Rock n' Roll [TM}
What happened to Rock n' Roll?
What happened to Metal Gods and prayers for peace and tuning in and dropping out? What happened to Woodstock and Lou Addler? What happened to smashing guitars sticking to the establishment? What happened to nigger music corrupting well behaved protestant white kids?
When did music stop being dangerous, sometime after they cut Elvis off at the waist for fear that a television broadcast of his hips might crush civilization as we understand it but before reggae became popular in Japan. When did the songs of redemption and revulsion, freedom and fanaticism, sex and social symptom become fodder for doctoral students' theses? When did youth culture acquire it's own historians like a half century's cultural transformation was a blip in the annals of collective yesterday like the Boer War and the fall of Czar Nicholas as if Anastasia herself might be found if only one studied the liner notes with enough vigor? The next generation's music has prompted no senate hearings, no conservative outrage, at least no more outrage than is considered ambient for anyone far enough to the right. No one has locked themself in their studio so that rock could flow through the atmosphere and no one has kicked down the doors of a radio station to stop the pollution of young minds.
Are Marylin Manson and the Insane Clown Posse the best that we can muster, a clan of would-have-also-never-been's that perpetually mistake grease paint and facial piercings for an authentic pair of testicles and never understand that Kiss and Dee Snider and Ziggie Stardust actually made music.
Madonna danced before a tableau of burning crosses. Ozzie Osbourne, mandibular dove decapitations aside, snorted ants and drank Nikki Six's urine. Iggy Pop wore a leather SS uniform, immolated himself with a broken beer bottle and invited audience members to drink his blood. Bob Marley took two bullets in the chest and finished the show before seeking medical attention. Ray Charles did more heroin in the summer of '62 than everyone born since 1981 put together and all of these people did this with a self determination and abandon unknown in today's popular culture.
What happened to it all? What happened to rebellion and radicalism, to leather and lace, to talking guitars and rock operas, to hedonism and heroism, to the decade of decadence, to an entire generation with an axe to grind, to stratocasters and strife, to arenas and anarchy, to loving life and hating our parents, to the British invasion, to carousing without consequences, to vinyl, to groupies, to pumped, powerful, preening, primadonna, piss n' vinegar rock gods? Who decided that Genesis could score Disney films or that "light rock" wasn't an oxymoron.
What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck happened to Rock n' Roll?
They happened. They, the empty pronoun, the ephemeral other whom we can never know except to know that they are unlike us. They happened. They unmade Rock n' Roll. They sold it back to us, shrink wrapped, portion controlled, ergonomically redesigned, shipped overnight with bonus gifts of mass production attitude and manufactured soul. Rebellion is a product. Purpose is a slogan and angst has to many consecutive consonants for a twenty first century VJ like Carson Daley to bother with. Profit is erzatz. Melody is afterthought. Lenny Bruce is rotating so fast in his coffin that the TVA is thinking of hooking him up to a turbine to bring a little bit of light back into the abyss that used to be southern rock.
You can't always get what you want, unless you're at Wal-Mart. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose unless you have Aflac. School's out for summer so it's time for a Carnival Cruise. Stephen Tyler pitches digital cameras. Ozzie Ozbourne has his own reality show and his wife is competing with Oprah for daytime Neilson points. The ghost of Freddy Mercury hocks low carb Coke as if that were the kind of coke that rockstars would care about.
Yes, the Beatles had bobble head action figures. Yes, there was a Jefferson Airplane comic book. Yes, Alice Cooper once hosted the Muppet show. Maybe hindsight is all the blurrier for having to stare through the lenses of ten thousand hangovers and perhaps it is the prerogative of one generation to idolize the icons of the generation previous. These things are true and to be remembered lest the silver glow of an polished past lack the obligatory tarnish. It still doesn't feel the same.
Is it gone or is it just sleeping? Does the soul of Rock n' Roll hibernate deep in the collective unconscious, waiting for the right combination of hermetically intoned power chords to awaken it like Lovecraft's Leviathan? Has the beast been tamed or is it waiting to lash out at a would be master? Will there be another Elvis or another Carol King? Will there be another Jimi or a new Grace Slick? Will there be another Jimmy Page or Roger Waters or FUCK, I'm desperate, another Huey Lewis? Will music remember how to feel and how to believe? Is there a tomorrow or are Eminem, Daughtry and Fred Durst all we can hope for and more than we deserve?
John Lennon went to the Dakota and Rick Allen lost an arm, which is a fucking stupid thing for a drummer to do. Janis Joplin found a needle full of shit to good for her. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Holly and Jim Croce should have taken the bus. Axl Rose grew a pot belly when he should have died young. Gerry Garcia committed a crime against humanity by dying from the same disease as my grandfather. No matter how scared a kid's parents might be by Marylin Manson, his grandparents were ten times as scared of Little Richard. And Johnny Cash is still the meanest and toughest SOB in this corner of the cosmos and cardiac arrest be damned.
Turn me on dead man.
Yeah, it's a repost but it's one of my favorites.