Arts diary item entitled Faint and pursuing, published in the Observer on 6 September 1964
Squads of police all over the country are ready to deal with the riots: the Rolling Stones started their nationwide tour at Finsbury Park last night. Further down the bill was a young singer, Simon Scott, bound for stardom (his agents say).
Turning up again in this country last week was Johnnie Ray, ten years ago the most hysterically worshipped pop star ever, now playing cabaret to a wealthy, middle-aged audience in a Newcastle club (and getting tears).
Three artists at three stages in the pop cycle. How does it work? Peter Murray, 14 years a disc jockey, is an authority on the screaming/fainting business. It’s not hit records, he points out, but a striking stage act that is needed to build up hysteria. The Rolling Stones have topped the hit parade only once, but they’re fainted over more than even the Beatles. “All the big idols,” he says, “have been great on stage – good movers, sexy and with a strong image, whether it’s loneliness, sensuality or anger.”
But the idol, says Murray, must also be reassuring in some way. He must be sexy, but he mustn’t give the girls a sense of real sexual danger. All the great stars have a “safety belt” – Elvis his basic romanticism, the Beatles their cheerfulness, and the Stones have their long hair (most reassuring).
If the Stones’ fans, reacting against the the present brutality in pop, turn to a new smoother hero it might even be Scott – given his first big step up the ladder by the Stones themselves.