Rock is dead
I see dead music I went to my first school dance in the sixth grade. It was 1981, and it was in Redding. The party took place during daylight hours, at the end of the school day, during the last week of the school year. On one side of the Buckeye Elementary School multipurpose room were the girls, dancing around a record player with a built-in speaker. Opposite those foreign creatures, standing as far away as the cafeteria walls would allow, were us boys.
At some point, one of my fellow squeaky-voiced weirdoes snuck a copy of Rush’s Moving Pictures onto the turntable, and out came a space-age riff that rocked my 11-year-old world. The scene that followed—one of spontaneous air-guitaring in the boy ranks—turned out to be momentous for not only being the first of hundreds of awkward moments that I would experience in the company of the opposite sex, but also for being when I first heard that prog-rock pop standard “Tom Sawyer.”
It would not be the last time I would hear it, though … not by a long shot. In fact, I just finished listening to “Tom Sawyer” as it played over the sound system at my gym. It was the second time I had heard it while working out … in the same week. In fact, the classic rock favorite is on some XM loop that makes its way from the Steve Miller Band to Eric Clapton to Rush seemingly every time I stop in for my 30 minutes of treadmilling.
Exit the warrior … please The impact of the “Tom Sawyer” keyboard growl and those dramatic air-worthy power chords, however, is entirely different some three decades after that initial thrill. Now, after 30 years of AOR radio, cover-band devotion and mass public unconsciousness, the feeling is … nothing. Whether it’s Rush at the gym, or “Rock ’n’ Roll Hootchie Coo” at the bagel shop, or Van Morrison covers at the Thursday Night Market, a familiar rotation of classic rock has replaced Muzak as our public background music (in Chico, at least). None of it makes me feel like dancing. It no longer riles me up in the least. And it sure as hell doesn’t make me think about girls anymore. I still love the rock. But the fraction of rock’s history that makes up this forgettable, ubiquitous hum is dead.
I would be upset about this if it weren’t for the realization that, if somehow more of the iceberg of rock’s history managed to break the surface, and still-vital cuts—say, for instance, MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” or one of the dozens of un-tried Stones tunes—got on the rotation, then I fear that even more of the flavor of life would become diluted.
It’s still rock and roll to him Speaking of forgettable, ubiquitous hum, is there any human breathing who wanted to hear the Piano Man join The Boss for a performance of “Born to Run”? (Other than Billy Joel, that is.) The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame apparently turns 25 this year, and in celebration of its history of celebrating the history of rock, the Hall trotted out the oldies for two nights of self-congratulating and a series of painful mash-ups at Madison Square Garden: Joel + Springsteen; Lou Reed + Metallica; Simon + Garfunkel; Black Eyed Peas = WTF?
• West by Stork: Chico rockers have been gettin’ busy! In the last month, West by Swan bandmates and Arts DEVO BFFFs Conrad Nystrom and Dan Greenfield and their better halves—Brooke and Amy, respectively—have made new additions to their crews. On Oct. 8, Conrad, Brooke and son Roman welcomed new guy Sam, and last week, Nov. 12, Dan and Amy introduced Owen to the world. Cigars and circumcisions for everyone!