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Is Rock N’Roll Dead?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Is Rock N’ Roll Dead?

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So this year’s Super Bowl halftime show featured an exciting show by the talented Lady Gaga. I found her performance entertaining, but it didn’t make me want to hop on and start buying songs from her catalog. Not my bag. A couple years ago it was Katy Perry. Same sort of thing. Some folks love the Taylor Swift. Lovely. Again, not my bag.

A couple months ago Julie and I were having dinner with our friends Brian and Linda and I asked them if they were listening to anything new. Their response? No. I’m not surprised. What’s new for Rock N’ Roll fans?

When I reached the age to start taking an interest in music, I suppose I started off by listening to what my older brothers were into. This of course entailed the glam/hair metal bands of the ’80s. I thought some of them were pretty good, primarily Van Halen, Motley Crue, and Def Leppard. I had a soft spot for David Coverdale’s Whitesnake as well. Beyond that, I felt most of that scene was comprised of imitators of the aforementioned bands.

Van Halen: Image Credit:

From there I branched out on my own, discovering Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Beatles, Cream, solo Clapton, Steely Dan, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Allman Brothers, The Police, Talking Heads, and others I can’t think of at the moment.

In 1991 I came across something which turned out to be nothing short of a Rock N’ Roll revolution for a short period of time: the Seattle sound. Here were guys not much older than me who were recording and performing something that sounded new and different. Sure, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains already had major record deals, but it was really Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana and their breakthrough album “Nevermind” that kicked the door down and opened up a new world of Rock.

Unfortunately this era will forever be labeled in history as the “Grunge” era. A title these bands have always and still despise by the way. They didn’t wear flannel shirts because they wanted to look “grungy.” They wore flannel in the early days because the shirts were cheap, and Seattle can be cold and rainy. These guys were dirt broke when they started, and unlike the decade before them, they didn’t care about image. Of course this created a line of “grunge” clothing in J.C. Penny stores across America, where flannel shirts suddenly cost $60 bucks and were the cool thing for my generation to sport. Very silly.

Soundgarden: Image Credit:

The metal hair band lovers of the 80s mostly hated the Seattle bands, but they should have appreciated at least one thing about them: Between ’92 and ’94, if you tuned into Casey’s Top 40 on Sunday mornings, you no longer were subjected to the likes of endless boy bands, hack 80s imitators, and sappy R&B love tracks. For a short period of time in music history, the music that was originally called “Alternative Rock” had actually become the popular rock of the nation. Top 40 hits included songs from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and more. Maybe it wasn’t everyone’s bag, but one thing I know is it was real. Drums (no electronic drumkit bullshit) bass, guitar, and amps. It was Rock N’ Roll! They cleansed our ears of synthesizers and “rock ballets.”

The 60s experienced a Rock revolution. The early 90s experienced a Rock revolution. I always assumed the next great Rock N’ Roll revolution would come around in another 20 or 25 years. Well, those 25 years have past, and there doesn’t appear to be anything new on the horizon.

So what do we do? We cling to what we loved. The problem is some of the bands we love we can’t see live anymore. Most of the great Rock acts continuing to tour no longer write new music, or at least new music that comes close to the great material they wrote in the past. I can’t blame them for that. They’re freaking old! Some of my Rock heroes are in their 70s now. Others in their late 60s. Some retired, or semi-retired. Some dead. Some just flat-out washed up.

The guys my brothers loved, who were just kids when they first hit stardom in the early 80s, are hitting their 60s now. My Seattle guys are hitting their 50s.

I realize my age isn’t frozen in time. I’m getting older too, and like the bands and musicians I love, I’ll be in the dirt as well as them one day. But my boys are 4 and 2 years old. I can only hope they’ll grow to be Rock N’ Roll fans like their Dad. If so, who the hell are they gonna see live in concert? Will the next Rock N’ Roll revolution touch ground in their lifetime? If so, what will that sound like?

Or worse……………is the future of Rock N’ Roll dead?


Music Biz

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