Monday, May 01, 2006

Ante Up and Kick In Like Men

I have very little patience for modern rock and roll. To be more accurate, I have very little patience for the artists who create modern rock and roll. The music isn't bad—I have banged my head to My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Green Day—but to look at them, they're children. Post-teenagers if we give them the benefit of the doubt.

What happened to the men who used to make rock and roll? Even when they were young, the boys from AC/DC, Van Halen, Cream, Traffic, Black Sabbath, etc. looked like men who had lives before rock and brought some of that to bear on their music. I remember hearing stories of how the other members of The Who wanted to kick out Roger Daltrey...but they were afraid of him. He grew up on the wrong side of a coal-mining town (or something) in the bad part of the U.K. and had something of a violent streak. Can you imagine being afraid of Billie Joe from Green Day, who's so "hardcore" he thanked his manager and agents first in his Grammy acceptance speech?

Jimi Hendrix had already been in and out of the Army by the time he was touring with Little Richard's band. He was in his early 20s when he landed in London, blowing the doors off the city by opening a set with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"—with McCartney in the damned audience. And Robert Plant may have looked like a female elf, but that thing he kept trying to suffocate in his trousers was clearly not safe for Catholic school girls.

Rock stars used to be dangerous, now they look like art-school kids with chips on their shoulders.

And that's a big reason why I think hip-hop has taken off the way it has in the last 15 years. Because, say what you will about the music itself (my love for it ebbs and flows, but I've always respected it), the artists are MEN. Whether they can back up their claims to thug-life credibility or not, or if they go the proficient loverman route, it doesn't matter. I think their perceived manliness is what sells a lot of records. (But black music has long been made by artists who were men first. The R&B acts that dominated the pre-disco charts were made up of some hard-working brothers: James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, the Temptations, the Four Tops.)

Look at it this way: the people buying records (and I will still refer to them as such) are, for the most part, teenaged girls. The TRL demographic. Always has been, always will be. And so the desire for the music, and the musicians that make it is, both consciously and subconsciously, a sexual one. (And that is why, back in the '50s, Elvis was such a hit: He was giving black music a face that was somewhat tolerable to white parents—he was the other other white meat.)

I don't find it surprising at all that young women are choosing, with their wallets at least, Prince Charming as their romantic ideal...not Prince Charming's intern. I just wonder when rock and roll will remember that.

7 comments:

Ken Lowery said...

This reminds me of a letter to Blender in the issue that just came in the mail today, re: the Arctic Monkeys:

"I want to believe the Arctic Monkeys are just as good as everyone in England seems to think, I really do. But I can't get over the fact that they look like they're 12. At least Oasis needed to shave."

And I couldn't agree more. I remember when Nirvana's "You Know You're Right" was dug up and put on the air, in regular rotation. Hearing that song in the midst of bullshit like Nickelback and Godsmack was really, really edifying, and told me how far rock had fallen in just a few scant years' time.

marc bernardin said...

I'm fine with disaffected youth, so long as they look like they've been around long enough to have been disaffected by something.

And, yeah, "You Know You're Right" twirls to the top of my iPod and it just reminds me how good we had it.

Stephen Benson said...

si've been telling folks for years that the rock 'n' roll ethic has been residing in rap/hip-hop for a long time. i was playing an awards show years ago (i was still getting stoned back then so it was a long time ago, i don't even remember what awards show it was, i wasn't up for anything but a paycheck but i digress). i was talking musician professional smack with my posse on break saying shit like "rap ain't music, it's talk radio with a beat box" and the musical director called me over to him. since this was quincy fucking jones i went over and said something professional and cool like "who me? wha. .." he invited me to come to his studio after the run through and when we were there he played me some stuff by ice-t. i was amazed. later when the furor over his lyric content rose up and boiled i realized that the rappers were doing for the kids what the rockers did for us. they gave them some stuff to play that was certain to make any adult within earshot uncomfortable and force their parents to scream "turn that shit down!" my kids try doing it to me, i man up and take it with a smile. drives the little fuckers nuts when i don't bite.

Bill Cunningham said...

I see a lot of these so-called "rockers" these days and wonder why their anorexic selves haven't snapped in two by now.

I think the kicker for me was listening to Tom Leykis talking about Usher's 'confession' of having to respect a woman and being a gentleman, and so forth.

I thought, "Is this what rock has come to? Robert Plant and the boys oozed sex and power and mysticism (as did Jim Morrison, Mick jagger, and even 80's shits like Simon LeBon). We boys wanted to be those guys and the girls, well they wanted to lose it to "Stairway to Heaven".

You just don't see that raw intensity anymore. You see theatrical clowns imitating that vibe then going back to their dressing rooms alone. Mojo missing in action.

fraction. said...

rock.

needs.

more.

mustaches.

Bill Cunningham said...

Dude.

Rock.

Needs.

Sideburns.

Too.

marc bernardin said...

personally, I'd like to see more C. Everett Coops.

The facial hair ring of FIRE!