Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rock: Is it on life support?

What happened to this generation’s rock heroes? Where are the guitar gods of this generation? The 50’s and early 60’s had the likes of Elvis, the Beatles, and Johnny Cash. The late 60’s and early 70’s had Clapton, Page, and Townsend. The late 70’s and early 80’s had Eddie Van Halen and Pink Floyd. I think the debauchery came to a peak in the decadent 80’s with the metal bands. Sure we had the bands like Metallica that drove the guitar rock into a much heavier and darker place, but it was dominated by Glam Metal.  

Then resurgence in the 90’s of qualitative substantive rock took hold again which everyone attributes to Nirvana. As this musical genre and decade came to a close, campy rock began. Throughout the beginning of the 21st Century until now we have homogenized rock. We have no innovative guitar prodigy tearing up the airwaves. Nor do we have any current rock star singer making headlines. Axel Rose, Steven Tyler, and Scott Weiland are making news recently, but they have been around for decades.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, it always seemed to me that the rock mantra “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was a recurring theme for both the fans and the artists. Since rocks inception it was all about the anti-establishment. But now I wonder if all of that fire and angst has been extinguished and quashed.

In the 50’s, rock’s birth was a result of mashing up country and western with rhythm & blues, gospel, and throw in a little jazz for good measure. It started out as a way for White America to rebel against the homogenized establishment.  White musicians injected staid country music with these other predominately Black culture influenced musical genres. White teens flocked to this music like a moth to a flame. These teens not only embraced this music for its entertainment value, but also because their parents detested it. Elvis’s gyrating hips really shook up the world.

Into the 60’s and through the 70’s, rock grew and grew. Guitarists were innovative. New and creative sounds and riffs was transforming music into a lifestyle. Long haired, shirt-less musicians changed the way we listened to music forever.  We had Jim Morrison getting arrested for profanity-laced tirades. We had “Inna Gada Da Vida”. We had “The Wall”. Rock rocked. Controversy ruled.

In the 80’s, a fundamental shift in rock started to take hold. Style over substance took over. The formation of these glam metal rock bands initiated from LA’s Sunset Strip where this culture was prevalent. No longer was music being created because of angst in the artists, but more for the groupies. “Sex, drugs and rock & roll” was prevalent, but now music was written so they could become famous not infamous.

In the 90’s, the Grunge era started to morph rock back to its roots. Anguish and struggles in these bands’ music once again struck a chord with the teens. But by the end of this decade, commercialism set in to this era. Instead of expressing angst, Grunge turned campy through the eyes of the likes of Blink 182, Beck, and Marcy Playground.

Since then we have not had any ground breaking music. We do have some interesting bands, but no game changers.  The good guitar rockin’ music coming out now is from previous era. Rock is no longer the chart topping music genre; it has been Rhythm & Blues and Rap. Just like rock did with country and swing in the 50’s, rap has taken away the same demographics from rock. It is more controversial. It is more compelling and entertaining to the youth.

Like it or not, rock has past its prime. Like the Baby Boomer Generation that was raised on rock, it will soon be entering the twilight of its years. I am not saying that it will be going away anytime soon, but rock will never be what it once was. We will never have another game changing rock band like the Beatles, The Who, or Bruce Springsteen again and that saddens me. In my heart I say long live rock and roll, but unfortunately my head says otherwise. 

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