must have more musicians thinking about their stock of mementos. If they had to make a museum of you, what would you even have to offer? We are leading more digitised lives now and, as money bleeds from the biz, the temptation to flog things prematurely must grow. When Pete Doherty was short of a few bob in 2013, he installed himself in a shop in Camden market and began flogging off a bunch of meaningless trinkets, including a fag butt “smoked by Kate Moss”, yours for £100.

Of course, at the other end of the scale, the savvy kind of modern pop star exemplified by Taylor Swift will probably all be employing personal curators right now: vacuum-sealing this dress from that tour, or fussily tweezering Cardi B’s discarded wet wipes into Jiffy bags with half an eye on a 2030 blockbuster at the Guggenheim.

Either way, it is seldom the obvious things that are interesting; paradoxically, the stuff that is most uniquely relatable is often another man’s clutter. In 2009, the Clash’s Mick Jones opened his lockup in Acton and made its assorted junk available for Chelsea College Of Art & Design to display under the Westway. It made for a wonderful celebrity car-boot sale: a place where an Elvis 3D Viewfinder could sit alongside a decent model recreation of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. It also featured a hand-written note from Joe Strummer: “Mick, you win. Call Me. Love, Joe.” A single funny, sad line about bands, friendship and fallouts that summed up more than any battered bass guitar ever could.


Gavin Haynes

The GuardianTramp

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