Nick Duerden is the author of the new book, Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars, in which he interviewed 50 former famous musicians about life after fame. He has an essay in The Guardian about some of the pop stars he interviewed.
Suzanne Vega described the moment she realized she was no longer a big sensation:
On the tour's opening night in New York, the venue was just a third full. "I thought: 'Where's the rest of the audience? Maybe they're still out in the lobby?'"
There was no rest of the audience; they'd already moved on. Vega herself had done nothing wrong here, but rather done things a little too right. The industry had taken note of her earlier success, reminding them of the marketable power of a singer in touch with her emotions, and so had invested in a new batch: Sinéad O'Connor, Tanita Tikaram, Tracy Chapman. These artists rendered the scene's godmother abruptly superfluous.
Vega's tour, haemorrhaging money, was cut short. When she arrived back at JFK, she looked out for the car her record label would always send to collect her. But there was no car. Not any more.
"I took a taxi," she says.
And here's what happened to the members of Musical Youth:
Child reggae stars Musical Youth were a ray of early-80s sunshine when their single Pass the Dutchie sold 5m copies around the world. Once their fame elapsed, and it did so with breathtaking speed, one member, Patrick Waite, developed drug problems, turned to crime, and died of heart failure at 24. Another, Kelvin Grant, became a recluse; singer Dennis Seaton a born-again Christian. "It saved me," he tells me. Now in his mid-50s and a father of four, Seaton is the chairman of the Ladder Association training committee, alerting builders to the dangers of working at altitude without sufficient protection. "Which is funny, I know," he shrugs, as if the idea of a former pop star now doing an ordinary job boggles the mind. At weekends he still tours nightclubs to sing his famous song to crowds of people who want nothing else from him and are simply grateful to be in his orbit. "To have touched so many people, let me tell you, is humbling," he says.