R.I.P. Rock And Roll

The other day I took time out of my busy schedule to watch a documentary about the rock band, The Doors, called People Are Strange. It’s a solid piece of propaganda that glorifies the sixties in a way that would make Tom Wolfe and Oliver Stone proud. According to the movie it was an era where people earnestly believed in things from expanding your mind to blowing up your enemies. People Are Strange did a great job reenforcing the media message of my childhood from watching the television show The Wonder Years to the classic rock stations blasting Come Together that the sixties was the golden age of humanity. And even without living in that decade I’m inclined to believe them because the sixties had rock and roll.

I know there’s still rock and roll music. Music that would stand up with most anything that came out of the sixties is possibly still being produced today, but it lacks the resonance. Rock and roll is another niche in a culture with a million niches. In the movie People Are Strange when they show a bomb being dropped on Vietnam to the sounds of Riders On A Storm it was unclear whether the bomb inspired the music or the music inspired the bomb. Now I question whether our music inspires video games or video games inspire music.

Part of this could have been from the fragmentation of the media. People were limited with where they could get their information. There were a lot more newspapers, but there were only three television stations and no internet. So when a Jim Morrison came out everyone knew who he was. Today I’ve heard of Justin Bieber and Susan Boyle, but I’d be damned if I could name a song they sung.  With the onslaught of choices it’s hard for a figure to become mythologized and a movement to dominate the culture like rock and roll did.

Today could an Elvis represent danger or the Beatles youthful idealism or a Jim Morrison Dionysus come to Earth? No, instead you’d probably see some groupie posting photographs of their schlongs on TMZ.  Hedonism was a central tenet of the rock and roll era, but ours is an age where hedonism is publicized, but not feared or appreciated.

Some might say my epitaph for the rock and roll era is premature. In the seventies many argued that with the stadium tours and the commercialization of the music and the record labels being bought out by conglomerates also was a sign of the death of rock and roll. But then according to legend came punk rock which energized the movement. I think punk rock’s significance is overstated, but it was capable of producing new metaphors such as the one of Sid Vicious. MTV had greater importance in revitalizing rock and roll. It was a perfect outlet to get out to the youth new music and to create images that represented new stars.

And so after the autopsy I will pick 1994 as the endpoint of the rock and roll era. It is around the time when MTV began their slow escape from broadcasting actual music and instead relying on reality television. It is when the internet began taking off with the promotion of AOL and it is the year Kurt Cobain died. A lot of people say Nirvana was overrated. People say the same about the Doors and while I’ll debate the merits of both bands to the end of time what can’t be debated was that Kurt Cobain was the last figure in rock and roll to be mythologized. The martyr who’d rather die then let his music be exploited.

The closest musical moment that united our culture I’ve seen since then was when Michael Jackson, the man who represented youthful innocence gone awry, died. People reminisced about the music much more than the man, but all that music came from before 1994.

Rock and roll is dead. All we have left is the music.

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3 thoughts on “R.I.P. Rock And Roll

  1. Maybe a perfect example of the death of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era had to be the Half-Time show for Super Bowl XLV performed by the Black-Eyed Peas AND Christina Aguilera’s inability to sing the National Anthem correctly. It’s hard to call either of these people TRUE rock ‘n’ rollers in the definition of the term, but they are classified under that broad ranging category as such.

    And they both sucked!

    I actually had high hopes that this half-time show would be better than the ones since 2004 when Janet’s boobie incident occurred and for a moment tone deafness set in or just plain denial as I heard the band play. However, I didn’t miss Fergies inability to sing “Sweet Child o’ Mine” very, very BADLY!! She even tried to sound something like Axel Rose, only to come out sounding more like ME trying to sound like Axel Rose in the shower. She needed to keep it in the shower. Although what was more concerning during that performance was whether or not FOX would pull the plug immediately should Fergie, the first female vocalist to do a half-time show since Janet, started doing anything rather “seductive”, like she is prone to do in ALL of her videos. I mean just watch “My Humps” one time, you’ll see what I mean.

    But that’s where rock is today, it’s more about looks, glamour, fashion, antics, themes, and extreme ventures, than about singing, rehearsing, perfecting, and enthralling. The Beattles enthralled. Katy Perry makes errections. The Beattles were sexy for what they did, how they sang and what they sang about. Katy Perry is sexy for cleavage, bossums, her gluteous maximus, bright blue eyes, and the fact she will get naked a time or two in front of the camera. I liked California Gurls, thought it was a catchy tune and expected to see sun drinched coast with lots of gorgeous babes on a beach. Instead it was more like Californication in Candyland.

    Stuff doesn’t have to be artsy fartsy, it just needs to make sense, be consistent and have some meaning to the person listening to it. That’s why so many of the songs from the sixties transcend generations and get played over and over it seems on radios, the internet and in movies. People could relate to them, PERIOD. I can’t relate to some of this garbage today, in fact there’s been a band called Garbage that just seems highly appropriate for the generation of music over the last 20 years.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still like some of the songs I grew up with in the nineties, even beyond 1994 and like some of the music from today. But I know my generation grew up with crap more so than creedo, but it’s still the time I grew up in and I love hearing some of the groups that came along while I was in high school. However, many of them came along in the 70’s and 80’s, like Aerosmith, Guns ‘N’ Roses, etc. Dave Matthews was one I liked that came along in the 90’s, but that was the early 90’s before 1994. Several others as well, but once Brittney, Christina, Justin, Emenim, and a whole slew of Mouseketeers entered the picture, Rock was solidified as deceased, rolling over in it’s grave and taking it up the tail pipe to boot.

    I just remember Super Bowl XXV, the Bills vs. the Giants and the absolutely amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sung by Whitney Houston that year that could turn your most hated adversary on their ear. It was so good in fact that Whitney actually sang the anthem in concerts and you heard it on the radio for months thereafter. It was great inspiration for the troops during the Persian Gulf War, and made a whole nation realize that America was a great place to live, at least until the 1992 recession hit. But that was a vivid moment in history for a current rock ‘n’ roll artist that became an icon for several years as a result. You just don’t see that anymore.

    Now, Whitney would have had to perform naked for anyone to have cared.

    Just sad….

  2. I do not think it is mere coincidence that 1994, the date you picked, is also the date that many pick to be the first real availability of the internet. I don’t even recognize the stars names you mentioned. Once the info we get becomes “choose your own” info, and when anyone can upload it, . . . media fragmentation indeed. I could write forever about how great this is, but no doubt that it makes things like the 60’s rock impossible really.

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