Rock is dead, long live rock…

Welcome to March my wee droogies.

A lot of the stuff on the [tag]Huffington Post[/tag] is utter loony-left nonsense. The number of absurd conspiracy theories on that site really is sort of dazzling, and that’s odd because [tag]Ariana Huffington[/tag], who lends her name to the site, is, for the most part, a very sensible person who is usually capable of seeing things from a pretty enlightened and balanced perspective. Today and yesterday though the HuffPo ran a pair of articles near and dear to my little black heart.

The first was penned by [tag]Howie Klein[/tag], a guy we SF Bay Area punk rock oldsters know quite well. Howie founded and ran [tag]415 Records[/tag] and put on one of the best college radio shows ever on [tag]KUSF[/tag] for years. He rather famously claimed he’d eat his own feces before he’d work for [tag]Madonna[/tag]. Less than a year later he accepted a job helping to run [tag]Sire Records[/tag] – Madonna’s label. When Sire was eliminated as an imprint at [tag]Warner Bros.[/tag] Howie was put in charge of [tag]Reprise Records[/tag] and was involved in bringing [tag]Green Day[/tag] to the label and bringing punk rock to the masses. Then he retired.

Yesterday the HuffPo ran a piece from Klein’s blog titled How Joe Lieberman Tried To Kill Rock ‘n’ Roll. As a piece giving you additional reasons to hate Lieberman it’s good. In my “if I were dictator” fantasies [tag]Joe Lieberman[/tag] is one of the first up against the wall. He’s a fascist, in the true sense of the word with no business calling himself a Democrat. All I needed to know about Joe Lieberman was spelled out for me when Lieberman himself said the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion and that he thought that maybe the First Amendment had gotten out of hand. But I have to agree with [tag]R.J. Eskow[/tag]’s piece that ran today on the HuffPo. Rock ‘n’ Roll killed itself.

The level of corporatization in rock killed it, to be more precise. Eskow uses the example of how there was a time when the [tag]Rolling Stones[/tag], for instance, were not only a significant cultural force, but a transgressive one to boot. He contrasts that with the Rolling Stones today whose corporate sponsor for their latest tour was a mortage company. Not just any mortgage company, mind you, but one that was found by a court to be tricking poor people into buying mortgages they couldn’t afford.

As Eskow says there are still those trying to keep rock subversive. The [tag]Sex Pistols[/tag], for instance, declined to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last week. Unfortunately it’s too little and far too late. Here’s the money quote:

But really, John (Lydon), there’s not much point in trying. In a time when the Vice President tells a Senator to “go fuck himself” in the halls of Congress and the First Lady tells jokes about jerking off a horse, what can a rock and roller do to shock people anymore?

So why do we bother? If rock is truly a dead art form then why don’t those of us who spend too much time and money on it just find some other way to amuse ourselves? I suppose it’s the same reason that people still play jazz and buy new jazz records. The only difference is that jazz stopped being commercially viable decades ago. The big record labels (and the thrice cursed indie labels who emulate them) haven’t figured out that rock is dead as a commercial entity yet though. When the Stones finally shuffle off this mortal coil and the rest of the guys in [tag]U2[/tag] get fed up with Bono’s politics there will be no more big arena rock shows, no big rock record releases and really no reason for anyone to invest the kind of money and time into rock and roll that they have done for the past 50 years.

I’m looking forward to that time for a couple of reasons. For one rock will cease to be attractive to the majority of kids. That means no more dreadful [tag]Blink 182[/tag]s or [tag]Coldplay[/tag]s doing feeble immitations of once great bands. The kids who do pick up guitars will be like kids who pick up the sax today and want to learn how to play like [tag]Coltrane[/tag]. They’ll have respect for the music of the past and approach it with reverence instead of simple-minded immitation. When that time comes it will also mean that one will be able to go into a nightclub to see a rock show without having to worry about listening to much in the way of dreadful, uninspired original music.

I really can’t wait for that last bit.

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