Sometimes ideas for lists must seem good until you try to populate them. Take Rolling Stone’s 13 Rock Stars Who Disappeared list, for example.
Not all rock stars burn out. Some fade away. Some gracefully withdraw. And when they command our attention for so long, we do want to know what happened. So cool idea.
Then Rolling Stone tries to add an additional twist by measuring people against the (Syd) “Barret Scale”, using him as the benchmark for rock star dropout reclusive weirdness.
Cool idea, but it weakens the argument for including many names on the list. The article admits that Fats Domino is “more retired than reclusive.” After making a big deal of what sounds like the mysterious departure of David Bowie, it then admits “it's hard to be a true recluse while you're posing for red carpet photos with your supermodel spouse.” OK then.
Billy Joel, Grace Slick, The Everly Brothers - these people are retired. John Deacon knew that Queen died with Freddie, so he is smart. John Frusciante definitely registers on the “Barrett Scale,” but not many of the other names do. If they really wanted to use this “Barrett Scale,” why didn’t they include Peter Green? He’s been lurking in the shadows so long the scale could be named after him!
But Joni Mitchell? She’s always done her own thing. Sly Stone? Maybe he sensed he had overstayed his welcome, or used up more than his fair share of public consciousness.
An interesting variation on the list might have been rock stars that walked away while on top: Little Richard, Conway Twitty, Dave Clark, Linda Ronstadt. Barrett, Green and Frusciante definitely belong on that list.
Postscript: since the list came out, Bowie actually released a new single and announced a new album. Not terribly reclusive, then, is it?