Rock is dead they say…
And the next line, if you’re a fan of The Who, is…
Long live rock! A tune written in 1971 though Long Live Rock didn’t become an audience favorite until it appeared in the band’s 1979 documentary, The Kids are Alright.
It seems every few years a music journalist declares rock and roll to be dead, or at least wheezing. For example, Kristy Loye, from earlier this year….
I’ve defended the genre many times but I’m starting to wonder if Kristy and many other “stick a fork in rock, it’s done” pundits are right. Yes, there are some great young bands out there…The Strypes, Rival Sons…but they’re fighting to gain an audience.
You don’t hear much in the way of rock on the Grammys, other than rock-flavored country and aside from Miranda Lambert, that doesn’t do it for this 54-year-old who grew up on Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith.
I’ll come back to Steven Tyler’s band in a few paragraphs.
Award shows, TV appearances and radio spins are dominated by pop and hip hop. I play in a co-ed volleyball group and the Y provides a boombox for our listening pleasure. Which means someone plugs their phone into the USB port and treats us to their playlist.
Which is mostly dance pop and what I’d call dancy hip hop. Hardly an electric guitar to be heard on any track unless the mix includes the likes of Journey. Damn the Sopranos creators for bringing that sappy song back. I thought we’d left it behind.
I’m not a huge fan of rap but one style I can get into is rock-rap, from Public Enemy to Eminem and the group Aerosmith collaborated with in 1986, Run DMC.
At first, their reworking of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way made me say, what the hell is this?
Public Enemy joined forces with Anthrax in ’91 for a new version of Bring the Noise. Kinda cool.
Eminem has sampled Aerosmith and Billy Squier (who expected to hear The Stroke again? Not me, but it is a great riff).
But if there are power chords in modern rap, they’re swamped in popularity by club-style hip hop that’s heavy on synths and drum machines, just as new rock and rollers are on the outside looking in at Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kanye and Pitbull.
Older fans get excited about new releases by U2 and Metallica but, unlike 20 years ago, having those 50-somethings headline the American Music Awards will not boost the ratings. They’re part of the oldies circuit. Fans come to their shows for the hits, not the new tunes (aka bathroom break or beer time).
Though I like what I’ve heard off the new album by James Hetfield, Lars and company. But rock radio will still play Enter Sandman for the 10,000th time and a new Metallica tune will be ignored by all but the faithful.
SEEK AND DESTROY
I’d like to think rock will live long, or carry on with enough support from fans of all ages. There’s a teenager on Periscope and Twitter who goes by the name of GreyMusic3, and she straps on a Gibson Flying V and rips into everything from Zep to Metallica on her live broadcasts. The young lady can play!
Grey is an anomaly. She loves older hard rock because her parents got her into Metallica and Def Leppard (a few weeks ago, Grey and family went to a show that included Leppard, Heart and REO Speedwagon).
She hates current pop. The kid’s got taste.
For now, I’m sort of grooving to non-rock choices of my volleyball teammates. I don’t dislike it but, in the words of Chuck Berry, it’s gotta be rock and roll music if you want to dance with me.