Every once in awhile someone stands on the soap box and claims “rock-n-roll is dead”. It’s the same for God. Rock-n-roll and God have been dead over and over again for the last 50 years. Heck Sabbath almost had the balls to kill God again just last year but they chickened out and opted for a question mark at the end of their song tittle. Now they can hide behind the claim of being great philosophers.
So is rock-n-roll dead? No, it’s a dated concept, the ghost of a revolution that only middle age white men, and women, cling to in order to safe-keep their youth.
Let’s start by defining what is Rock-n-roll and make an important distinction. Rock-n-roll is an attitude and revolution against parents, school and religion, nothing more. Anything political, human rights related and protesting was punk rock.
Both genre are communicated by modern day bards who use guitars for harps and drums for tambourines. Alive or dead, the bards of punk rock and rock-n-roll have been telling us to rebel against our modern day King since Robert Johnson stood at the crossroads. Their bleeding hearts sang about heroine, lack of money, love gone sour and a “system”, a “machine” that needed fixing. Branded in tattoos, pin-holes, leather jackets, skulls, crosses, spandex, eyeliner, beards, hairspray, blue jeans and cigarettes, our rock-n-rollers wear the image of punk rock and rock-n-roll like white on rice.
The problem with rock-n-roll is that its image (branding) has gone so main stream that no one is convincing anymore. Something happened when Generation-X became financially independent from mom and dad. I know, I’m one of them. We, Gen-Xers are the last generation to have witnessed rock-n-roll in its true form. Having been born somewhere in the mid 60s, we witnessed the parental revolution of rockabilly second hand (because it was still getting a shit load of radio play), all the way to the death of Hair Metal, which we have Grunge to thank for. To me, grunge is probably the last true form of rock-n-roll, everything after this was either exaggerated, posing or exhausting (with the exception of And You’ll Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Wilco, Mars Volta, some Grohl projects, Jack White and a handful of others). I wish Grunge enjoyed a longer life but its response to hair metal was an anti-art movement like Dadaism, and anti-art is art in itself, so by definition, it had to be killed. I respect that. Sure enough, a couple of years later, Cobain shot himself and that’s when rock-n-roll and its younger son punk rock, threw everything up in the air and said fuck it. Rock-n-roll and punk rock walked over to a couch, grabbed the remote, watched reality TV and popped open an Heineken… A fucking Heineken, of all beers!
Later on that decade, gen-xers got real jobs with good pay, went out and bought that Marshall amp they craved, an expensive Les Paul and all the necessary gear to run around playing rockstars and looking the part… want-to-be-has-beens. Meanwhile Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Poison or Motley Crew continue to take to the stage every night and rock cougars and eternal adolescent men only now, they do it while offering a new rock-n-roll image that constitutes of shorter hair, True Religion jeans, Varvatos jackets and expensive jewellery. Rock-n-roll became a look, a fashion, a trend that for the right price can be bought in any high-end boutiques OR far worst, if on a budget, can be bought at Wal-Mart. When a brand sells out and gets distribution in Wal-Mart, it’s reached maturity and Wal-Mart is its retirement home. The Lacoste brand sold out to K-Mart (same thing) in the 80s and it took 30 years to bounce back from its devastating brand suicide. That’s where the branding of Rock-n-Roll is ending up and perhaps we have Steve Tyler to thank for when he too made rock-n-roll a fashion when commenting on “how expensive it costs to look this cheap”.
But it’s more than Steve Tyler’s look and stance, TV shows like Chris Angel and Billy the Exterminator didn’t help. They are the poster child of rock-n-roll fashion. Why the fuck is a guy killing cockroaches looking like he plays slide guitar in Alabama 3? What the fuck is Chris Angel doing pulling rabbits out of a hat looking like Nikki Sixx? Oh, and if I see one more celebrity chef tattooed and looking all punk rock while holding an egg beater, I’ll puke in their Goddamn batter. It’s fucked up how much of a recipe the whole look has become. It’s simple… if you want to look rock-n-roll, borrow a little more attitude from punk rock, sing about the drugs you don’t take (anymore or ever), wear skulls, bandanas and rings, accessorize your arms with tattoo sleeves, wear a “cool” hat, stand with arms crossed and your back slightly tilted backwards (by the way, you know this symbolizes insecurity more than attitude, right? Arms crossed is a barrier, tilted back means something’s intimidating you.) Or, pose with one arm fully extended with your middle finger flipping the bird but in a 120o degree angle, 90o is out. Enough all ready.
It gets worst, pathetic even. There’s an elite crowd of musicians who didn’t get the memo. Have you looked at tough guy DJ Ashba? What’s become of Dave Navarro? Seriously Navarro, how much of a rebel are you when you manicure your facial hair, take 20 minutes to apply eyeliner and carefully choose the rings on your fingers? I don’t know what’s more sad, trying to look like a rockstar or a rock start trying to look like someone trying to look like a rockstar. Caricatures. Slash, you’re not exempted, loose the stupid top hat and get a fucking haircut.
Rock-n-roll branding has gone so viral even country music is using it, Florida Georgia Line is a perfect example.
It’s no wonder Hipsterism became what it is today. It’s a lot more rock-n-roll to wear sneakers, Levis jeans and a Spam T-shirt because that’s… not giving a shit. All the other guys are trying way to hard. In fact, when I look at bands like Of Monster and Men or Portugal. The Man, even Mumford and son, I see more attitude in these bands than any of these clowns… “Yeah, we use a fucking banjo, what’s it to you?”
Rock-n-roll had a flavour of anger from generation to generation and it seems as though it’s gone flavourless. There is no religion to push off, there is no Vietnam war and inequality is not a white man’s problem. There’s plenty to bitch about but we’ve gotten lazy or disconnected from actual problems like racism, republican politics and women’s rights. Instead we, the “rockstars” (wanna-bees and actual ones) get up in the morning, put on our tough guy accoutrement and fight for our cell phone bills and price of eyeliner.
So is there hope for rock-n-roll? Well, if rock-n-roll by its traditional definition is a rebellion against school and parents, then the rock-n-roll I’ve just described isn’t going to cut it because it is populated by… parents. Irony, pure and simple. So, when I look at the annoying musicians that our children listen to I have to tell you that Bieber and Cyrus sound like they’re the flame bearers of the new Rock-n-roll and that’s fucking scary because it’s sort of true. Meanwhile the “new” punk rock hides in the Bronx, downtown L.A., in the projects of every American city and suburbs where black kids get shot or beaten to death by police officers, get arrested or get bullied by ignorance.
Oh, and one last thing… a light weight version of a Les Paul guitar designed for the frail shoulders of Avril and Bieber was also a sign of trouble but we were too busy rebelling against what again? Oh yeah, being white.