Rock and Roll Isn’t Dead

It's almost like people hate music now.

Pictured: Also not a funeral

So once again we’ve got that “real thing,” Zeppelin and the Doors and Janis and the whole crew, and that was co-opted and pre-empted and prostituted. Sometimes it was done by the bands themselves (AHEM, Mr. Simmons), sometimes by hangers-on and confidence men like Saul Zaentz.  Excess and ego and bad decisions took some good folks out.  The people with the money figured out what would sell if it was on the radio all the time, and along came disco and soft rock to suck hard for a few years – a popular, bland, unthreatening, emotion-free refinement of the work done over previous years in rock, funk, motown, and blues which was popular and commercially successful.

Of course the response to disco was already happening but it wasn’t radio and television friendly:  the Stooges, the MC5, the Ramones, Death, Suicide, were all around before the first lighted dance floor was installed.  The MC5 formed the same year as the Who.  While Bread and Donna Summer were blasting from roller rinks all over middle America, a whole new thing was once again coming up, rejecting not only disco but also the big plodding self-indulgent monsters that the arena rock bands had become.

These bands weren’t just reactions to disco, they were also – as every successive wave of rock and roll has been – a reaction to the previous wave.  And now the wave has come that reacts to you, Gene, and frankly the overweening used-car salesman routine when it comes to your band chased away the musical fans of your band a lot time ago.  Most of who was left have been overexposed to your boorishness and elitism and have moved on.  I still listen, I’m listening to “I” from Music From The Elder right now and several of your tunes have rotated in and out between Zeppelin and Soundgarden and Metallica and Pearl Jam and Black Sabbath.

Just like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin had to learn to share chart space with KISS and the Allmans and Lynyrd Skynyrd and Motley Crue and Bon Jovi, you’ve had to learn to share it with Helix and King Kobra and now you’re sharing it with electronic artists and the internet.  That kinda sucks for you.  Sucks for me, too, I like performing live, and you just don’t get crowds for anything anymore to speak of.

But just as it has always been, the equal and opposite reactions are already happening and the “next big thing” is around the corner…and chances are it’ll be four punk kids with more balls than brains and a knack for writing a good hook.

That, my friend, is the way rock and roll works.

“Rock” isn’t dead. Not even the brand of pop-rock showboating that is the specialty of your band is dead. What’s dead is the old business model, and what’s keeping anything from rising in its place is consumer cynicism toward “bands” and “musicians” who are too busy acting like prima donnas to give their fans what they want (like oh, ten or fifteen minutes of you and Paul getting over yourselves long enough to give us a REAL Kiss induction into the Rock Hall), too busy thinking that the ability to play a walking bass line or a passable guitar solo makes them experts on foreign and domestic policy, and too busy not noticing that their real fans stopped listening twenty years ago and the only people who still show up to arena rock shows tend to be those who don’t mind that the majority of it has become one big money game, just like all the others, where if you bow your head and kiss the right asses you’ll be a success and if you don’t nobody will ever hear of you.

The musicians, the ones who come to hear what the band sounds like when it’s not being helped along by 48 tracks of sweetening, are still out there and still going to shows. They’re just not going to the shows where the songs are obviously lip synched and 80% of the instrumental work is coming from an MP3.

I can’t imagine whose influence might have been involved in turning rock music into a watered-down, over-commercialized self-parody, Gene. Can you?