Rosencrantz and Leytonstone
1 May 2003
...and it was like "you're not my father?" - yeah like darth vader "tskch I AM your father" - and he said "ask your mum" and stormed out so I like go up and ask her and she's like all emotional right so I go "what do you mean I've got my dad in my cd collection" and she's like she got screwed by some rock star at some gig way back before she met Dad I mean Tony anyway right so I think and start guessing Axl Rose? Damn! Eric Clapton? Shame. Rick Astley? Phew! Who then? So she's like David Lee Roth and I'm like what the spandex guy and she's yeah and I'm like oh...
And so the Roth Index was born. Since the thirties, fans and magazines have tried to rank their musical heroes in order of some kind of ephemeral "greatness". I'm sure that privately too, the more competitive members of the guitar-slinging perm brigade and historical equivalents also wished for a more concrete method of determining their place on the Rock ladder of eternal glory. The punctuationally challenged soliloquy you overheard above gives an idea of how this measure works.
Any old Joe can write down a list of their favourites, publish it in Kerrang and proclaim it to be the definitive selection, but it won't be. All these magazines have deals with the record companies, even personal links with the stars themselves. Interests are certainly vested. So, we try and form a more fair, albeit still subjective, method. And it goes a little something like this:
How would you feel if you discovered your real biological father was David Lee Roth? Excitement of a direct link to rock fame minus Yellow Spandex effect and some Obscurity Level equals, in this key case, indifference. Therefore, if you are even slightly pleased when you discover who your lost biological father (or mother) is, then that person ranks higher than David Lee Roth. If you are just slightly embarrassed or disgusted, then that person ranks lower. Bemusement and a quasi-gallic shrug of the shoulders condemns that person to equality with Roth. Thus was born the Roth Index.
You haven't heard of this because it is a very difficult metric to measure. The only time it can be judged is during the first few days a person is notified. It can not apply to non-abandoned children of rockstars for this reason. It is not inconceivable, however, that the people we are trying to measure have sired at least one surprise package on tour somewhere. It is said that about an eighth of high school students in the American mid-west bear a striking resemblance to at least one member of Motley Crue (usually Nikki Sixx).
Sheer travel costs and some legal wrangling meant that those of us trying to calculate and set the Roth Index had to get proactive. We assembled a team and resources through a Malibu-based fund and subtle targeted marketing to our potential clients, and got to work. We chose North-East London as our base because of its ethnic diversity, worship of stadium rock and proximity to Essex.
If you listen carefully through radio programmes giving out tickets and back-stage passes to the big rock gigs over the last seventeen years, we ensured that almost all of them were won by girls in their late teens from Leytonstone, Stratford, Leyton, Forest Hill, sometimes as far as Wanstead or East Ham. Nine months after the respective gigs, the little tots are born, and we could normally rely on the relatively close family ties of these communities to ensure that the true identity was kept quiet for a long time.
Then when the time was right, we broke the news to them, and carefully monitored the response over several days. The reason we hang around for a bit is because the initial shock, while being useful at the extremities (the instant beam or barf, we call it), is not great when they haven't even heard of them. We then track how hard they try and find out who their parent is, and see if they brag about it in the pub, or whisper it with a red face. We have become expert at judging these responses and sometimes we even get some direct comparators ("Well, I may be Ray Parker Jr's son, but at least I'm not Lionel Richie's"). As you can see, we also expanded out of perm-rock, and quite lucratively too.
Among the stars, the rich, our league tables form a far more emotive pull than your average celebdaq or similar. Because the Roth index gives a more general measure of "legendism". It is far more difficult to change your ranking. Criminal cases late in life can be eternally damaging (think Pete Townsend), or have little effect (think James Brown). The gradual rise and fall of retro trends has some effect, but more often than not, once your illegitimate offspring has proclaimed you as naff, you are destined to stay that way. Some stars are repeat customers just to give themselves another chance. We have a complex averaging algorithm to try and filter out transient trends so our methods seem fair.
Because the more thorough our methodology and accepted our results, the more powerful our rankings become. Members of new "bands" like Coldplay have started putting aside progeny at the rate of one every six months just to ensure an accurate ranking. Personally, I have to pity them really, as the indifference they currently muster will soon turn to despairing boredom when compared to the new up-and-coming super-group The Doog. I really should get them started soon...