I wrote an entire book based on this question. The thing is, I don’t think we’re really asking the right question at all. Which is also why I wrote the book.
It’s easy to find a headline. Especially today – conspiracy theories and drawn conclusions based on….well…a bunch of details we cherry pick from. But behind the headlines, things are pretty complex really aren’t they?
Do you ever look at a news article and wonder why that particular story made the pages at that particular time? It’s clear that we have political leanings within the press – but sometimes they try to disguise them. I remember when fox hunting was banned. Shortly afterwards, some right wing rag put out a story about a fox attacking a child.
There’s no denying the incident happened – there was a real family and a real child. But that story says so much more for making the page at that particular time. Every day there are deaths and murders and attacks, and there’s public money being spent in ways it shouldn’t be. But not all of these stories make the page. Why? Because with some media titles, there’s often an agenda or a prejudice or a privilege. And sometimes, there’s a very, VERY simple driver that’s even more simplistic than ANY of that – sensationalised headlines get people to part with their pennies and by the paper.
So what’s any of this got to do with The 27 Club?
Honestly. I can’t say for sure – I don’t have the stats, the research, the answers. But I do think we should get more used to asking the questions. To asking why politicians or the media or influencers or conspiracy theorists are saying the things they’re saying.
So back to the so-called 27 club. It’s like the story of the fox and the child. Some rock stars died aged 27, some aged 26, some aged 28 and some aged 87. But we keep focusing on the small number who we know died aged 27. And to find out what they have in common, instead of looking deeper, instead of looking at who they were, we sometimes find it easier to look at the behaviour that results from their experiences, childhoods, personalities or hardships. In the case of the 27 club, it’s always drugs or alcohol that we hear about. But we must remember – not everyone who uses drugs and alcohol gets hooked, overdoses, loses their mind and dies. So why do they?
I think what I’m saying here is that we can’t really know. We can make assumptions – we know that fame is probably difficult to live with. We know that being a performer living on the road might be hard. We know that there could be more drugs and alcohol available to those who work at night. But still, that’s not enough to get every person hooked, to make everyone so sick they can’t carry on. Because some people can flirt with it and walk away relatively unscathed.
This is the issue with mental health generally. Diagnoses, labels, medications – they’re not a once size fits all. Just as all rock stars don’t die aged 27, you can be diagnosed with the same condition as your best mate, and respond in a completely different way to the drugs, or the therapy. There could be psychological, social, genetic reasons – in fact there can be a whole host of contributing factors including the right here, right now. Stars align and create a deadly cocktail of pain and risk. Is there any wonder some people seek oblivion?
So the 27 club, in my mind, is a de-humanising headline. A headline that doesn’t acknowledge the art or the humanity. A headline that simply satisfies our own thirst for answers. Sometimes, as fans, as voters, as the general public, we can’t find logic or reason or patterns. And that’s pretty difficult to admit.
I am a fan of Kurt Cobain. I enjoy his music, I had a major crush on him as a teenager. I dreamt about hanging out with him and Courtney Love and taking drugs and sharing pain. But I didn’t know them. Still, I don’t believe Kurt Cobain died because he was a 27 year old rock star. The sad truth is, we’ll never really know what took him from us. But I imagine that pain was the overriding symptom…
So why call my book The Twenty Seven Club if I disagree with the headline?
Well, all the above words wouldn’t really fit neatly onto a cover. If The Twenty Seven Club title makes you pick it up and read it – great. Because, as a mental health communications professional, I believe I’ve written a pretty responsible story. And as you read it, I hope you will find yourself asking questions about the media, about mental health, about how we view fame and friendships. And most importantly, how we view and understand ourselves.
The Twenty Seven Club is a fictional, moving and humorous tale that explores this topic with a ton of nostalgia, laughter and music to see you through.