Five Musicians Whose Past Selves Would Probably Beat Them Up

As Eddie Vedder releases a cute little ukulele album, we contemplate the inevitable descent into mellowness.

By Alex Heigl

Eddie Vedder's new album, Ukulele Songs, came out yesterday, and mood-wise, it's a long way from the Angry Eddie of the early 1990s. Obviously, as artists age, their tastes may expand or retract, just like their waist- and hairlines. But the following artists have changed so radically from when they made their impact that, if they're ever confronted by their past selves in some kind of Bill and Ted-esque time-travel situation, things will get ugly.


5. Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder has always been a sweaty, angry, working-man's rocker. From his willingness to jump from nearly anything onto anyone to his endearing attempts to single-handedly defeat Ticketmaster, Eddie's always been a combative type, even when his battle tactics have been a little puzzling (i.e., fighting for abortion rights by planking). But starting around his soundtrack for Into the Wild, he's been jumping off things less and melodiously crooning more, aided by the most adorable tiny guitar around, the ukulele. Enjoy his positively precious lead single, "Longing to Belong," with a glass of warm milk and three-week-old kitten.


4. Paul Westerberg

Known first for their sometimes thrilling, sometimes shambolic performances, and second for their drinking habits, The Replacements were the kind of charming, sloppy but smart band that the term "college rock" was invented for. Westerberg masked the sincerity of his songs with a matching wildness, often dumping blistering anthems like "Unsatisfied" directly next to gag songs like "Gary's Got a Boner." Then, around the time of Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson's death, Westerberg began contributing far more maudlin songs to Friends and Melrose Place. He reached the nadir of his dad-rock phase in 2006 with the soundtrack for the animated film Open Season; it's hard to imagine the drunk twenty-one-year old who wrote "Kids Don't Follow" taking that one sitting down.


3. Elvis Costello

Once, Elvis Costello was quite the firebrand, spitting out "Radio, Radio" on Saturday Night Live and earning himself a twelve-year ban from the program. His signature was his sneer, which gave a deliciously cruel edge to his tight pop songs ("Alison," "Watching the Detectives," et al). Since then, though, he's become an affable elder statesman of nerd-rock, collaborating with Burt Bacharach, gently poking fun at himself in films like Talledega Nights and appearing in a bear costume to sing "What's So Funny ('Bout Peace, Love and Understanding)" on The Colbert Report. While his younger self was probably never much for violence, he almost certainly would react to all this mellowness with some biting remarks in intricate rhyme.


2. Henry Rollins

Henry, don't hurt me for saying this. Your transitions from pool-ball-squeezing rageaholic in Black Flag to serious dark poet to ubiquitous alterna-dude in no way diminish the fact that I am still terrified of you. But at this point, you've been trading on your time in Black Flag for far longer than you were actually in that band, and some of your tirades seem a little cranky-old-mannish at this point. A little mellowing can go a long way, but when you were drinkin' black coffee and staring at a wall, did you at any point anticipate drinkin' kombucha and staring at your IFC microphone? In conclusion, you could still probably wring my neck, but your younger self might wring yours.


1. Ice Cube

Once, Cube was white America's ultimate idea of a scary rapper. To that guy, a good day was a day that you didn't have to use your A.K. Now, even random internet smartasses are making fun of him, just because he chose to star in a bunch of bad kids' movies. I understand — convincing people how tough you are all the time is exhausting, especially considering that no one in N.W.A. except Eazy-E had a criminal record. But Cube's next reported project is a movie version of Welcome Back, Kotter, which really seems like the kind of thing that would have inspired the young rapper to use his aforementioned A.K.

Commentarium (48 Comments)

Jun 01 11 - 1:59am

this is a snapshot of what the current alt gods and goddesses are going to become in the very near future....or they already have become that...I can't tell anymore

fuck music festivals

Jun 01 11 - 2:53am

Ice Cube's entry could have been hilarious literal — from Cop Killer to daytime TV cop.

Also, I don't give a fuck, Henry Rollins is still obscenely hot.

Jun 01 11 - 6:53am

I think you mean, Ice T not Ice Cube. I know, I know, way too many stupid names to keep track of.

Jun 01 11 - 12:57pm

Oh god, so I did. Sometimes I'm too white to function.

Jun 01 11 - 1:53pm

Ice-T always has been and always will be first and foremost about getting paid. He has ALWAYS made that abundantly clear, from back in his Cribs appearance (where he mentioned having a vending machine in his home so that friends had to buy their snacks rather than mooch off him) as well as in several documentaries and interviews.

Feb 20 12 - 6:37pm

that is hilarious

Jun 01 11 - 3:34am

Rollins's show on KCRW is amazing and incredibly broadminded. As for Cube, the Predator album was sadly unprescient.

Jun 01 11 - 9:24am

I don't know about the big names, but speaking as a small-time local musician having a kid made a big difference. I found myself saying, at some point "well, the loud and drunk bar bands are fun, but I'd really like to play more shows where I could bring my daughter along." (firstly, because it's fun, but also because when a ten-year-old goes up to you and says "you should buy my daddy's CD" it gets a better response than I ever do ;-) ).

Jun 01 11 - 9:41am

The second I saw this list Paul Westerberg came to mind. That "dyslexic heart" song is punishing. . .

Jun 01 11 - 9:52am

What about Mick Jagger who, at the Stones' peak, stated "I'd rather be dead than singing 'Satisfaction' when I'm forty-five"?

Jun 01 11 - 12:52pm
Alex Heigl

Well, the list goes on...if we included everybody with a damning soundbite/lyric, we'd be twenty deep, with the likes of Pete "hope I die before I play the Supebowl" Townshend and Neil "it's better to burn out than become an old man tinkering with cars" Young, among a cast of hundreds.

Jun 01 11 - 10:48am

What - no Meatloaf?

Jun 01 11 - 2:09pm
Todd Totale

Disagree. You obviously didn't see Meat on Celebrity Apprentice. The dude is crazy dangerous, regardless of how old the Bat Out Of Hell sequels sound.

Jun 01 11 - 11:31am
Maja Thurup

I trust you know that's a mandolin that Eddie's holding in the photo. It's four strings more respectable than the ukelele.

Jun 01 11 - 11:55am

Yeah, we just liked that he looked like an affable scoutmaster.

Jun 01 11 - 1:44pm

he is holding a mandolin in the bottom photo but that is definitely a ukelele in the top photo. right?

Jun 01 11 - 2:20pm

Miked is right, ukulele up top (looks like a tenor uke, I think) and a mandolin in the side-by-side shot. Maybe in his case all those years of touring made him gravitate towards more portable instruments. I know I sure as hell like showing up to one of my gigs with my mandolin rather than the bazillion-piece drum set I used to play.

Jun 01 11 - 5:04pm

Seriously I am so impressed by your knowledge of instruments...
No one gives a fuck if it is tenor uke or a fucking mandolin....

Jun 01 11 - 5:42pm

I would venture a guess that Miked gives a fuck, since he posted the question. You're an asshole--please go to if you can't contribute anything above 4Chan levels of discourse.

Jun 02 11 - 12:46am

Hey now, that shit would get you scolded on 4chan too.

Jun 01 11 - 1:29pm

No Liz Phair?

Jun 02 11 - 9:48am
Roy Lee Harwell

No, if Liz Phair had a time machine she'd probably just use it to have sex with herself.

Really boring, bitchy sex.

Jun 02 11 - 11:06am

Don't forget dry ... boring bitchy dry sex.

Jun 01 11 - 2:37pm
fred garvin

ukelele or not, Vedder's soundtrack to "Into the Wild" was incredible, which is way more than you can say about the cringe-inducing junk put out by the others on the list. And this coming from a was Placemats fan.

Jun 01 11 - 7:37pm

I'm not sure why anyone is impressed by Elvis Costello as a "gentle crooner." He's unimpressive.

Jun 02 11 - 11:12am
Mr Dibs

Saw Elvis in Chicago a few weeks ago. The last time I saw him live was in the early 80s. Amazingly at the concert I was one of the younger people there and I am in my mid 40s. He's become Liberace. He became famous for great angry lyrics and not his voice. It was horrible to hear him croon. Even more amazing was these geezers in their 60s giving him standing ovations! So there is someone wanting this crap.

Jun 01 11 - 8:53pm

Maynard James Keenan....

Jun 01 11 - 9:04pm

You can add Neil Diamond to the list too. Hot August Night was a kick ass live album of great rock and roll. Then he started lamenting that a chair wasn't listening to him and did duets with Barbra Striesand. So sad.

Jun 01 11 - 10:40pm

The Jam's Paul Weller would definitely beat current Weller's ass

Jun 07 11 - 1:03pm

So true but Wake up the Nation was all together not a bad album and did kinda rock...

Jun 02 11 - 2:26am

John Lydon? Although arguably, not a musician.

Jun 02 11 - 2:50am

The "after" pic for Westerberg isn't him...

Jun 02 11 - 11:52am

Yeah it is, hard though it may be to believe. Just look at that schnoz.

Jun 02 11 - 9:53am

Okay, I'll stay with "Oldfart." I think the actual point re. these boys, Rollins included, is what a bunch of pussies and posers they always were. It's the business. Get back to me about Fitty Cent, or the rockers (EC and most of Led Zep among them) who are reborn bluegrass fans these days...

Jun 02 11 - 12:46pm
Reality Bites

It has to do with age and the decrease of testosterone in men. But it's better that trying to sustain what is long gone. Change is good.

Jun 02 11 - 7:50pm

No-one has yet mentioned Rod Stewart, who once upon a time could rip out a song in a brandy-soaked rasp with the best of them, and is now singing soggy imitations of Sinatra (or of Sinatra imitators). Horrid.

Aug 25 11 - 12:40pm

He was never edgy, though. Quite the contrary - he always had a cheesy air about him. His (extremely bad) versions of standard tunes today are just the older guy version of his early tunes, IMO.

Jun 03 11 - 12:00am

I gotta say I think it'd be pathetic if they were still as angry as they age. You're SUPPOSED to mellow as you get older and learn more. People change, musicians included.

Jun 03 11 - 2:48am
The Doctor

Iggy Pop - the back-in-the-day Iggy used to cut himself on stage, punch-on with fans and was the loosest cannon ever to take to the stage. The current Iggy appears in commercials, does yoga and records songs with Sum 41. Past Iggy would beat the snot out of the current Iggy.

Jun 03 11 - 2:50am
Matt Quigley

Alice Cooper anyone?

Jun 03 11 - 9:52am

It's true--I wouldn't fault anyone for a change in aesthetic or taste as they age. Tom Waits, in particular, has aged like fine scotch--I'd much rather have "Real Gone" than "Closing Time." But there is a "how the mighty have fallen" aspect to the decline of certain individuals, and the irony is closely tied to their youthful persona.

Jun 03 11 - 7:31pm
Edward SF

Henry Rollins is hot hot hot

Jun 06 11 - 12:32pm

Also, Green Day.

Jun 07 11 - 1:10pm

yeah Henry Rollins is still a Looker, albeit standing up not on top of you looking down, But he has manged to fight off the most treacherous of all male enemies....The old man ass. You know the one that sags and then leaves those little tiny rolls right under each cheek, it's a horrifying sight and Rollins is still got an ass so hot I want to right epic poems in iambic pentameter proclaiming it's hotness!

Jul 09 11 - 1:38am

I disagree with your Henry Rollins admission, politely I might add. In all honesty, Henry Rollins when he was in S.O.A and then joining early black flag was kind of an immature moronic asshole. He comes from a genre of music where it is comical to see a 50 year old man on stage singing a song such as Six Pack. His spoken word, UFO tours, his regular tours are some of the most thought provoking, entertaining, broadminded thoughts out there. If anything I'd say Henry Rollins is like a nice scotch, he gets better as he ages. I'd take an intellectual 50 year old Rollins over a drunk fighting Rollins. He even said so himself. Just a thought.

Aug 25 11 - 4:13am

How on earth is Gwen Stefani not on that list? Little punk chick kicks crap out of 40 year old pop skank.

Aug 25 11 - 12:17pm

I'd pay good money to watch that happen.

Jan 22 12 - 6:42am

well, about Eddie, (not that you write something different i think) he has always showed that he can be into something simple and sweet and not only in an anger mode, like when they used to put out their Christmas singles back to those grunge-era years ("let me sleep" and "porch" came out at the same year) ...
it would be really weird to go see them live in 2012 and see him running up and down the scene and diving onto people! I wouldn't like to see him like that. As for his current songwriting and the melodymaking of the group and of his own, it still touches all of us of who were teens in the nineties because by now we are in our thirties and we have settled down, or at least, are trying to! They are still inspired and they still inspire.