Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Death Of Rock?

So who is the biggest rock band in the world?

Come on, it shouldn't be a hard question.

Any guesses? The White Stripes? Radiohead? Muse? Coldplay? The Rolling Stones - sorry, don't count. Did someone say Elbow? Now you're being silly.

Well, I don't doubt that one of them is the biggest rock band in the world, but I doubt you could call any of them The Biggest Rock Band In The World.

This is a coveted title that has been handed down from the The Beatles to The Stones to Led Zeppelin to Queen to AC/DC to Guns 'n' Roses to U2 to Nirvana to REM and so on since the early sixties. We can argue just when the baton was handed on, in which order and to whom, but you get the idea.

But who has it now? That is the question.

If you are the Greatest Rock Band In The World you need, along with the guitars, the groupies and gratuitous drug us; a few smash hits. And which rock band has those today?

"It is the end of the rock era. It's over, in the same way the jazz era is over," said Professor of Pop Paul Gambaccini two years ago. That was after only three rock songs appeared in the top 100 singles of 2010. Things have rallied a little since, but a quick look at the US charts right now shows rock songs in the US Hot 100 Billboard charts at number 5 (Imagine Dragons), 8 (Capital Cities), 12 (Lorde), 24 (Philip Phillips), 25 (AWOLNATION) and 49 (Paramore). A mere 6%. That's less the Liberal Democrats.

A brief history of rock is that it's first incarnation began at about the same time as the space age, arrived in Britain in the bizarre form of a middle aged man with a quiff singing "Rock around the clock" and then died a natural death when Elvis joined the army.

For a while it really did seem that "guitar groups are on their way out" and the charts were dominated by the Clean Cut Crooner, but then came the Beatles and we had rock music as we know it. From then it was straight on to musical pretentiousness and extended drum solos, flared trousers and silver lamé, a brief moment of sanity in the form of Punk, then more musical pretentiousness with synthesisers, more daft clothes from the New Romantics and so on through to the world of rock as it now is.

But what actually is rock?

It's a pretty tough genre to define. Apart from 4/4 time, every rule you wish to make is broken by one of the greats. But apart from bands who write and perform their own material, play live, don't use backing musicians and weren't put together by a talent show, what defines rock is a sort
of perpetual adolescence. Rock stars are expected to pretend to live a teenager's life characterised by hedonistic self indulgence, naively optimistic politics and an utter terror of never getting laid.

But where are the actual kids? Hanging around on street corners with their track suits tucked into their socks listening to grime, mainly. It would be easy to get into a bit of chav bashing here, but let's take a slightly broader sociological view by looking at the views of that late, great historian of social change, Fred Dibnar.

There is an episode of his program where he came upon a graveyard that had been vandalised. There was much mutter about lack of discipline today and a suggestion that we start chopping off limbs or bring back National Service  But why was old Fred on TV in the first place? Because he went around knocking down factories.

Rock music likes to pretend it isn't about money. We don't seem to care too much if our Rock Gods get stinking rich, even if they do so whilst singing songs about the evil of filthy lucre (see Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, 10CC etc) but at the same time we hate anyone who makes more than the minimum wage out of the music business.

But in reality to believe that you can change the world with peace, love and a massive Marshal stack requires both optimism and at least enough dosh to get by. It means growing up in a world where going to university means ten years of recreational drug use and self discovery and where the worst that will happen afterwards is you get a boring job.

In fact most rock fans in the sixties already had boring jobs. Jimi Hendrix's performance at the 1969
Woodstock festival is sometimes hailed as the greatest moment in the history rock, but if this was the case most of his fans missed it as he played at 8AM on Monday morning and they were already in their cars and heading back to work.

However, if you've been born into a world where the only source of proper employment has just been demolished by a reactionary Lancastrian, where university means debt you'll never pay off and even a job at Poundland is a distant dream, you are rather more likely to get your kicks listening to the somewhat less Utopian lyrics of rap.

So who actually listens to rock music?

In fiction it's Bill and Ted, Wayne and Garth, Beavis and Butthead and Jack Black's character in School of Rock.

In reality it's Jeremy Clarkson.

The generation which missed World War Two, dropped out and plugged in the sixties, bought houses with cheap mortgages in the seventies, voted for Thatcher in the eighties, got a twinge of conscience and elected New Labour in the nineties, and which is now jealously defending its pensions against a rising tide of disenfranchised youth, is the main audience for rock.

So should we ditch rock and get down with the real kids.


Like decent housing, pensions, job security and football, the fact that rock has been stolen by the reverse Robin Hood generation does not make it not worth having.

They might laugh at the clothes, the drum solos, the Marxist hectoring of multi-millionaires and the pensioners pretending to be teenagers. They might want us to be happy with the Prolefeed that Simon Cowell gives us.

But we won't have it!




Thank you and goodnight.


Tho Trang said...

Like decent housing, pensions, job security and football, the fact that rock has been stolen by the reverse Robin Hood
hoc bong du hoc

Kiến An Vinh said...

It means growing up in a world where going to university means ten years
xay nha dep