Kill, Kill, Rock and Roll
By Wil Forbis
As I sit down to write, Nelson's delightfully poppy 1990 album, "After The Rain" fills the room. "Why the fuck are you listening to Nelson?" you might ask, and in truth I'm not sure. I found a copy of the tape lying in the hallway of my apartment building (right next to a deceased transsexual heroin abuser) and decided to procure it simply for the pure sappiness of its content, but I'm actually starting to be drawn into it's oh-so-affirming lyricism and the sweetest melodic hooks this side of The Archies. Perhaps I'm finding new life in the album because of the mild euphoria I've achieved by drinking a sixteen ounce Jolt cola or maybe it's a feeble attempt on my part to combat the dreary pessimism of 90's music (granted, a fad standing on its last legs as the grunge and gangsta rap of yesterday hands over its crown to Lilith Fair queens and positive rap groups of the Hieroglyphics breed.) Or perhaps I have finally gone insane.
I have a very shameful confession to make, I actually wrote this piece two years ago. In preparing this issue of AL I realized I'd not written anything and decided to pull this delightful analysis of rock music from my archives. After all, it's quite entertaining and should be shared with the masses. Nonetheless, please ignore any outdated references to the ninieties that make it sound as if that is the current decade. I'm well aware that it is now 2015 and that decade ended over fifteen years ago.
Your tolerance for my many faults is appreciated,
I've been thinking a lot about Rock and pop music these days. Specifically I've been wondering whether it's time to bring the hatchet down on these two strains of pop culture and call it a day. "Kill Rock and Roll," you squeal. "Why would we want to do that?" Well, metaphorically, for the same reasons the government wants to kill Microsoft. It's bloated, stifles competition and has lost it's creative edge. Not to mention Rock music is getting old. Hell it's been going strong for almost fifty years now. Jazz only had a reputable heyday of twenty years or so, before it turned into glassy toned pop-jazz of the George Benson variety or dirge-like fusion. (Though I will personally slay anyone who doesn't sing along to Weather Report's "Birdland."). Blues has only enjoyed brief spurts of popular acclaim, usually the result of accolades laid on it by rock stars. Dixieland? Country? Folk? None of them have maintained the consistent popularity of Rock and Pop, but rather fade in and out of the public consciousness.
Don't get me wrong, I love Rock and Roll, and it has certainly, in its various forms, been the defining music of my life. Part of me would like to say that it's going to be around forever, as intoned by the millions of screaming, "Rock and Roll will never die" fans at an Ozzy concert. But, honestly… maybe it should die. Is Rock and Roll still around because it's a vibrant, legitimate art form, or because its bloated corpse is one hell of a cash cow for commercial interests? And I don't say that in some sort of 'Punk Rock,' anti-establishment, socialistic fervor, hell, for the most part I've always been a free-market kind of guy. But I can't help recognize the trends in rock, its fondness for taking something old, redressing in a contemporary look, and parading it out to the consumer. Almost all recent successes have been reinterpretations of the past. Nirvana was toned down 80's punk. Jewel is a an extension of the female songwriter archetype going back to Carol King. Guns and Roses were a continuation of the host of "bad boy" bands whose lineage points to Aerosmith, AC/DC and the Stones. Marilyn Manson is a pasty Alice Cooper. The new focus on power pop reminds us that we've been listening to people attempt to recreate the Beatles for the past thirty years. Even Rap and techno, arguably the only really "new" music of the past fifteen years are dependent on samples from the past.
Why don't we get tired of the repetitiveness of the whole thing? Because, by the time you start to see the pattern, you're no longer the controlling audience. Pop music has always been about selling it to the kids, the reason being that most of them don't know any better. It all sounds new to them, it all sounds fresh. It's easy to repackage a old Zombies song, add a little more distortion andhave the new Smash Mouth hit.
The thing is, while most people blame the decline of rock music on corporate interests, I look in the other direction. Rock music has gone down the loo, not because of commercial giants who are only interested in making a profit, but because of exceptionally bad taste on the part of the American public. Corporations exist to make a profit and to anyone with a slightly discerning eye, that's a pretty obvious truth. But it's the sheep-like American public (nay, world public) that empowers them by buying their swill. Everyone wants to blame the singular entity of corporations like Warner Brothers or EMI but ,just like Sandra Berhardt, they'd be nothing without us. All they do is shovel food into the trough, whether the public chooses to dine there is entirely the public's decision.
It'd be nice if the "underground" music scene offered a sweet alternative, but for the most part it spits out regurgitated sixties pop, surf tunes andpunk and garage music in the mistaken belief that attempting to recreate the past is somehow "cool." They offer occasional gems, yes, but for the most part the underground is a area where hacks reign supreme, and create very little that is truly unique.
It's not to say that the nineties doesn't have any sort of unique sound. Though much of nineties music is a reflection of Rock music's past, it does contain a darker edge. But more than any other decade, the music of this era seems not only indebted to its past, but trapped in it, fearfull of treading into new waters.
So if Rock and Roll dies, what's next? Well, it's difficult to say, but the increased importance of computers in the music industry, is bound to have some effect. Will music, become cold and heartless, like the space age sound tracks to sixties sci-fi films, or any good Kraftwerk album? Maybe, but in a way that'd be a refreshing change from the showy emotionalism of every seething alterna-star or screeching Folk/Pop siren. Frigid, metallic music slowly eradicating all joy and eventually… draining… the… will… to… live…
"Yesterday don't matter if its gone"
Rolling Stones Ruby Tuesday
"Day in, day out, all we know is: Things go better with Rock."
Autograph Turn Up The Radio
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Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.