Blog Menu:

Home

KCL Home

KCL Home

Long Live Rock

Posted on: Wednesday 10/10/2018 02:24:12

I am writing about something close to my heart. Rock and roll. My earliest memories are of driving to the Lake Michigan beach with my parents; the AM car radio playing The Kinks, Herman's Hermits, The Beach Boys, and of course, The Beatles. Rock has been with me since that time. I've live in very close association with it as a listener, concert goer, and musician. 

In the late 1970's disco took the country by storm. You could only hear rock on the college radio station WOSU, For every person crying, "Disco sucks!", there were two or three yelling, "Rock is dead!". I thought rock was done. Of course a short time later, punk came along, and after that the resurrection of rock as people got tired of disco. Disco had been a long fad, just like doo wop in my mom's teen years. 

I got to thinking about this as my sister watches the AMAs this evening. Today we are back in the same boat. rap, hip hop, and new country are all the rage. You won't see the newest rock buzz band featured on SNL every Saturday night. I can't take anything away from these artists, and some I consider phonies. They are incredibly popular. Their management and producers are very savvy. Most importantly, they stretch across all societal and racial boundaries. 

Honestly, rock didn't do that and still doesn't. As a side note, for all I know about the genre, I've never understood how a music bred 98% from the blues of the South, found a fan base of 98% white guys. I see that part of what is killing rock is that lack of societal elasticity. Popularity is these days of course, tied to advertising and marketing. Young ladies who fit the demographics of cosmetic users and Shakira or Pink fans get to see commercials with those artists in them. That was never tried or done with rock.  

Also, rock is destroying itself from within regarding money. Case in point, tickets for a coming tour by Bob Seager. Nose bleed seats: $125, Good seats: $680. Best seats: $1,272! For the price of a nostalgia show that probably lasts as long as a movie, I could buy a Rickenbacker 360, the most expensive production guitar available, historic for being the preference of John Lennon. What would you buy with that money? That's just one example. Even tickets for a recent concert here by a not-so-popular band I like called Iron and Wine whom I like were $125 for standing on the floor. 

The other thing is quality. Rock acts are producing less, and I think people are expecting less. I won't get into a pissing match with anyone, but I can only think of a few current rock acts that equal the musical quality of ELP, Boston, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, or Aerosmith, to name but a few. To me, part of the issue is with computers. It started with drum machines. As a drummer I saw them as evil when invented. They were the beginning of making music sterile sounding, false, and unemotional. 

It has now come down to this: a singer just on the AMA show stood on stage. A guy sitting in front of a PC in the background had a digital mixing program on his 32" monitor screen. The guy hit a key on the keyboard and the singer launched into his vocals. Sorry, but to me that's not music, just singing to a lifeless, unthinking machine. Think. Is that what music should be about? In this same vein, are you aware of vocal tweaking? Picture a singer who can't sing on key. She has the correct looks, and attitude. Money people in the music business want to successfully use her because, you know, marketing, demographics, money, and stuff. So this machine was invented that runs between the microphone and recording or PA equipment. Whenever said singer hits a sour note, the computer fixes it. It's like autocorrect for singers. You listen to people who sound good to you, but really couldn't sing their way out of a corner.

The last fake thing I will mention is reality TV. I won't pick on individuals or individual shows, but they are harmful. The aforementioned Aerosmith paid their dues by playing in shit hole bars and clubs for years. Sublime couldn't get record companies interested in them. They saved the money they made from playing house parties and made their first record on their own. They drove around the streets of LA where they were known and popular at the ground level. They sold something like 48,000 copies from the trunk of their car. Guess who was interested then?  Today: Interviewer: To what do you attribute your success? Singer: I won a TV contest. Gee, sorry you had it so rough. And sorry you had to use that computer voice correction thngy.  

Tonight on the AMAs I saw no musical instruments. I heard computers. I saw a lot of flashy outfits, and tons of deep cleavage and thigh. Because, you know, marketing, demographics, money, and stuff. Is rock finally dying for good? It may well be. With the ticket prices, lack of general reach, and overall quality, it may well be. I will drop over dead the day Dave Grohl wears a skin-tight, totally sequined tux while lip syncing Monkey Wrench in a TV commercial for WD40. Come on, someone rebuff me.   

  

  • kittenheel Says:
    I don't think it's possible to dispute much of what you've said here. I think the same can be said for many art forms, including literature.

  • lunamor Says:
    What sells the most is always going to be the lowest common denominator, but I'm just grateful there are still actual musicians who give a damn and do great work. They may not make as much money or be as famous, but I'm actually grateful for that - I don't want to fight millions of people for access to my favorite music.

  • idoru Says:
    There are people out there who put as much time, blood,sweat & tears into making music using electronic instruments/virtual instruments as those who play guitars,basses, cello, violins, percussion, triangle, piano. But, just like the past, you have to put the effort into finding them.

    You do you, boo. Defending one type of music (production or playing or composing) over another is not a hill I plan on dying over.

    :)

  • lunamor Says:
    To that point: I think there is a bit of a difference between unabashedly, openly electronic music that is what it says it is, and synthesized music that pretends to be actual instrumentation. My son composes electronic music, and takes hours and hours to do it - there is artistry and skill in it. So I will never bash electronic music or say "it's not real music," but I think it's different from what Don's talking about. Could be wrong, though.

  • kittenheel Says:
    Yeah, my kid has played several gigs where it's just him, his guitar, and his "orchestra" which is tracks he wrote and recorded onto his laptop using his keyboard. It can take every bit as much time and sweat as older techniques. And if you insist on playing every single instrument, it's really your only choice if you want to perform live. /homepage

  • lunamor Says:
    Also..I love disco. I regularly listen to a Pandora disco station. I also love rock, rap, hip-hop, country, classical, alt rock, punk, folk, and even *gasp* some pop. These things aren't mutually exclusive!

  • kittenheel Says:
    Disco was like everything else. Some of it was spectacular, and some of it sucked. Same with pop. You're wrong about country though. It all sucks. Sorry.

  • lunamor Says:
    LOL I know people think I'm nuts for liking any country music. I like the story telling, and some of the love songs. A lot of it gives me nostalgia for growing up in farm country. My enjoyment is nearly always more about the words than the music.

  • Fritz The Bootlegger Says:
    Can I just give a shout out to Polka, the only musical genre that unites Germans, Polacks and Mexicans?

  • lunamor Says:
    Of course you can.

    ROLL OUT THE BARRELL!

  • idoru Says:
    Only Scottish Accordian music sucks ... can't see anyone fighting me over that opinion! :)

  • Fritz The Bootlegger Says:
    Let me guess, the Scottish took up the accordion to protest the English taking their bagpipes?

    (Too soon?)

  • knifeboy Says:
    See? Everyone has their preferences. Mary, I agree with you in terms with what your son does. However, I do the same for recording and not performing, though it's n interesting idea. And I do have to admit that in listening to disco many years later, I found that those bands has some very impressive bassists. I hope everyone got the idea that I am lamenting the state of a genre I grew up with and had been deep in my heart forever. Rock got me through a lot of things and still does. And I feel the same for country. I was raised with, and appreciate, the old stuff. To me, an awful lot of the new stuff basically like rock or pop with Southern accents and the same few topics. Incidentally, I left out polka. I grew up with that too, and love it, as well. Like AC/DC, it hasn't changed over the years. It couldn't be improved on and shouldn't be messed with./homepage
  • You must be logged in to comment!