The Death of Rock and Roll, Again

The First Essential Scary Truth

To paraphrase wimp rock master Paul McCartney, which I promise never to do again, it was 50 years ago today that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson aka ‘the Big Bopper,’ were killed in a small plane crash just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.

The event has been immortalized in song and popular culture as ‘the Day the Music Died.’  Occasionally, these remembrances are sappy, American Pie by Don McLean, and sometimes they are touching, a recent interview with Buddy Holly’s widow, but what they all have in common is the media hype surrounding the death of rock and roll.

For the record, the now folk music form known as rock and roll, has been declared dead many times in the 50 years since Buddy Holly died.  Most recently, by a friend I reconnected with on Facebook sent me an e-mail where he lamented the fact there are no new bands worth listening too.  “I can’t listen to anything that’s been done recently,” he complained.  “It all sounds the same to me.”  I find myself in the odd position of both agreeing with Jim and yet knowing he is full of shit. 

My buddy Jim and I are both huge fans of the power punk/pop sub genre of rock, one that may very well have played itself out.  If so that would be a shame as it was the form of rock that was the sound track of our teenage rebellion, much the same as Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Led Zeppelin and Living Color were to their generations.  Although there are bands like the Choke who take the form and turn it into something totally their own, most bands are content to just sound like the Ramones or bad versions of the 1990’s Seattle bands.

At the same time, there is are various rap and roll and other ‘classical’ rock forms that are speaking to the kids of today and their various angers, rebellions and ills.  So where I may not like some of the music or what it says, I try to follow the manifesto of Pete Townsend, that leader of a past teenage rebellion and realize I can’t live in the rearview mirror.  My job, now that I am 40 and still a rock and roll fan, is to get out of the way.

Rock and roll, no matter what Cronkite, I mean Katie Couric, might report is not dead.  It is quite alive and still mutating, changing using its basic form of a pulsating back beat pushing a twelve bar blues over a standard AABA musical form.  Lyrically, the country/folk/blues laments, joys, bad man ballads and boasts have taken on more modern concerns.   However, to a large degree the younger generation of musicians miss out on one very important aspect of the form: annoyance.  I, for one, can’t wait to see how the Generation Y and/or Z intend to bust the balls of Gen X.  I can’t say I’ll like it but I will definitely laugh and encourage it, which will hopefully encourage more and more blatant examples of going over the top to be different. 

The next Metal Machine Music?  Bring it on!


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