Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Salad Days Drenched in Vinegar (Beyond Classic Rock)

If you're understanding of rock and/or roll comes from Rolling Stone or classic rock radio then you just might believe the following: Rock peaked creatively sometime in the mid-70's and soon plunged into a dark age starting in the latter half of the 70s and all of the 1980s. All was lost until a savior known as Kurt of Aberdeen ressurrected rock during that fateful year, 1991. But then, he too would fade, dying for our "musical sins" and well, rock & popular music as a whole ain't what she used to be. Ahhh, I can already hear it, "Mannn, the 70s man, Zepplin, Hendrix, Clapton, Jim Morrison, that's what it was all about." Or, "I think the worst period of music was during the 80s, all superficial and filled with synthesizers. Give me that good old time rock mannn." Or, "The early 90s weren't too bad, you had grunge saving us from the hollowness of hair metal, synth pop and Madonna mannn." Personally, I haven't much use for Zepplin after 1970, Hendrix after 1967, and very little, if any, for the Doors beyond their greatest hits collection (If we're talking about the Oliver Stone movie, then that's entirely different. Val Kilmer works better as Jim Morrison for more me better than Jim Morrison works as himself). Clapton has always been a very gifted musician but his songwriting does very little for me, "Layla" being the obvious exception. As for Cobain, where do you think he got his early ideas from? Probably from that decade between 1979 and 1990.

The classic rock crowd won't let go of its stranglehold on the music history they have written for so long. It's their story and they are sticking to it. If any music today is deemed good, it is usually because it has been modeled after some period during the "salad days" of rock and roll. Don't get me wrong, my observation is in no way to diminish classic rock. I like the Zepplin BBC Sessions. The first few Jimi Hendrix Experience singles were wonderful. Jim Morrison was cool...sometimes. I love my Beatles and my Stones. I love a lot of it. Still, was that it? A big gray area continues to loom over the years 1977 to 1991 despite much ink being spilled over punk and every other maligned musical movement. And today's music scene is derided as way too hip for its own good. Many prefer to buy into the "older is better" theory, a theory that continues to discredit anything beyond established rock. Were the 70s & 90s really that flawless? The 1970s also gave us soft rock, run of the mill "singer-songwriters", the rise of AOR, and disco (for better and for worse). The 1990s gave us such wonderful acts like Dishwalla, Everclear, Third Eye Blind, Goo Goo Dolls, and hey, anyone remember The Rembrandts? (Friends theme). Oh, and who can forget, nu-metal with such winners like Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Creed. Very edgy, very "real." All of it sounded the same! Same pseudo-angst, "grungy" attitude now packaged and sold off.

Should we really blame the 1980s as the beginning of the decline? To me, that's just sheer laziness and ignorance. I use ignorance not to claim that I am hipper than most people or that I am smarter; rather, to point out that people haven't bothered to go beyond what they have been told, heard, or read for so long. True, indie rock acts of the 80s, 90s and 00's have not been above looking to the past for inspiration. Much of the first wave of punk rock during the 70s was, in fact, a reaction against the deemed self-indulgence of 70s rock, going back to a time when rock was simpler, their version of rock and roll's "salad days". However, with the admiration for the past there was also much willingness to move forward and experiment. Sythesizers, for example, have been derided for their supposed "cold" and "artificial" sound. Anything with a synth-like sound written off as "too 80's" or "dated." The guitar-bass-drum combo pre-dates the synthesizer far longer yet whenever there is a "rock revival" the words "fresh" and "organic" are thrown around to describe it. Guitars equate "real", sythesizers or sounds not related to traditional rock "fake."

The truth is that there was a very rich, vibrant, diverse rock scene during the 80s, 90s and continues throughout this current decade. You might not of heard it on the radio or read it in Rolling Stone's lists but in this blogger's opinion, there has never been a lull in rock and roll. Rock has existed above ground, it has fled underground. This blog will cover all of it, old and new. Stop listening to aging publications and stale radio formats.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

You have to pick and choose, of course, but I completely agree, there was great rock talent in every decade. I have to show some disdain, however, if you're saying you don't really like Jimi or Eric! Are you one of those people who CLAIM to not like a single Beatles song?

The reason why people think of the 60s, 70s, and 90s when they think of "rock" is that the genre has been splintered into millions of sub-genres (and sub-genres of sub-genres) to the point that very few artists can be labelled "rock" anymore.

It's lame and pointless, but you can't- hey, that should be a subgenre, too...