Both became traditional rock stars around the same time, Eno playing with Roxy Music, Zappa with The Mothers Of Invention.
They could have done what most rock stars do: Make a couple of records, get a couple of hits on the radio, spend the next X decades touring, living on a tour bus, playing the same songs night after night to adoring fans in towns in Cleveland, Chicago, Des Moines, Little Rock …
And yet they chose not to, after only a couple of years in the limelight. Both were highly intelligent, visionary people, and no matter how attractive the sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll thing can be to young people, the typical rock n’ roll lifestyle was boring and infantile to them.
So they evolved.
Their music started getting more and more classical/avante-garde/out-there. And now, four decades later, they’re titans, respected by the smartest and most interesting dudes in the business. Poor ol’ Zappa died a few years ago, but Eno is still thriving, and still constantly evolving, doing interesting work.
I guess their lesson taught me that, just because you’ve found the standard winning formula, doesn’t mean your thing has to stay formulaic; that allowing yourself to re-invent, evolve and push out your edges into unknown territory is not just OK, it’s essential.
At least, it is if you want to keep things interesting.
The other thing they taught me? It’s OK to be weird, it’s OK to be smart, and it’s OK to shun commerciality, even if you’re a rock star. Just because all the idiots are doing it a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to, as well.
And so I try to incorporate that into my own work … and you can too, even if you’re not an artist or a rock star, even if you have a normal job.
Sure beats doing the eternal long hair and spandex circuit in Cleveland, Chicago, Des Moines, Little Rock …
About the Author: Hugh MacLeod is lead artist and co-founder of Gapingvoid, a management consultancy that uses art to transform business. Clients include Microsoft, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Rackspace, and Zappos. He blogs over at hughcartoons.com. Follow him at @hughcartoons.