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Rock 'n' Roll as the crystallized, mythologized Wild West
April 3, 2012 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Closed Frontier: Is rock over? "Rock ’n’ roll is to 21st-century America what the Wild West was to 20th-century America: a closed frontier, ripe for mass mythology....Exciting new music still thrives in the subgenres, but modern musicians draw increasing amounts of inspiration from tradition, not originality. The sexagenarian Rolling Stones do serial victory laps around the world, just as an aging Buffalo Bill toured America and Europe in the 1880s and 90s, performing rope and horse tricks alongside Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull."
posted by Sticherbeast (193 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, thank God!!
posted by Melismata at 8:16 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


tradition, not originality.

False dichotomy.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:20 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Let's see... are the Flaming Lips still active? Why yes, yes they are. Rock is fine.
posted by COBRA! at 8:21 AM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


There's still plenty of exciting rock music being made these days. I just can't think of any at the moment. One thing I do know, though, is that it's a myth that good, interesting music has to be made by the young. I think I might've believed this myself for a good while until I realized that it's the kids that're making the most boring, derivative crap out there. Sure, plenty of old farts are churning out boring rehashed junk, but plenty more have spent years experimenting and learning and honing their craft and are able to produce stuff that continually amazes me.

I know this comment is pretty much worthless without any links or at least examples, but you get what you pay for and don't you think that your five dollars has been damn well used up by now?
posted by item at 8:21 AM on April 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


If your definition of rock and roll is the Stones, then obviously.
posted by unSane at 8:23 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


But can you write a song about dragons in it? I may have missed Roderick's point.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:23 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


(In the same way that classical music died with Beethoven - not)
posted by unSane at 8:24 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes. Now will you leave us alone?
posted by lumpenprole at 8:24 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've been spending a lot of time in the workshop lately and the only radio station I can receive down there plays classic rock in the evenings.

So I can confirm: Yes, rock is currently dead.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on April 3, 2012


What the what?? The Rolling Stones became famous by touring the world ripping off the traditions of the black pioneers who invented rock and roll but never got credit for it. So what the fuck is different now?
posted by spicynuts at 8:25 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the list of "biggest tours" just goes to show that the people who grew up on those acts now have more disposable income than us youngens who listen to newer music. I go to plenty of shows, they're just small and cheap. Who wants to pay 100 bucks to see any band in a huge stadium? Only a person with enough money to blow on such crap.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:26 AM on April 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


People really need to get over the fetishization of a blues subgenre that started in the 50s.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:31 AM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Who wants to pay 100 bucks to see any band in a huge stadium?

Exactly. They have it precisely backwards. The ONLY way I would pay to see a show like The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, The Allman Brothers or any of the juggernauts touring stadiums would be if that 100 or 200 bucks was for a small venue like The Bowery Ballroom. I'd crawl over broken glass to see Bob Dylan at a small bar but I would rather die than pay any amount of money to see him at Madison Square Garden.

On the other hand, 30 bucks to see an up and coming indie band at a small venue is more than worth the risk of disappointment.
posted by spicynuts at 8:32 AM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Could've fooled me...everytime I see a live band in a small venue.

It's not dead. The industry just wants something shinier and easier to package.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:32 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not a dead genre. People are just done pretending that it is the only genre.
posted by sendai sleep master at 8:36 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's over in the sense that jazz is 'over' - still going on but becoming less and less relevant to modern popular sensibilities with each passing day. Every now and then some kids will go back and incorporate some elements of it into whatever new thing they're doing, but for the most part it will continue on forever in an airless vacuum as part of our cultural legacy, like a painting behind plexiglass in a museum somewhere. Which is to say, in a horrible way, rock and roll will never die.

This has already happened for the most part - look at the Top 40 charts, where it's plain as day that outside of a handful of subcultures, the kids aren't listening to it. And look at most of those subcultures, look at those awful hipsters who actually kind of set the tone from the underground: they're not too excited about rock music either. People are still making rock and people are still listening to it, but the thing is that nobody is really paying attention any more.

I grew up listening to rock, but it's honestly okay - there are parts of the music that are amazing, but also large parts of it that are utterly loathsome and undignified and frankly embarrassing in the year 2012. I am all for cannibalizing the parts we like, and then leaving the bloated, tacky corpse of rock mythology behind, left to rot in a putrid fog of testosterone and stale rebellion.
posted by Tiresias at 8:36 AM on April 3, 2012 [25 favorites]


A kid in the gym I belonged to a few years ago brought this up, there was some song by The Doors or whoever over the gyms music system, the kid told me "Well, your gen had all the magic" and there was nothing left blah blah blah. I told him bullshit, and not to buy the marketing of lazy radio broadcasters, going for the simple buck -- they keep playing the same songs again and again and make like that nothing has happened since Janice Joplin or whatever, and churn out beer commercials. Art is alive, creativity is alive, always has been always will be, you may have to get away from your comfort zone to find it but if your comfort zone is that small, well, it's time to enlarge yourself it seems.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rock isn't dead, it's just napping.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2012


Rock isn't dead, it just has trouble remembering what the hell it come into this room for.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:38 AM on April 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


We forget that R&R was for a long time considered rebellious to even listen to. It was a political act to go to a concert. OK so now R&R won (or more accurately, the old people died). R&R has lost its rebellious color, we see parents teaching their 7 year olds how to play Metallica on YouTube and kindergarten teachers doing a punk rock sing along with the class. R&R is culturally benign. It's like the Romans who absorbed other cultures into their Empire by incorporating their gods into the pantheon, so it is with R&R, it's myths have been absorbed into mainstream culture. No longer is R&R an outsider, it is at the core, and in a sense that is why it is dead.
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 AM on April 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


Rock and Roll is the official music of the establishment. The Man loves Rock too much to ever let it die.
posted by idiopath at 8:41 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is Disco over?
Is Folk over?
Is New Wave over?
Is Post Rock over?
Is Punk over?
Is Post Punk over?
Is Heavy Metal over?
Is Thrash Metal over?
Is Speed Metal over?
Is Emo over?
Is Screamo over?
Is Dubstep over?
Is House over?
Is Deep House over?
Is Jungle over?
Is Drum & Bass over?
Is Glitch over
Is Garage Rock over?
Is Glam Rock over?
Does it even matter?
Can most people even tell the difference between some of these?
Do people still make and listen to music?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:41 AM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


No, I'm a mocker.

Wait what was the question?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:42 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is X over?
Is X destroying Y?
Is Y destroying X?
Are kids in trouble for listening/doing/watching/reading X?
Are we seeing a rebirth of X?

Is journalism over?

Looks like it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:42 AM on April 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


People really need to get over the fetishization of a blues subgenre that started in the 50s.

Why? It's made with instruments that are (fairly) cheap, and (fairly) rugged, (fairly) easy to play, and ubiquitous, allowing basically anyone to participate. It's flexible enough that there is still plenty of innovation if you take even a moment to look for it, and yet resilient enough that you can still get people into it.

I think it is likely that rock and roll as the dominant mass music of our time is over, but I think that the razor sharp focus of everyone only listening to what they want when they want has killed the dominant mass-music concept completely anyway, rock and roll or otherwise.

But as a participatory act, a band playing in a bar/club, or people making music, I think rock and roll is fine.

The old girl may be barely breathing, but the heart of rock and roll is still beating.

in Cleveland.
Detroit!
posted by dirtdirt at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


Just keep feeding me the Funk, don't matter much what rock does.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:44 AM on April 3, 2012


Hey Hey My My.... (you know the rest)
posted by jonmc at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


oh yawn. the biggest and best thing that has happened to music over the last few decades is it's decentralization. Top 40 is not as culturally invasive as it once was, and that is a good thing. That's the whole point of major labels trashing about in fits of trying to stay relevant. We have shifted beyond the monolithic and that doesn't mean Rock is dead, just that rock must now share the stage with a veritable pantheon of other music trather than just 2 or 3 other possibilities.

And yeah the majority of rock and/or roll was/is as derivative back in the day as it (or ANY genera) is today. nihil novi sub sole
posted by edgeways at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Punk rock died when the first kid said "punk's not dead, punk's not dead"
posted by borges at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't care if rock is dead. I do however think that the Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler should stop wearing spandex in public. That shit is just wrong.
posted by dejah420 at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]



We have dubstep now - what do we need those other "musics" for ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]




People are just done pretending that it is the only genre.

Yeah a lot of it is just lazy labeling. Nobody acts like disco and dubstep are the same genre even though they are both dance music, but for some reason a band like Sleigh Bells still gets to be in the same "rock" genre as Pink Floyd. The article in the post goes as far to say that all new music produced today gets included in the "Rock n Roll" tent, which is pretty silly. And most of the other points in the article would have been just as valid in the 80s pointing out Frank Sinatra still being popular and talking about cassette tapes and whatnot. Music is always changing in some ways and always rooted in the past in other ways.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


No more dead than the last time this article was written.
posted by maryr at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Rolling Stones became famous by touring the world ripping off the traditions of the black pioneers who invented rock and roll but never got credit for it. So what the fuck is different now?

Well, see, Jack White pretended his wife was actually his sister, so, uh... new ballgame?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:52 AM on April 3, 2012


rock died about 1983-84 - post-punk was the last viable rock subgenre. the music these kids listen to these days sucks, not because it's rowdy noise that disturbs the rusty sensibilities of us old folks, but because it's a boring third-generation copy of shit we listened to 30 years ago. i couldn't think of anything less challenging and more derivative than the "rock" being produced today. but that's not bad - rock was a moment, or a few moments, in time - it wasn't supposed to live forever, anymore than ragtime was.
posted by facetious at 8:53 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


This article starts with a confusing but somewhat interesting analogy and then completely fails to support it with anything but more analogies and a bunch of non sequiturs.
No form of music has ever died.
posted by rocket88 at 8:53 AM on April 3, 2012


"How long [gulp] has rock got?"

"According to a computer model, three years. About the time you'll be graduating."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh, Condour75 beat me to it. You win this round!
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:56 AM on April 3, 2012


Hey Hey My My.... (you know the rest)

I had to look it up.
posted by wreckingball at 8:56 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can I just say that the color red is also dead? Look at it, people have been seeing it for years, yet it's still just... red. Now and then some of The Kids may use it, along with some other more legitimate colors, but other than that it just exists in an "airless vacuum," (as opposed to vacuums with air in them), just continuing to be red in an awful brains-gobbling unlife.

Also dead: painting, literature, the two-minute egg (you're not STILL eating that stuff, are you? It's the 21st century!), democracy, skepticism, and the Bavarian Pine Mole.

It's kind of a dumb question.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:57 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]




large parts of it that are utterly loathsome and undignified and frankly embarrassing in the year 2012. I am all for cannibalizing the parts we like, and then leaving the bloated, tacky corpse of rock mythology behind, left to rot in a putrid fog of testosterone and stale rebellion.

Cannibalizing the parts we like is what has been happening, forever. We haven't been listening to Rocket 88 re-iterated continuously over 60 years. And in terms of loathsome and undignified, I thought the same thing about a lot of 80s synth pop, but lo and behold now we have people cannibalizing "You Spin Me Round" By Dead or Alive, one of the most embarassing songs ever recorded, and it's hitting the charts.

BTW the "awful hipsters" still rock the fuck out to guitar, bass, and drums at the shows I've been to.
posted by Hoopo at 9:01 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought it died with Buddy Holly? You know, a long long time ago. I can still remember how the music *used* to make me smile...
posted by maryr at 9:02 AM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


I see no shortage, young or old, of people who just want to rock the fuck out with their friends in a basement, maybe do some recording with equipment that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars in the 70s and 80s but now can be had for a hundredth of the cost, and even distribute it through iTunes themselves. They are not looking at playing arenas or theaters, but maybe a club or two if they want. They're not working for money anymore, or to earn a place in heaven, which was a big motivating factor once upon a time, believe you me. They're working and inventing because they like it.

If it's 'dead' as a mass market, top-40 commercial crap genre, that's fine with me. That means at least a little less poseurs and bullshit to deal with, and people are doing it because they dig it.

If you don't like the music your hearing through regular channels, make your own. I don't care if it's disco, hoe-down, disco-hoe-down, or Techno-Polka-Fusion-Jazz with a Tuvan Throat Singing Gregorian choir. The gear is cheap, the distribution easier than ever, all it takes is the interest and time to learn and play.

Nothing is 'dead' anymore. It will always be rebuit; we have the technology, albeit in some slightly different form than it was before.
posted by chambers at 9:03 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know it's only rock and roll ...but I like it, like it, yes I do
posted by Postroad at 9:04 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]




rock is dead they say
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh God "rock was a moment"? This is turning into that "punk rock existed for 5 minutes on September 3rd 1976, in my bedroom, and everyone else is wrong or pretending" conversation.
posted by Hoopo at 9:06 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


You know at any given time in any medium-large city there are people in small clubs rocking the fuck out at any given night. The fact that you don't go just means you don't like it.

Now please go back to listening to whatever world pop electro folk it is that you journalists live on when you're not bugging the crap out of us.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:07 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why? It's made with instruments that are (fairly) cheap, and (fairly) rugged, (fairly) easy to play, and ubiquitous, allowing basically anyone to participate.

What? The average "real" Fender guitar -- you know, the cheap kind of guitars, costs upwards of $1500. Then you will need an amp. And a PA for the vox. A playable drums can be had for about as much. Of course, all this requires a space to play in, and that space can't be around other people because of noise complaints. Rock Music instruments ain't cheap, because people have deified them so much.

Meanwhile, you can build your own computer, or buy one off Ebay for something like $200. Except you don't really have to purpose-build one, pretty much everybody already has one. And you can make music on 'em while wearing headphones. You can make songs pretty much immediately, and don't have to suffer through bloody fingers. I'm thinking about putting a new bridge on my Jazzmaster, and the new bridge will cost more than what my laptop is worth.

I make a big point about "where you can play this" because most people live in big cities, and to get a space to "jam" in is beyond the affordability of anybody but rich people. I suppose if you live in the sticks you can get away with having a playing space, but you'll still hit the wall of a $1500 Telecaster at first.

This is why "rock" is being carried on by what I call "Doctor Blues" bands playing Santana covers in local bars on $15000 PRS guitars with custom bird inlays on the fretboard. Kids are locked out of this sort of thing by the costs of doing this. There is basically no barrier of entry like this for all of the hundreds of other new genres out there.

I just still don't understand why everybody has apparently decided that the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Hendrix, and The Who were as good as it gets and we should just pack up and cover their shit for eternity. Anybody who gets all weepy about some sort of death of Rock sounds to me just ad dumb as that guy calling Dylan "Judas" when he plugged in.

it's a boring third-generation copy of shit we listened to 30 years ago.
If by "The shit we listened to 30 years ago" you mean "second generation blues." And dude, 30 years ago was 1982.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:07 AM on April 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


"Who wants to pay 100 bucks to see any band in a huge stadium? "

There is this band called Pink Floyd, you may have heard of them. If they ever do a reunion, stadium tour, you ought to strongly consider paying that $100. It will be worth it.
posted by oddman at 9:08 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


large parts of it that are utterly loathsome and undignified and frankly embarrassing in the year 2012. I am all for cannibalizing the parts we like, and then leaving the bloated, tacky corpse of rock mythology behind, left to rot in a putrid fog of testosterone and stale rebellion.
am i being trolled, this feels like i am being trolled

anyway since the economy's stale and there's a lot of strife and suffering, i wonder if this means the blues is coming back
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:10 AM on April 3, 2012


Everytome I get a Rolling Stone I flip through it to see how far in the first mention of U2 is... When there is no mention of them I guess rock will be dead, or something.
posted by Artw at 9:10 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rock music isn't dead, it's just no longer relevant. What was once the edgy counter-culture music is now establishment as hell. It's not the stuff longhaired youths bash out in their garages, it's the stuff late-50s middle managers listen to on their way to work. "Negro jazz" was once considered controversial, now it's an easy listening radio station. I suppose this purgatory is the fate of all music, a half-life where it's something that is remembered fondly instead of an ongoing force.
posted by a debt owed at 9:11 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Is Stuff Being Over Over?: The Perpetual Cultural Recycl-o-tron"
posted by AugieAugustus at 9:12 AM on April 3, 2012


See, the thing about how everyone now overamplifies their thesis in the headline as linkbait ("Is rock dead?" "Is Reality TV the New Novel?" "Is Obama a Stealth Jew?"), is that everyone responds to the rhetorical question and not to the actual argument.

Dead? I went to a show last week! Dead? Whatever, grampa! Dead? Why, my kneejerked halfway to my chin when I heard that so I'ma say no.

So if you actually RTFA, there is a point being made here, and to my mind it's got some validity. The point is not that rock and roll as a music form based on blues chord progressions and R&B backbeats and lyrics about driving and girls and fucking is dead, but that rock and roll as the vibrant and broadly resonant pop-cultural force of its first half century is spent.

The age of hit singles, concerts as signal cultural events, Almost Famous-scale touring by young bands, rock as the default language of youthful rebellion/idealism/culture, all the stuff that rock meant to the culture in general circa 1965 or 1975 - that's what (so this argument goes) has died. Put another way, can you imagine a music magazine or equivalent media outlet today that could presume to speak for youth culture generally the way Rolling Stone did in the late 1960s (or arguably Spin the early 1990s)? Pitchfork is the contemporary analogue, I suppose, but it's narrowcasting for a certain subculture of music obsessives, not the alternative newspaper of young people generally.

You can debate the significance of that shift, but I don't think you can dismiss it out of hand (except in that sneering, hairsplitting, counter-examples-a-go-go way we now dismiss any and all attempts to say anything definitive about what's actually happening to the culture at large nowadays).

Rock did in fact mean something to the culture beyond the musical form itself. Now it mostly doesn't. This is the point.
posted by gompa at 9:12 AM on April 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


Rock isn't dying, but the Boomers will be, and I hope this type of hand-wringing goes with them.
posted by benzenedream at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


TBH I'm shocked that anyone could look at that table of zombie tour acts and not be a little bit squished out.
posted by Artw at 9:18 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many rock bands fit this criteria?

1. Members are in their 20s.
2. They tour stadiums.

Nothing wrong with older musicians it just that it seems to me there is a dearth of young widely popular rock bands. Kings of Leon are the only group that comes immediately to mind.
posted by bobo123 at 9:18 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is this band called Pink Floyd, you may have heard of them. If they ever do a reunion, stadium tour, you ought to strongly consider paying that $100. It will be worth it.

I'm sorry to break this to you, but Rick Wright and Syd Barrett are both dead.

How many rock bands fit this criteria?

1. Members are in their 20s.
2. They tour stadiums.


Nickleback.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:20 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


What? The average "real" Fender guitar -- you know, the cheap kind of guitars, costs upwards of $1500.

Pfft. Craigslist. $300. You might even be able to find cheaper at a pawnshop or garage sale or from your cousin Marty.

Mind you, I didn't say it would be a great guitar, but if cheap is what you want, it's out there.
posted by emjaybee at 9:21 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


There is this band called Pink Floyd, you may have heard of them. If they ever do a reunion, stadium tour, you ought to strongly consider paying that $100. It will be worth it.

You're forgetting the billions you have to spend on a time machine to go and see them when they were at their best to make it 'worth it'.

I've seen them several times, and while it was 'good', it's was just a pale shadow of what I experience watching Live at Pompeii (skip to 10:40 or so for a good example) on the biggest screen with the best stereo I can find. Note to self: find a drive-in, rent the print, get a pro stage audio setup and have a damn good event.
posted by chambers at 9:23 AM on April 3, 2012


How many rock bands fit this criteria?

1. Members are in their 20s.
2. They tour stadiums.

Nickleback.


Chad Kroeger will turn 38 later this year.
posted by gompa at 9:24 AM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


As a child of boomers, I have no problem admitting that rock and roll peaked in the span of 1968-1972, before I was born.

So why do the kids today have to get in a huff about their music sucking? It's true. Your breakout genres have been nu metal and dubstep. You use the term "mashup" to pretend you aren't simply remixing like the DJs of yore.

It's not like there are no longer skilled artists, but if you want something like the echo of greatness that was the grunge scene, you're going to have to invent something new. The rock has been bled dry.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:26 AM on April 3, 2012


Chad Kroeger will turn 38 later this year.

I really hope that you had to look up his name. For your sake.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:26 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


The fact that there is no longer music that makes white people feel cool is a NATIONAL CRISIS.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:27 AM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is this band called Pink Floyd, you may have heard of them. If they ever do a reunion, stadium tour, you ought to strongly consider paying that $100. It will be worth it.

I could eat mushrooms and hire a kid to shout in my ear for two hours for a lot less than that.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:29 AM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


I guess rock hasn't really died, but human life and the economics of music have changed. Rock music as a form of protest has definitely evolved, and the famous rock-and-roll lifestyle is now increasingly frowned upon. In the era of facebook and youtube and an increasingly analytic culture, the interpretation of the events of rock and roll history have changed as well. But the Pandora's box of rock and roll still remains overturned, and the kids are still dancin'.

I wonder, though, whether we can rock out the same way that they did? I guess maybe not. But we wouldn't want to. Their time was darker.
posted by friendlymilkman at 9:32 AM on April 3, 2012


Rock did in fact mean something to the culture beyond the musical form itself. Now it mostly doesn't. This is the point.

Don't agree with everything you just said in that comment, but well said regardless.

I happen to think that anything that achieves the status of "art" means something to the culture beyond just its form. And of course, great (so-called) rock, both recorded but particularly live, continues to transcend its form all the time. That is, it synergizes into something beyond the mere guitar, bass, drums of its basic ingredients, becomes an invisible force field that blasts both our ears and our souls, makes the world larger, more astonishing, BETTER.

It rocks us. Long live that.
posted by philip-random at 9:32 AM on April 3, 2012


Kids are locked out of this sort of thing by the costs of doing this.

I've had my first guitar teacher, a great guitarist (only clip with a solo I could find, not amazing, but damn he could play), make my crappy 1st guitar - an incredibly shitty 1974 Montgomery Ward SG knockoff sound amazing.

Fancy equipment is no substitution for talent, skill, and practice.
posted by chambers at 9:34 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Their time was darker.

What? (I get what you mean, kinda, but man, this is a dark, dark time for humanity. Or maybe I have just been listening to the wrong music.)
posted by Seamus at 9:35 AM on April 3, 2012


I really hope that you had to look up his name. For your sake.

The Nickelback guys grew up in a tiny farm town a couple hours due east of where I'm sitting. Last time I drove through Hanna (which can take as long as a minute if anyone's making a left turn in front of you), they had a commemorative sign about the band out by the highway. Their names are probably a little more commonly cited hereabouts.

That said, I did need Wikipedia to check his age. And I've never intentionally listened to their music.
posted by gompa at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2012


emjaybee, that Mexican Strat is actually a damn fine guitar.

Low end equipment is getting better all the time and people still jam in garages, so I think the barriers to entry that Threeway Handshake talks about above are overstated. You can easlily have a good enough setup to start off for around $500, and that seems comprable to what it would cost for a computer, keyboard, and software to get into electronic music.

If you include metal in your definition of rock, there is no shortage of kids playing in rock bands today.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Keith Moon and Dee Dee Ramone stories are entertaining but the real mythology is in hip hop.
posted by marco_nj at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2012


rock as the default language of youthful rebellion/idealism/culture, all the stuff that rock meant to the culture in general circa 1965 or 1975 -

I wasn't even born in 1975, so I can't speak to that, but rock as a cultural force for young people still existed in my lifetime. It was just more fragmented; there was punk and metal and pop rock and yaddayaddayadda. I have a hard time envisioning that it wasn't always this way to some degree. But this conversation is old. In the 1990s these new things called "grunge" and "alternative" came out, that were totally throwing out all the excesses of that dead and bloated oldster rock once and for all, even though they were pretty much just the same old rock the whole time, and then hip hop and electronica teamed up and "killed" rock again, in about 1996 after the release of the Trainspotting soundtrack and bros started bumping "Born Slippy" by Underworld. But then it wasn't cuz everyone loved the Strokes and the White Stripes and The Killers for a minute there. So yes, maybe mass-marketed guitar hero stadium show rock doesn't have a place with young people anymore, but even I know stadium shows suck and I'm in my mid-30s now and don't even qualify as young anymore.
posted by Hoopo at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


And you can make music on 'em while wearing headphones. You can make songs pretty much immediately, and don't have to suffer through bloody fingers.

...and you can do it all all alone. People are gregarious animals, and the social aspect of musicmaking is very big. Certainly there are ways to socially make computer-based music, and certainly there are challenges to playing audible music in apartments, or whatever, but if you go to Guitar Center right now there is a 12 year old kid fixing to buy that totally boss Kramer guitar with the angel of death painted on it, and it costs $199. Admittedly the town I live in is relatively music oriented, but here the music schools are full, the rehearsal studios are booked, and lots of it is, arguably, rock and roll. I'm not deifying rock and roll, or belittling (insert genre of computer based music that I don't know anything about here) - I'm just saying rumours of its death are (still) exaggerated.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2012


Is rock dead? No way. (skip to 0:43 for the music). I can hardly wait to hear what the next generation comes up with.
posted by Daily Alice at 9:40 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


gompa nailed it, I don't think anyone has actually RTFA. It makes a number of valid points about rock as a cultural force, and as a rock musician, I agree with all of them. I don't even listen to rock music, and when people ask me what is cutting edge, I tell them Nicki Minaj.

But I disagree with this article's ending. It posits that virtual performances are the future of the rock experience; anyone who's under 30 knows that basements are the future of the rock experience. We don't need to play a virtual concert because ANYONE can play a real concert, in front of real youth, and get some real headbanging going on. Seriously, getting a house show is not difficult, and you don't need to be good. Just get drunk, get a drummer, fuck some things up, and the kids will love it.

This is the future of rock and roll. It's not virtual performances, it's the exact opposite: gear is so cheap and shows are so plentiful that anyone can be a rock star, any night of the week, in a number of basements across this country.

And regarding the cost of a guitar and amp and drums? $300? No, you can get a guitar for $80 bucks, get an amp for $100, and build a drum kit out of a kick, a snare, and a bunch of found objects. Make your own cables. Troll craigslist for parts. Seriously, starting a band can be as cheap as $300, total, for fucking everything. People with $1500 guitars are probably assholes, or The Rolling Stones.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 9:40 AM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Damn whippersnappers and their Ke$ha, Niki Minaj, Flo Rida. I'm taking my Zep, VH, and Deep Purple and going home!

Made a reference to MoJo Risin the other day at work. Girl (about 27) didn't know who I was talking about.

Said "Jim Morrison?" Got a deer in the headlights look.

"The Doors?" No response. For Christ's sake I'm 40 and I know this shit.

Probably the end of rock for me is when I was on YouTube looking for The Who's Behind Blue Eyes song. Found it yet most people credited Limp Bizkit as the creator.

Fuck these kids man. They don't know nothin'.
posted by stormpooper at 9:41 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


How many rock bands fit this criteria?

1. Members are in their 20s.
2. They tour stadiums.


Who the fuck cares about stadiums? The worst shows I've ever experienced have been stadium situations. Too many people, shitty sound (both too loud and not loud enough at the same time), performers who couldn't possibly be connecting with everyone in the venue.

If I had to quickly list the top 20 shows I've ever seen, maybe one would be a stadium gig (David Bowie and Peter Gabriel in 1983), but of course, I was thwacked on acid. On the other hand, at least three of them would have been in private homes, basements, pure punk/garage meltdowns featuring people the world will never hear of, but man did they own the universe for their few minutes!

Actually, made you have heard of one of them. It was the Evaporators.
posted by philip-random at 9:42 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]




Uh, Refused just got back together. Somebody should alert the author of this article.
posted by saladin at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


And Rock Music looks you right in your eye when you say it's dead and says:
Then I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be ever'where - wherever you look. Wherever they's a guy doing donuts in the high school parking lot, I'll be there. Wherever they's a guy smashing a TV with a sledge hammer while a chick in a bikini fires a machine gun at a burning car, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell "Freebird!!" when they're drunk at the symphony an' - I'll be in the way kids give the finger to their parents and sneak out of the house to go sinnin'. An' when our folk groove out to music they made with their friends and 'get serious about the band' - why, I'll be there.
posted by chambers at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I can't wait to pay at least $200 per ticket (before convenience fees) to stand at the far end of a football stadium and watch the Rolling Stones on the big screens.
posted by Webbster at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's still plenty of exciting rock music being made these days. I just can't think of any at the moment.

::fires up google reader ...

::starts dl'ing music and never comes back ...
posted by mrgrimm at 9:48 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Rock music isn't dead, it's just no longer relevant.

When you listen to music, it's supposed to be fun, or interesting, or evocative of some emotion, or cathartic, or conducive to dancing, or to self-reflection.

Any kind of music, created anywhere in the world, in any time period, can have these qualities. Music created by people who've been dead and dust for centuries can carry such emotional force that it makes you feel as if the composer is holding your hand and looking into your eyes.

That being the case, what's it supposed to mean, to say that a kind of music is no longer "relevant"? Relevant to what? To who?

At one point a couple decades ago 'rock' meant a bunch of guys wearing mascara and spelling everything with umlauts--a bunch of second- and third-generation Gene Simmonses, only without Gene's class, humility, and musical credibility. Rock looked deader at that point than it does now. That was right before Cobain showed up and rubbed everybody's face in it.

Reports greatly exaggerated.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:49 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


The fact that there is no longer music that makes white people feel cool is a NATIONAL CRISIS.

Yep. The other part of the problem is that everyone I've ever heard decrying the lack of new, original music is expecting it to be receive it almost passively via mainstream mass media channels. They're correct in that a seminal moment in music has passed us by, but the defining attribute of that moment was that there was a better chance of encountering some worthwhile stuff on the Billboard charts.* To find contemporary greatness now, you have to put a little work into it.**

* This is not to say that mainstream channels did not put out a lot of awful shit in eras past, but I do think that the balance has changed for a number of reasons.

** Again, this is not to say that non-mainstream cultural artifacts were previously easier to find (precisely the opposite), but I think the baseline amount of effort you have to put into finding something that you like has increased as a result of the trends hypothesized above.

posted by invitapriore at 9:50 AM on April 3, 2012


What the what?? The Rolling Stones became famous by touring the world ripping off the traditions of the black pioneers who invented rock and roll but never got credit for it. So what the fuck is different now?

Oh, please. I saw Howling Wolf on Shindig in 1965 after being introduced with the most reverential mass props by the Rolling Stones who had insisted he be on the program with them. And the same thing was said of Elvis in a Sepia magazine article in 1957, the 50s he was defended in answer in the same magzine by no other than B.B. King, among others.

When it comes down to it, the history of American popular music is the history of blackface minstrelsy, and by extension, ragtime, jazz, rhythm 'n blues, rock and country, too. It is the ouroboros, the snake swallowing its tail. The whole love and theft, push me-pull you between white and black religious and vernacular music has been not merely the elephant in the room but often the process, theme, subtext and whole room, too.
posted by y2karl at 9:51 AM on April 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


There are a lot of torch bearers, but as long as Jack White is cranking it out, I feel comfortable that "rock" is not yet over.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:56 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're correct in that a seminal moment in music has passed us by, but the defining attribute of that moment was that there was a better chance of encountering some worthwhile stuff on the Billboard charts.* To find contemporary greatness now, you have to put a little work into it.**

In my world, that seminal moment passed almost forty years ago when the cool local FM station fired all the DJs who were programming their own shows and started working with playlist consultants.

The mainstream ditched me a long, long time ago.
posted by philip-random at 9:58 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"A bunch of those young kids came around. They could play. They'd pick up my guitar and fool with it. Then the Rolling Stones came out named after my song, you know, and recorded 'Just Make Love to You,' and the next thing I knew they were out there. And that's how people in the States really got to know who Muddy Waters was." -- Muddy Waters
posted by blucevalo at 9:59 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yup, guitars are just so damned unaffordable.

I saw this movie too. Why not look at the guitars all of them actually play on. His regular Airline "toy guitar" is one of the most sought-after guitars out there, and worth as much as a car. That Gretsch that he modded with a harmonica mic goes for $3500 new. The Edge's Explorer used to cost the price that you could save up for with a paper route. Now, they start at like $1800, for a stripped down version of the kind he bought in the 70s.

For everybody linking MIM Strats off Craigslist, the point I'm trying to make is that The Edge went out and bought a guitar for a few bucks that now costs about the same as what people pay for a used automobile. I am aware that there are $500 Telecasters you can get a Guitar Center, but these things are absolutely not the same things as what that generation of Rock Musicians were using.

Eric Clapton got his famous black Strat by piecing together the best parts off of a pile of Strats that he bought because they were basically being given away for nearly free. Any one of those guitars now would be an heirloom that would get passed down from father to his firstborn.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:59 AM on April 3, 2012


First of all, I am older than dirt. So I do remember when rock meant something. Hell, it meant everything because for us it was all we had. Gaming didn't exist, TV and movies were still programmed mostly for our parents instead of the way it is now, rock was the only thing we had that was ours. Pop acts could get on TV variety shows and we'd sit back and sneer as our parents would say "those Carpenters are such nice kids, why can't you listen to music like that". The Grammys were an abomination that was barely aware of what was happening in the high schools and dorms. Rock was the one thing we had that was ours. It defined us, it identified with us and we with it. So in that sense, it is dead because no one medium today defines "the kids" the way rock music defined us kids of the 60s and 70s.

These days when I go to a concert, the age demographic is all over the place. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Rock still works, it still has its appeal whether it is played in a club, theater, arena, or god forbid, a stadium. But I still remember a night at an arena, when there was a green haze hanging in the air, the only people in the place over 25 were security and the guy that walked onstage to say, "Zep's plane just landed. They'll be onstage in 20 minutes. Thanks for your patience."

Now I just spent the last hour or so of work listening to Wilco's The Whole Love. Proof right there that the genre is not dead at all but it's not a force to change the world anymore.
posted by Ber at 10:04 AM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Threeway, the point is that you don't need the expensive stuff to start out with.

Quality, expensive guitars can make you sound better.

Only with skill can you first make a guitar sound good.
posted by chambers at 10:05 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


@overeducated_alligator

i think that is simplistic maybe?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:08 AM on April 3, 2012


irl (about 27) didn't know who I was talking about. Said "Jim Morrison?" Got a deer in the headlights look. "The Doors?" No response. For Christ's sake I'm 40 and I know this shit. Probably the end of rock for me is when I was on YouTube looking for The Who's Behind Blue Eyes song. Found it yet most people credited Limp Bizkit as the creator.

Fuck these kids man. They don't know nothin'.


Oh, we know who The Doors are. We're just tired of all the mooning over 'em. Just because they were life! changing! for you doesn't mean they have to be for us.

/27 yr old girl, couldn't resist.
posted by troika at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, we know who The Doors are. We're just tired of all the mooning over 'em.

Don't try to teach grampa how to suck eggs: I have felt the same way for nearly twice your life.
posted by y2karl at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


This has already happened for the most part - look at the Top 40 charts, where it's plain as day that outside of a handful of subcultures, the kids aren't listening to it. And look at most of those subcultures, look at those awful hipsters who actually kind of set the tone from the underground: they're not too excited about rock music either. People are still making rock and people are still listening to it, but the thing is that nobody is really paying attention any more.

It's interesting to focus on the "awful" hipsters. The whole thing about mocking hipsters is that they supposedly like bands you've never heard of, ad nauseum. While of course no one likes a one-upper or someone who has devoted an unseemly amount of time to appearing cool, there's also something to be said for celebrating local and underground culture, locating quality obscure acts, and not scoffing at people just because they have ridiculous facial hair.

There's also the matter of Sturgeon's Law at work: 99% of new music is awful. In the decentralized world of the internet, it's hard to find a reliable gatekeeper or tastemaker. Since music is so much easier to record and release nowadays, we're drowning in new releases - our relation to music is so much different than it was 20 years ago. The marginal utility of a new album plummets when we can hardly find the time or energy to sift through the hundreds of new acts clamoring for our attention.

...

As for the article itself, my main takeaway was that the musical ecosystem has changed completely in the West, and that this puts rock in a strange place. Rock used to be the sound of (white) youth, but now it's become another form of traditional music, like jazz or classical. It's crystallized. Rock also isn't subversive anymore and it isn't really anything that people care about outside of rock circles. This is pretty different from how things worked 20 years ago.

It doesn't mean there isn't good new rock music out there, because of course there is, but it does make sense to weigh where rock fits into the musical ecosystem nowadays.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because they were life! changing! for you doesn't mean they have to be for us.

Wait, so no one in your high school went through a Doors phase? Things changed a lot in 6 years.
posted by Hoopo at 10:18 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yup, guitars are just so damned unaffordable.

I see both sides of this. Yeah, some of my favorite records were made on zero budget, some were multi-million dollar extravaganzas. But most of the musicians I know that started with low budget equipment moved on to more expensive gear as they progressed, which allowed them to expand their music palette. I don't see anything wrong with that aspiration.

I've poured a lot of money into my gear over the years, and I have no illusions that it makes me a better musician. But it does allow me to express myself in new (and hopefully more interesting) ways. I know I can write music with GarageBand and a kazoo; I hope you'll trust me when I say that I can write better music on my Roland Fantom.

People with $1500 guitars are probably assholes, or The Rolling Stones.

No, generally they are people who love to play their guitars. Many of them are hobbyists, many are professionals, and a few of them are Keith Richards.
posted by malocchio at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rock used to be the sound of (white) youth, but now it's become another form of traditional music, like jazz or classical. It's crystallized. Rock also isn't subversive anymore ...

I don't disagree with the thesis of the article but, really, the idea that the consumption of recorded popular music is somehow culturally subversive is so quaint. Whatever is the the sound of (white) youth at whatever time and in whatever the genre, is not the same as the original music performed by its creators for its original audience because (white) youth are not always that comfortable listening to anything not performed by (white) youth. Which is the story of minstrelsy, when you think about it, whether Rock, Hip Hop or Young Country, to name but a few. Hipsters are but the unpaid industry scouts of Corporate Music, which is all music in the end. Resistance is Futile: it will be assimilated.
posted by y2karl at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get in the car and hit the highway. Put on your favorite music, put it on loud.

Rock and roll
posted by pianomover at 10:28 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Get in the car and hit the highway. Put on your favorite music, put it on loud.

Rock and roll


Oooh, Dean Martin and Johnny Mathis. too ? Roll over Beethoven, indeed.
posted by y2karl at 10:33 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, generally they are people who love to play their guitars. Many of them are hobbyists, many are professionals, and a few of them are Keith Richards.

I know, malocchio, I was slightly exaggerating. Actually I was contextualizing the $1500 guitar in the basement and house scene. In basements and houses, no-one plays $1500 guitars, because no one wants to accidentally trash a $1500 guitar. Everyone's favorite guitar is the Peavey T-60 because they're built a like fucking tank and can be found for $200 on craigslist.

I appreciate the expensive gear, hell, my father owns 2 (two!) Ernie Ball basses. But I know my stripes, and I'm not willing to tour, party, and play with gear worth more than my life savings.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2012


Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray? Something like that? I don't know, I'm not a bassist, I just know my pop's basses are damned expensive.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 10:42 AM on April 3, 2012


Actually I was contextualizing the $1500 guitar in the basement and house scene.

Fair enough! Yeah, that reminds me of seeing Nirvana, and noticing that the guitar Kurt smashed up looked suspiciously like my Squier Strat, and not the Mustang he had been playing most of the night...
posted by malocchio at 10:43 AM on April 3, 2012


People have been predicting and/or declaring the death of rock 'n' roll since the late 1950s.

People who think in these terms may feel free to shampoo my crotch.
posted by snottydick at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2012


When a music genre "dies", the best parts of it get absorbed by generations of future musicians. I can't wait to see how music will eveolve in the next few decades.
posted by archagon at 10:58 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is Spoon still recording and coming to play there first show in Dallas in 5the years next Thursday? Yes, Yes.

Rock n Roll is not dead.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:08 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tiresias: It's over in the sense that jazz is 'over' - still going on but becoming less and less relevant to modern popular sensibilities with each passing day. Every now and then some kids will go back and incorporate some elements of it into whatever new thing they're doing, but for the most part it will continue on forever in an airless vacuum as part of our cultural legacy, like a painting behind plexiglass in a museum somewhere.

"Legacy" implies something from the past that informs the present and sometimes generates respect, which is part of what older, established music (which is what rock and jazz by definition are) should do, ideally, after all the mumbo-jumbo about rock's inherent rebelliousness is done away with. What you describe is not a legacy but a fossil, or even worse, an aluminum can to be tossed in the garbage when you're done with the sugar water inside. You might as well toss classical music in there while you're at it, because of course it's the ultimate in fossilized irrelevance. I guess the primary difference between the cultural appropriation of the past and the cultural appropriation of the present is that it's okay and expected that you also incorporate some kind of mocking commentary about the fossil that you're pretending that you're not incorporating.

I grew up listening to rock, but it's honestly okay - there are parts of the music that are amazing, but also large parts of it that are utterly loathsome and undignified and frankly embarrassing in the year 2012. I am all for cannibalizing the parts we like, and then leaving the bloated, tacky corpse of rock mythology behind, left to rot in a putrid fog of testosterone and stale rebellion.

Large parts of our culture completely unrelated to rock music are loathsome and undignified and frankly embarrassing in the year 2012. It seems to me that rock music is actually one element of the culture still out there that has the capacity not to take itself too seriously (when some windbag is not going on about how the show he saw in 19-dickety-3 was the last time any music really mattered, and you know, "drove my Chevy to the levee" and all that shit). A good percentage of the rest (or the part that's shoved down our collective throats, anyhow) is equal parts recycling and regurgitation and cannibalism, which is a lot more loathsome and embarrassing than the wizened jowls of Steven Tyler. If everything is supposed to be all about leaving the bloated tacky corpse of rock mythology behind, why are so many so-called cultural taste-deciders and marketing jerks so enamored of continually running back to see if there's any more of the corpse left to devour and re-devour and copulate with?

facetious: rock died about 1983-84 - post-punk was the last viable rock subgenre. the music these kids listen to these days sucks, not because it's rowdy noise that disturbs the rusty sensibilities of us old folks, but because it's a boring third-generation copy of shit we listened to 30 years ago. i couldn't think of anything less challenging and more derivative than the "rock" being produced today.

Exactly thirty years ago the chart-topper was Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll," which was back then dismissed as a boring third-generation copy of shit that someone had listened to x number of years before -- which thereby launches this topic into a whole new realm of meta-awesomeness.
posted by blucevalo at 11:08 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Freedom begins when you stop giving a shit whether anyone thinks your favorite cultural thing is dead.
posted by jscalzi at 11:09 AM on April 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


I just wrote a whole long thing about rock no longer being the dominant form of pop music and deleted it, because I was looking at the Billboard Top 100 charts for 1968-1972 and do you know what the NUMBER FIVE most popular song was in 1972? It was this.

That is so fucking awesome. I have now completely forgotten my point.

But seriously, go listen to that and try not to grin like an idiot. You can't.

/funky derail
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:11 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


What? The average "real" Fender guitar -- you know, the cheap kind of guitars, costs upwards of $1500. Then you will need an amp. And a PA for the vox. A playable drums can be had for about as much. Of course, all this requires a space to play in, and that space can't be around other people because of noise complaints. Rock Music instruments ain't cheap, because people have deified them so much.
$1500? There are guitars that are a lot cheaper then that, and if you're going to run it through a lot of distortion anyway who cares? I think the idea you need to spend $1,500 to play electric guitar is pretty elitist.

Also, you can get a cheap acoustic and learn chords and stuff for like $100, then upgrade if you ever get any good.
1. Members are in their 20s.
2. They tour stadiums.

Nickleback.
Don't forget CREED. In the 90s anyway. Oh yeah and P.o.D and Linkin Park. The 90s were truly a renaissance of awful, awful rock music.

Anyway, if you increase the age ceiling you can probably include the Killers, Muse, the White Stripes. Probably a few more. My Chemical Romance is rock, right? Are they popular with the kids? I have no idea.

That said I was never all that into "Pure" rock. I liked the more 'alternative' stuff, like say the Smashing Pumpkins. But something metallica or KISS or guns 'n' roses never did much for me, it just sounds boring to me for some reason. Like that "No Penguins" thing someone linked to. Bleh.

But yeah, there are tons of HipHop and pop singers in their 20s who are super popular.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on April 3, 2012


Bungalow Bill's

defunct

who used to

ride a quicksilver messenger

stallion

and play onefourfive chordsjustlikethat

Jesus(isjustalright)

he was a brown-eyedhandsome man

and what i want to know is

how do you like your browneyed girl

Mister Death
posted by sourwookie at 11:16 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's sort of funny seeing people talk about what "rock n roll" is because everybody seems to be operating under different definitions. Close, but not quite the same.

I think the article makes a good point about how the scene has fractured. There is still a lot of fun and exciting stuff going on, but the scenes aren't universal and the best stuff isn't necessarily bubbling through to the top, which isn't a bad thing at all. When people talk about Muse, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, hell, even Spoon, I just sort of nod and smile, and know that we're not going to be talking the same language at all. It's cool, but I guess that doesn't make for provocative writing.

It's sort of like people touting Jack White as the keeper of authentic rock n roll these days. If that's what you are looking for, awesome. Jack White has good taste, but he fails on execution in my mind because he's striving for something I think is antithetical to my definition rock and roll, but then again I ascribe to the Billy Childish school of rock.

It also seems that people like to say rock (or punk) died when they stopped liking it, or the version they like lost steam. We all get stuck in our moment. (For me, it's The Hi-Fives.) It keeps going and kids keep listening and playing.

The cost of guitars thing is funny because most of the really expensive gear is just gross, but it's different audiences.
posted by kendrak at 11:22 AM on April 3, 2012


I like playing the guitar. I like the crunchy sounds of chords being strummed loudly, and that sinewy snarl a guitar makes when you play leads with controlled feedback. I like to bend notes and resolve them, sometimes in ways that are interesting but often in ways that are too predictable. I like 4/4 beats and I-IV-V chord progressions, but I'm open to other beats and chord structures. I like the pentatonic scale (some would say a little too much). I like playing all of these things fucking loud. It makes me happy. That's what rock and roll means to me.

That said, there's no reason why someone making music today should choose rock over any other genre, and indeed there's no extrinsic reason why it should survive as a genre. Intrinsically, it's an easy style to learn and play, and to play loudly, and I've always understood both of those elements to be big parts of its appeal. And when it's done right, it definitely gets you off.

As an aside, I've been on a real Zeppelin kick recently, trying to hard re-listen to their stuff with fresh ears, and goddamn were they good. A lot of stuff I listened to "in my youth" was horribly mediocre music -- objectively mediocre, by almost any standard, and not worth listening to again. Some of it, however, was gold and still fucking works.

Now, that being said, can we please move on? There's no good reason why anyone younger than me should identify with the music I enjoyed in my youth -- there's no reason why they can't, but god, there's no reason why they should, and certainly no expectation on my part that what appealed to me when I was 17 or 22 should appeal to someone today who is 15 or 19 or 25. This is not about getting off my lawn, it's about everyone finding their own lawns to enjoy. If rock works for you, great, and if it doesn't, that's also great.
posted by mosk at 11:23 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Exactly thirty years ago the chart-topper was Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll," which was back then dismissed as a boring third-generation copy of shit that someone had listened to x number of years before -- which thereby launches this topic into a whole new realm of meta-awesomeness.

A friend has declared that any rock song about rock is about the most awful song ever recorded by the given artist. She gave Joan Jett's opus above as an example. I countered with 'Even Roadrunner by the Modern Lovers or Rock 'n Roll by Lou Reed ?'

'Exceptions that prove the rule,' was her response. And, on the whole, I would agree: apart from those examples, any given rock song about rock music tends to be the major suck.
posted by y2karl at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alex Zhang says no.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:47 AM on April 3, 2012


Rock used to be the sound of (white) youth, but now it's become another form of traditional music, like jazz or classical. It's crystallized.

I think that's right. Consider the giants of classical music, Beethoven and Bach. Who has bested them in the centuries since? Who's bested the Beatles and the Stones at their respective peaks?

I'd date the pinnacle of rock and roll to the Stones' "Exile on Main Street" and their '72 "STP" tour. The music and the performances were fantastic, and you had shit like Truman Capote hanging out in the dressing room - rock met and merged with kultur. The beginning of the end, maybe, the very thing the likes of the Sex Pistols felt compelled to rebel against a few years later.
posted by kgasmart at 11:59 AM on April 3, 2012


I think the article makes a good point about how the scene has fractured

I have to wonder if it wasn't always been fractured a bit. Was everyone that liked "rock" in the 60s and 70s into Dylan and the Stones and Zeppelin and the Beatles? Was it that everyone agreed this stuff was great and no one was into sub-genres, or is this the same way our kids will look at Nirvana and Madonna in 20 years time; "this is what everyone liked back then" because it's what charted at the time and what endured in the public consciousness? I've heard enough compilations to suggest there was a pretty rich underground of garage, psychedelic, funk, soul, heavy/hard/metal, sludge, folk, prog, blues, etc that were all under the "rock" umbrella back then. It's probably easier to find that niche stuff nowadays with the internet and all, which seems to be the big difference, but it seems to me fractures always existed.
posted by Hoopo at 12:01 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly not a Doors fanatic myself, however, I do believe people should know who they were. I get the same reaction saying the names Gene Kelly, Greta Garbo, etc. Most don't know who they were. Pretty sad.

For Morrison, my husband and I make fun of him all the time. I think that he would be probably the most annoying Emo person in the world if he were at a party with us.

{at a great party with music, conversation, games...Jim strolls on by to sit next to you and says...}

"Indians scattered on the highway bleeding...."

{you stare, pause, then say...}

"Shut up Jim, you're such a downer man. Go wash your leather pants or something, ok?"
posted by stormpooper at 12:05 PM on April 3, 2012


Metafilter: don't you think that your five dollars has been damn well used up by now?
posted by mmrtnt at 12:06 PM on April 3, 2012


As a guitar teacher, I can assure you there are still lots of kids of all ages who still wanna rock.
posted by straight at 12:07 PM on April 3, 2012


Article has SO MUCH STUPID in it. MUST CONTAIN CRITIC RAGE!
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on April 3, 2012


As a guitar teacher, I can assure you there are still lots of kids of all ages who still wanna rock.


We have a rehearsal room set up in an outbuilding with drum kit, amps and PA. One day my (then) 11 year old invited his (male) friends over to 'come and make noise'.

So they started playing, and even though we live in the absolute middle of nowhere, within FIVE MINUTES there were two twelve year old girls in there with them.

I saw them literally running down the drive to be there.

Do not underestimate the power of electric guitars.
posted by unSane at 12:27 PM on April 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


Also, the Doors are rubbish and always have been.
posted by unSane at 12:28 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, 125 comments and nobody has mentioned (unless I missed it) that the author, Sam McPheeters, was in Born Against. I like his art, too. Maybe that colored my perception of this article, but I think he is not so full of shit as most of you seem to believe.
posted by sklero at 12:36 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


but I think he is not so full of shit as most of you seem to believe.

Oh, I don't think he's full of shit. A lot of the criticism here seems to be - hey man, people still like to rock the fuck out. Which they do and, God willing, always will.

At the same time, though, it's all been done. There's nothing new and groundbreaking to be done here. We might combine X genre with Y genre to produce some excellent new genre that will last for about a year before fading, but the art form has already been defined, the frontiers reached, the parameters set. Lots of fun to be had within those parameters, and every kid who picks up an electric guitar and makes that fantastic noise will perceive himself as groundbreaking. Not so, but he or she can still have fun, meet members of the opposite sex, make great music and a couple bucks, to boot. But change the world, be big in the sense of the Beatles or Zeppelin or Van Halen? No chance.
posted by kgasmart at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2012


For everybody linking MIM Strats off Craigslist, the point I'm trying to make is that The Edge went out and bought a guitar for a few bucks that now costs about the same as what people pay for a used automobile. I am aware that there are $500 Telecasters you can get a Guitar Center, but these things are absolutely not the same things as what that generation of Rock Musicians were using.

You can get so many plugins for free these days, any old piece of shit instrument will do. You can make music by fiddling around with a cable jack.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:52 PM on April 3, 2012


I'm a fan of cheap guitars. I've got one guitar that cost more than $1000 - an American Jazzmaster - and everything else is under $500. MIM Tele, Korean Burns 12-string reissue, Simon & Patrick acoustic, one of the new Jaguars, a Peavey bass. They're all awesome. It's how you play them.

I used to have a drop dead 335 but really it wasn't all that. I swapped it for a stage piano and a Hammond clone, much more fun.
posted by unSane at 12:57 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly not a Doors fanatic myself, however, I do believe people should know who they were. I get the same reaction saying the names Gene Kelly, Greta Garbo, etc. Most don't know who they were. Pretty sad.

When I noticed that the reverse side of the District of Columbia quarter featured Duke Ellington as the first African American to solo on a piece of American money, I had what I thought to be the predictable OMFG! reaction. I got so excited that I mentioned it to about seven people that day.

Unfortunately, almost all of them were white and under thirty: Who's Duke Ellington ?

To me, that is even sadder. Don't know much about history indeed.
posted by y2karl at 1:27 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Example
posted by y2karl at 1:30 PM on April 3, 2012


I've long been reconciled to the fact that most of the US listens to dance music and rap. However, I see this less as a trend and more of a regression to the global mean. At the same time, I'm continually amazed that others are into the post-rock/shoegaze stuff that I'm into. Guess I'm not the only one who uses Pandora. As long as the stuff I like is out there and still being produced, I don't care that everyone else listens to a bunch of boring, anonymous crap.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend has declared that any rock song about rock is about the most awful song ever recorded by the given artist.

AC/DC smashes that theory to pieces.

"For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)"
"Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"
"Rock 'N' Roll Singer"
"It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)"
"Rock'n'Roll Damnation"
"Rocker"

And for those who may snark "But it's really just all the same song with AC/DC", you haven't really listened closely or chronologically - granted, Brian Johnson-era AC/DC does not show as much creative progress and evolution as the amazing Bon Scott era, which was much more narrative and story driven with lyrics, and had a noticeable evolution through his albums, but that is another discussion entirely, and I'm not looking to derail this too much.

/My brother's Australian release version of "TNT" was the first real album I picked out and would put on to rock out with at the age of 2 or 3. That, and Supertramp's "Breakfast in America", but hey, I was a strange kid and it was the 70s.
posted by chambers at 1:55 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The way we'll know that rock is dead is that people will stop asking if it is dead.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:17 PM on April 3, 2012


I guess one of the big problems with responding to this article, and other comments about it, is defining the term "rock." I don't really understand how the author is using it, since he lists pop punk, emo, and indie as genres distinct from "rock," whereas I would have considered them subgenres.

If rock truly is strictly the narrow genre which includes Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, etc. but nothing that still includes traditional rock instruments and sounds similar to rock but could be called a different name, then yeah, I guess by that definition then rock is dead, and I agree with the people in this thread who say "it's all been done" or that everything being made is boring and overly derivative.

But defining "rock" in such a way excludes innovation in the genre by definition. If rock only means what people were doing 50 years ago, then yeah, there's nothing new anymore. Fortunately, it's still a rich genre with plenty of innovation even today, as you can hear in any number of bars and small clubs in your nearest big city or via MP3 blogs and bandcamp. It's far from static, and lots of recent bands have been incorporating instruments and styles from younger and more popular genres and making sounds that wouldn't have even been possible a few decades ago, even if someone had imagined it.

The fact that rock bands aren't dominating the lists of touring revenues or Billboard sales is a feature, not a bug! It's because instruments, recording tools, and means of promotion and distribution are cheaper now than they have been, so we get more bands, and people have infinitely more ways of discovering new bands and connecting with distant fans with similar tastes than in the past. We won't ever have another Beatles or Rolling Stone, because the radio and the sales charts at the local record store aren't the only way of hearing new music or guessing whether an album is worth buying, and because now it's possible for someone to record an album of 20-minute long melodic death metal or dance-infused insanely technical math rock and still make a profit.

Of course, with the increasing consolidation of radio station ownership and mass layoffs of DJs in favor of a single content stream broadcast across the nation, modern radio stations have to play it safe and avoid risks even more than before, so you're never going to hear a lot of this stuff if you don't seek it out. But saying "all rock sucks and there's no innovation anymore" is like saying the same thing about food, just because you see 8902409802 Applebees and McDonalds signs as you drive down the highway and no signs for a French Laundry or a food truck that sells sisig tacos
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:20 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a fan of cheap guitars. I've got one guitar that cost more than $1000 - an American Jazzmaster - and everything else is under $500

I might be exceptionally frugal, but $500 is not cheap for a guitar. I've never paid more than $200, and even then that felt like a rip off. Where's the love for Silvertone guitars and amps?

As for kids these days... I have worked in college radio for over a decade and when I first started I thought every kid was like me - obsessed with finding something new, something obscure, something exciting. Then I grew jaded when I realized most people only liked what was hot then (see being stuck in your own moment and on your own lawn). I'd think: Oh so you really like M83 now but you don't know who My Bloody Valentine is? But kids are kids, and for all the kids who are into what's hot now and what's popular now (be it rock, rap, dance, whatever), there are still kids who get excited about old stuff. I know around here I've seen a soul revival. I've also seen this garage rock revival which is making me feel old because people are fetishizing bands I actually saw live like I've fetishized bands that my old friends saw live. It's all cyclic and there's nothing new.
posted by kendrak at 2:22 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also this whole discussion reminds me of another song about rock and roll, Rock and Roll Was Never This Fun by the Smugglers.
posted by kendrak at 2:28 PM on April 3, 2012


I might be exceptionally frugal, but $500 is not cheap for a guitar.

It's cheap for a GOOD guitar.

I've had thrift store guitars by the boatload and it's an exercise in frustration unless you're into lofi.

There's no bigger waste of money than buying crappy (note - I did not say cheap) musical equipment. You always end up replacing it with something better, so you basically buy everything twice. Whereas if you buy something good you can usually sell it for whatever you paid for it if you decide it's not for you.
posted by unSane at 2:40 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


"At the same time, though, it's all been done. There's nothing new and groundbreaking to be done here. We might combine X genre with Y genre to produce some excellent new genre that will last for about a year before fading, but the art form has already been defined, the frontiers reached, the parameters set. Lots of fun to be had within those parameters, and every kid who picks up an electric guitar and makes that fantastic noise will perceive himself as groundbreaking. Not so, but he or she can still have fun, meet members of the opposite sex, make great music and a couple bucks, to boot. But change the world, be big in the sense of the Beatles or Zeppelin or Van Halen? No chance."

The problem is that you either have to have a definition so narrow that "it had all been done" by the time of Rocket 88 ("Man, it's just jump blues with bad amps"), or so expansive that no, it really hasn't.

And there are just so many weird assumptions that have to be there in order to say that kids can't change the world, so many assumptions that have been overturned again and again… Like, you have to assume that there's a difference between pop, rock and country in order to arbitrarily exclude folks like Justin Timberlake, Kenny Chesney and MIA, all of whom have put out rock songs, but then you have to pretend that rock is the same as pop to complain about not having the mainstream success necessary to change the world.

You also have to ignore that contemporary views of rock music (especially vis a vis pop) are heavily colored by hindsight bias — there's no way that your average fan was listening to Brian Eno in '74, and the Beatles' most groundbreaking stuff wasn't rock at all, it was weird sound collages in the middle of albums. And even then, their music wasn't called "rock" so much as "psychedelia" in the contemporary press.

So with a fair appraisal of the essay, you reach the point of realizing that the rock he defines never existed, that there are some things that are changing about the music industry but that those things aren't enough to support an incoherent thesis, and that a lot of this is weird rockist bitching from people that don't actually listen to a lot of music.

Maybe I'm just reactionary because when I worked as a critic, the beat I covered was ostensibly rock but really was everything that wasn't explicitly folk, blues or (Latin) jazz. But the same silly arguments come out any time someone wants to declare that the novel is dead, that painting is dead, that sci-fi is dead…

Rock's a magpie genre without a coherent definition. There is literally no way to kill it, and pronouncements of demise always say more about the critic than the genre.
posted by klangklangston at 2:49 PM on April 3, 2012


As long as there is electricity there will be Rock n Roll
posted by Sailormom at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2012


Exactly thirty years ago the chart-topper was Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll," which was back then dismissed as a boring third-generation copy. . .

Well it is a cover of a then seven year old record by the British band The Arrows (who had their own teevee show, no less) and which was itself inspired by "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" by The Rolling Stones who were, in turn, inspired by American blues artists such as Muddy Waters, whose song "Rollin' Stone" gave them their name, and which was itself inspired by the country blues traditional "Catfish Blues" which dates from the 1920s or perhaps even earlier. . . . .
posted by Herodios at 2:52 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It’s a sign of how fragmented pop music has become that no new genres—let alone bands—were able to capture this nation’s heart in the past ten years.

I don't know how old Sam McPheeters is, but this piece seems to boil down to another "Why I miss the monoculture" rant by someone who misses the good old days when everyone had the same music crammed down their throats. I'm a Gen-Xer who probably ought to agree with McPheeters, but I don't miss the monoculture. There's so much crazy, awesome shit going on nowadays that is so much more interesting to me than the days when popular music came in about a half dozen flavors.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:02 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


unless you're into lofi.

Well, yeah I am. lofi is the best fi there is.
posted by Hoopo at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Talk of whether rock n roll is dead doesn't make me nearly as sad as the fact that in such discussions, The Doors and Pink Floyd are so often held up as exemplars of the genre representing the 1960s and 1970s.

Regardless of your age today -- absent a singularity event -- you could spend the rest of your life digging rock artists of the past five decades that you either never heard of, never heard properly, or never listened to with open ears, without ever once listening to those two groups, and be glad you did. You might give the Lead Zepplins a rest, too, while your about it.
 
posted by Herodios at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, yeah I am. lofi is the best fi there is.

Better than MeFi? Infidel!
posted by Grangousier at 3:38 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sam McPheeters wrote this? Huh. I missed that. He wrote one of the best pieces of long-form rock journalism I've ever read:

The Troublemaker: How Crucifucks Frontman Doc Dart Became A Man Named 26
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:40 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


another "Why I miss the monoculture" rant by someone who misses the good old days when everyone had the same music crammed down their throats.

Go back a little further, and you don't have 'a monoculture crammed down your throat.' Niches -- niche music marketing -- really began with Lee Abrams et al in the mid-1970s. Before that -- well, have a look at, for example, 1965 in Music and 1966 in Music (wp). This was nearly all stuff that did not take a lot of effort or research to find. It was on your radio.

What monoculture?

Here's Frank Zappa, writing in 1984:
One of the good things that happened in the sixties was that at least some music of an unusual or experimental nature got recorded and released. So, who were those wise, incredibly creative executives that made this Golden Era possible? . . . old cigar-chomping guys who listened to the tapes and said, "I dunno. Who knows what the fuck it is? G'head -- put it out there! Who knows? I dunno."

We were better off with that attitude than we are now. . . . There is something to be said for an executive who is willing to take a chance on an idea, even if he doesn't like or understand it. The new guys don't have that spirit. They are forever looking over their shoulder.
posted by Herodios at 4:01 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Terminator: [impersonating Buddy's voice] Hey Metafilter, what's wrong with Rock? I can hear him barking.
T-1000 impersonating Metafilter: Rock's fine, honey, Rock's just fine. Where are you?
posted by Twang at 4:16 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


whose song "Rollin' Stone" gave them their name, and which was itself inspired by the country blues traditional "Catfish Blues" which dates from the 1920s or perhaps even earlier. . . . .

Nope, it was the late 30s and the author was most likely Robert Petway, who was the first to record it. Muddy's did it twice as Rollin' Stone and Still A Fool, albeit both times at a pace far slower than Petway's smoking groove.
posted by y2karl at 4:41 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


And answering my own question again, Arctic Monkeys. Keep thinking there is someone else I'm forgetting.
posted by bobo123 at 4:49 PM on April 3, 2012


lofi

Oh you like lofi? Probably into bands like Sparklehorse, then right?

Here's a picture of what was his rig. Looks like an early 70s Strat, at least two Vox AC30s, one vintage. Tab so far: probably around $8-10 grand.

His pedalboard is kind of sparse, only two ($250) delay/echo pedals and the usual assortment of Boss stuff.

All to sound like he is playing through a cassette recorder.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:52 PM on April 3, 2012


Probably into bands like Sparklehorse, then right?

Nope, never heard of 'em.
posted by Hoopo at 4:58 PM on April 3, 2012


Go back a little further, and you don't have 'a monoculture crammed down your throat.' ... This was nearly all stuff that did not take a lot of effort or research to find. It was on your radio.

Sounds like the problem is more that labels, independent promoters, and station managers lack imagination or are unwilling to take risks, rather than that there's no creativity in the genre anymore.

Looks like an early 70s Strat, at least two Vox AC30s, one vintage. Tab so far: probably around $8-10 grand.

His pedalboard is kind of sparse, only two ($250) delay/echo pedals and the usual assortment of Boss stuff.

All to sound like he is playing through a cassette recorder.


You're really reaching to prove this silly point. I've never heard Sparklehorse either, but Wikipedia tells me that the guitarist in the picture you linked has been in bands since the early 80s. Did he have to buy all that equipment to learn how to play guitar, or is it possible he bought a cheap piece of shit and upgraded his equipment as he had the funds to do so?

As a counterexample, the Thermals famously recorded their debut album on a 4-track cassette recorder in a kitchen and their guitarist Hutch Harris said in an interview
It shouldn’t be about the tools. Everything is coming out of your head, so it shouldn’t matter. I feel the same way for gear—you’re not going to write a better song on a $2000 guitar than you would on a $75 one. Odds are you may write something much better on a piece of crap.
Choosing one guitarist that nobody mentioned and pointing out that he uses an expensive rig to prove that guitar is a prohibitively expensive instrument to learn how to play is like pointing to Trent Reznor to prove that it's too expensive to learn how to produce electronic music. You don't need to learn on a 70s Strat any more than an 80s TB-303. You can spend $200 on a netbook, download a copy of Reaper, and start producing beats, or you can spend $200 on a cheap guitar + amp pack like I did 15 years ago. And either way you go, you're probably going to want to spend more money on better equipment once you get better and can afford to. Money isn't keeping anyone who can afford to get into electronic music from picking up guitar instead.

And if you believe what Mike Watt said in We Jam Econo, it's a lot EASIER to start playing guitar now than it was when he was young, what with the increased availability of music stores, guitar lessons, etc. Probably even more so than when he recorded those interviews with tabs, YouTube videos, and guitar lessons through software like GarageBand widely available now.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What? The average "real" Fender guitar -- you know, the cheap kind of guitars, costs upwards of $1500.

there's this company called squier - you may have heard of them - believe it or not, but they make decent playable instruments - i own two basses and two guitars by them - they sound good, they play well, i get what i want out of them - as well as the schecter, the ibanez, the two cheap strat copies and the danelectro - and b c rich bass

most of the time i leave my '68 gibson 335 in the closet

Then you will need an amp.

i have a few small, even battery powered amps - i've also got microphones to record them with - or jacks to run the headphone out into one of my computers

but most of the time, i'm either using a boss gt8, computer based amp sims or a line 6 bass pod

you don't need a killer amp to record with - eric clapton and duane allman used small fender champs and princetons to record layla with, recorded with microphones well within anyone's budget

And a PA for the vox. A playable drums can be had for about as much.

usb recording interfaces and drum programming work in a home studio, too

Of course, all this requires a space to play in, and that space can't be around other people because of noise complaints.

that's what headphones are for

Rock Music instruments ain't cheap, because people have deified them so much.

but they are cheap - otherwise, i wouldn't have them


Meanwhile, you can build your own computer, or buy one off Ebay for something like $200.

combine it with all that cheap gear and you have a recording studio that's just about the equal of anything people had in the early 70s - the processing and editing capabilities easily surpass what people had then - alas, the sound spaces and the microphones probably aren't, but good engineering can compensate for that

---

but the real reason i came here is this

rock and roll the last american frontier? - you've got to be kidding me, right?

look up into the sky someday at night and look at all that empty space - the stars, the moon, the planets ...

that was our frontier right there - and it's not closed, we haven't even bothered to open it yet
posted by pyramid termite at 5:56 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


look up into the sky someday at night and look at all that empty space - the stars, the moon, the planets ...

that was our frontier right there - and it's not closed, we haven't even bothered to open it yet


Hawkwind
has got me there any number of times.
posted by philip-random at 6:20 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


live in concrete jungles that just block up the view ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:46 PM on April 3, 2012


eric clapton and duane allman used small fender champs and princetons to record layla with, recorded with microphones well within anyone's budget

A Fender Princeton costs $900 now. SM57s are still cheap though, thank god.

Anyway, all of you coming out of the woodwork to derail this are completely missing my point:
The stuff that people like Allman and Clapton could buy for a few bucks back in the day are now not able to be bought by kids with a paper route. Some time in the 80's old guitars turned from "used" into "vintage," and prices for these things became astronomical.

I'm glad that you all have that magical Malaysian Squier "Fender Strat" that somehow is able to stay in tune and who's bridge saddle screws don't spin out of their sockets if you play it. I've had dozens of cheap guitars, and pretty much all of them were best used as 60hz tone generators.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:54 PM on April 3, 2012


...Talk of whether rock n roll is dead doesn't make me nearly as sad as the fact that in such discussions, The Doors and Pink Floyd are so often held up as exemplars of the genre...

And

Hawkwind has got me there any number of times.


By some stroke of luck I had not heard Hawkwind's early albums until recently. I finally did, and it's fantastic, and due to my previous ignorance, could listen to some great music without any 'baggage' or preconceived notions.

That said, the early-mid 70s Hawkwind albums make Pink Floyd look like Duran Duran.
posted by chambers at 6:55 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've had dozens of cheap guitars, and pretty much all of them were best used as 60hz tone generators.

you should try shopping now - things have improved considerably
posted by pyramid termite at 7:09 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the good things that happened in the sixties was that at least some music of an unusual or experimental nature got recorded and released. So, who were those wise, incredibly creative executives that made this Golden Era possible? . . . old cigar-chomping guys who listened to the tapes and said, "I dunno. Who knows what the fuck it is? G'head -- put it out there! Who knows? I dunno."

This certainly was true for the people who recorded pre-World War II blues and country music -- those so-called record company executives did not have any concept of who the audience was, what was popular or what would sell and ended up recording just about anyone singing about whatever backed by themselves and other musicians playing just about any instrument or combination thereof.
posted by y2karl at 7:09 PM on April 3, 2012


As a guitarist who's played in bands at various times for 15 years, and also someone who's been making electronic music in my bedroom with headphones for about the same amount of time...

Amount I've spent on my "guitar" stuff comes to about $2,600. Although, that doesn't include batteries, strings etc. All my equipment, over that time, is still going strong, with the exception of a Crybaby Wah that intermittently stops working in an annoying fashion.

Amount I've spent on computers for my "electronic" stuff - I've been through 5 computers since then, so we're probably looking closer to $7,000. And I'll admit to pirating software a bunch of times in that period, if you include that if I'd paid for it we'd be over $10,000. A copy of decent DAW software costs a lot more than a decent sounding guitar.

I love anecdata.
posted by Jimbob at 7:33 PM on April 3, 2012


Ukelele: $15 brand new, needs no accessories
Penny Whistle: $7 brand new, needs no accessories

With any luck, people will keep beating the dead horse of rock'n'roll until it is nothing more than a punchline to a bad joke, and get over themselves and get back to just making music. There is life after rock.
posted by idiopath at 9:42 PM on April 3, 2012


I'm glad that you all have that magical Malaysian Squier "Fender Strat" that somehow is able to stay in tune and who's bridge saddle screws don't spin out of their sockets if you play it..

That's kind of the point when you're starting out. Not even in a 'paying your dues' sort of way- but I can't think of anyone I know that plays guitar - or any other instrument for that matter - that doesn't have a story about the first piece of gear they had and how horrible/broken it was, and what a revelation it was once they got something little better in their hands.

Hell, I still have my first bass that I once sold to a friend for 50 bucks and a Sega Genesis. (He gave it back to me years later) Is it a piece of crap? Absolutely - but that hideous thing is still with me- in fact, it's about 3 feet from me right right now- missing knobs, and banged up as hell, but I'm never getting rid of it again.

As long as there are kids who realize how much fun it is to get together and make music in basements and garages there will be rock and roll, or whatever you whippersnappers want to subcategorize it into.
posted by tj at 10:01 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


muso question: so how did Sonic Youth do it with all those detuned, retuned, overtuned guitars they'd thrash through in a set? Were they all just junky one song wonders or did Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo have seriously expensive collections that they dragged along with them?
posted by philip-random at 10:25 PM on April 3, 2012


When SY started out, beat up Jazzmasters were pretty cheap. I think they always had half-decent guitars -- at least every time I've seen them they've been playing real Jazzes, although seriously beaten up.

One of the nice things about solidbody guitars is they are seriously difficult to destroy. I once had occasion to attempt to destroy a strat (don't ask). I tried everything, including driving over it. It remained perfectly playable, much to my chagrin.
posted by unSane at 10:30 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's Pete Townsend play?
posted by philip-random at 10:46 PM on April 3, 2012


"Go back a little further, and you don't have 'a monoculture crammed down your throat.' Niches -- niche music marketing -- really began with Lee Abrams et al in the mid-1970s. Before that -- well, have a look at, for example, 1965 in Music and 1966 in Music (wp). This was nearly all stuff that did not take a lot of effort or research to find. It was on your radio. "

Well, except that again, that's using hindsight bias to regard the past while cherry-picking the present.

Instead of looking at everything, look at the Billboard hot 100s. It's not nearly as diverse as the year — there's no John Coltrane on the Hot 100 — and while I do sincerely love "8 Days A Week" and "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter," it's not what we'd think of as particularly innovative. The white music is pretty much of a set, likewise the black stuff.

And that's still ignoring that a lot of people didn't have FM sets, which is something that changed throughout the '60s — FM was a source of a lot of real diversity in radio, but it wasn't something that was mainstream until the early '70s. Something that gets forgotten by boomers (often conveniently) is that the majority of them were squares who listened to Pat Boone.
posted by klangklangston at 12:19 AM on April 4, 2012


y2karl: And, on the whole, I would agree: apart from those examples, any given rock song about rock music tends to be the major suck.

Sure, rock about rock rarely rocks, but it's worth noting that rock about rock about rock rocks, and covers of rock about rock about rock can be even better.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:44 AM on April 4, 2012


The stuff that people like Allman and Clapton could buy for a few bucks back in the day are now not able to be bought by kids with a paper route. Some time in the 80's old guitars turned from "used" into "vintage," and prices for these things became astronomical.

If you look at Duane Allman's first guitar, it was a cheapo japanese Teisco which he bought for a money he made in a summer in the mid 50's. Assuming that's $20 bucks, it'd be worth around $160 today, which is around $50 bucks less than the first Epiphone Les-Paul knockoff I bought when I was 15.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 4:15 AM on April 4, 2012


Instead of looking at everything, look at the Billboard hot 100s. It's not nearly as diverse as the year

Yes, a sampling of the records that were hits is indeed less diverse than a sampling of the records that got made.

that's still ignoring that a lot of people didn't have FM sets, which is something that changed throughout the '60s — FM was a source of a lot of real diversity in radio, but it wasn't something that was mainstream until the early '70s.

No, I was going to include a comment about the rise of progressive radio, but decided not to because it really makes a different point. Progressive radio was very good to me, but in 1965 it didn't exist at all, when it did exist reached a tiny audience, and is arguably the very format that evolved into AOR.

Something that gets forgotten by boomers (often conveniently) is that the majority of them were squares who listened to Pat Boone.

When I see this word on Metafilter, I take it as a sign that my interlocutor doesn't know what they're talking about. When I see it attached to one of these absurd prejudiced pronouncements, I am certain.
 
posted by Herodios at 4:56 AM on April 4, 2012


Rock is not dead — analog culture with just enough bandwidth for only one genre at a time is.
posted by Tom-B at 5:11 AM on April 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


muso question: so how did Sonic Youth do it with all those detuned, retuned, overtuned guitars they'd thrash through in a set? Were they all just junky one song wonders or did Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo have seriously expensive collections that they dragged along with them?

Sonic Youth played on Jazzmasters primarily because J Macsis plays them. He plays them because that was his first guitar. The story goes that he went out to buy a Strat, but they were too expensive, so he ended up with the JM. Basically nobody (Except Elvis Costello) liked JMs at the time, so they were basically giving them away. Turns out they're pretty good for playing the type of style that they play so they stuck. None of them were guitar smashers though. Abusers, sure, but not destroyers.

These days, JMs cost a pretty penny. Thurston and Lee both even have their signature series JMs, that you can pick up for $1900 (less for the Japan models). Of course Lee's one isn't "real" in that it doesn't have vintage Fender WRHBs on it, and neither have the Mastery Bridge (this is the $200 bridge I was thinking of getting myself, they seem amazing. The regular JM bridge is a monstrosity, most people put on a Mustang bridge, but they don't really fit right) they put on all their guitars.

All their shit was stolen from their touring trailer a while back, which by then was seriously expensive stuff. Especially the Travis Bean guitar he had. They've rebuilt with basically more seriously expensive stuff.

you should try shopping now - things have improved considerably

I got a Fender Blacktop JM last year because people were falling over themselves to praise how great they were, and it was... OK. The electronics were all cheap and not shielded. The humbucker pickup sounded pretty bad. The neck pickup was actually OK, but it is more like a Strat pickup housed inside the JM soapbar. The trem is the worst part though, and I kind of regret getting it because of it, it doesn't have a lock, so the guitar gets wildly out of tune even if you're not using the term at all. People say the other models like the Tele are way better. Sure, this ain't your old Korean Squier, but it certainly isn't close to a nice "real" one.

But at any rate, my cost gripes are about the 60s and 70s versus today. Anybody used to be able to buy a master-built guitar that would last several lifetimes, but these days the only affordable ones are guitars that are really only in the shape of the guitars you see pros play.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:10 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something that gets forgotten by boomers (often conveniently) is that the majority of them were squares who listened to Pat Boone.

Pretty sure Pat Boone was more of a Silent Generation thing.
(I WISH HE WERE SILENT, AMIRITE? YUK YUK YUK)
posted by entropicamericana at 10:05 AM on April 4, 2012


I've got the mastery bridge -- it makes a huge difference. Can't imagine using the JM without it. I've also got the Blacktop HH Jag without the trem which I like a lot because it has such a short scale length. The JM is always a bear to bend strings on because it's so long.
posted by unSane at 10:09 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


AC/DC smashes that theory to pieces...

I forwarded that comment to my friend and her response was thus:

As far as AC/DC, I rest my case. Everything they ever recorded belongs on Hell's Jukebox as far as I'm concerned!

She is not unopinionated. Hell's Jukebox, by the way, is the game she has going with another friend, where they try to think of all the songs that belong on Hell's Jukebox, which always plays all the songs that you never want to hear again, and those songs only, for all eternity. One of the things she mentioned when telling me about it is that they are in agreement that Hell's Jukebox carries nearly every rock song about rock. Which is where I derived my misquote of her above.

As far as Hell's Jukebox, inside or outside the category of rock songs about rock, the concept has merit. the Lemonpipers' My Green Tambourine came to mind instantly when she told me about it. As did Bad Bad Leroy Brown. Simply odious. But your mileage may vary.
posted by y2karl at 12:49 PM on April 4, 2012


And, for a fact, Susan, another friend of mine, adores AC/DC. So, go figure. I do hope, however, that, at least for the most part, we can all be in agreement about the Lemonpipers and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.
posted by y2karl at 12:55 PM on April 4, 2012


Proper Rock

About girls and clubbing.
posted by Grangousier at 1:48 PM on April 4, 2012


Considering the number of odes AC/DC has written to Hell, I don't think they would consider being on Hell's Jukebox a bad thing.

Also, Highway to Hell has one helluva riff.
posted by Ber at 3:19 PM on April 4, 2012


"Yes, a sampling of the records that were hits is indeed less diverse than a sampling of the records that got made."

Yes, and when talking about mainstream perceptions of music and monocultures, which might be more useful of a metric? Everything, or a set selected on the criteria of mainstream success? When you specifically say that stuff didn't take a lot of research to find, and that it was on your radio, do you think that mainstream radio played A Love Supreme, or that this might have been outside the mainstream of American music? Especially compared to prior jazz releases, say, Benny Goodman, who would have been in the mainstream?

"No, I was going to include a comment about the rise of progressive radio, but decided not to because it really makes a different point. Progressive radio was very good to me, but in 1965 it didn't exist at all, when it did exist reached a tiny audience, and is arguably the very format that evolved into AOR."

Yes, it's exactly the format that evolved into AOR. FM freeform both cross-pollenated niches and gave rise to niche demographic marketing in the '70s. The point I was making — that somehow there was a time that was free of a well-financed entertainment mainstream and attendant monoculture is a product of hindsight bias and not well-supported by contemporary accounts — is supported by the rise, and sublimation, of AOR channels.

"When I see this word on Metafilter, I take it as a sign that my interlocutor doesn't know what they're talking about. When I see it attached to one of these absurd prejudiced pronouncements, I am certain."

Yes, of course there hasn't been any self-mythologizing of the Baby Boom generation as rebellious and counter-cultural disproportionate to the actual number of counter-cultural actors in the rough decade from '65 to '75, and it's all an unkind backlash from kids these days that don't get that music used to mean something, man.
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on April 4, 2012


The point I was making — that somehow there was a time that was free of a well-financed entertainment mainstream and attendant monoculture is a product of hindsight bias and not well-supported by contemporary accounts

there was a time when you could hear frank sinatra, james brown, jennie c riley, jimi hendrix, the lemon pipers - (yes, i like that song) - the who, richard harris and hugh masekela on the same AM station - in a small midwestern city

i know - i was there and i was listening
posted by pyramid termite at 4:45 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point I was making — that somehow there was a time that was free of a well-financed entertainment mainstream and attendant monoculture is a product of hindsight bias and not well-supported by contemporary accounts.

It seems we disagree on the applicable meaning of monoculture. I was pointing out that the situation described in this link above did not accurately describe the situation in earlier decades.

Yes, of course there hasn't been any self-mythologizing of the Baby Boom generation as rebellious and counter-cultural disproportionate to the actual number of counter-cultural actors in the rough decade from '65 to '75, and it's all an unkind backlash from kids these days that don't get that music used to mean something, man.


I wouldn't know. I do not trade in stereotypes.
 
posted by Herodios at 5:33 PM on April 4, 2012


SM57s are still cheap though, thank god.

Merely an illusion of the race to the bottom in retail. In 1980 an SM57 was $99 with a net cost to the store of $35. Now it is $99 with a net cost to the store of $90.
posted by sourwookie at 7:29 PM on April 4, 2012


(or $160 at my local music store who can't figure out why they're going out of business)
posted by unSane at 7:43 PM on April 4, 2012


I'm glad someone brought up 57 (and 58s, which are identical apart from the grille). If all the recording studios in all the world vanished tomorrow, and you were left with one SM57 or SM58 and a decent tape recorder, you still could make great records.
posted by unSane at 7:45 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


‎"Rock ain't dead, it just gained weight. And that makes it heavier than ever baby!" --Webb Wilder, Down Home, 1/22/11, Johnson City, TN
posted by Francis7 at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2012


I'm in love with rock 'n' roll, satisfies my soul
If that's how it has to be, I won't get mad
I got rock 'n' roll, to save me from the cold
And if that's all there is, it ain't so bad
Rock 'n' roll
posted by Sailormom at 9:49 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't know if it speaks to rock's imminent death or its immortality but it feels somehow right that a discussion such as this should wind down with folks discussing gear.
posted by philip-random at 9:16 AM on April 7, 2012


Well, maybe because it's a form that people still play instead of passively consume or program.
posted by unSane at 5:58 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


What? The average "real" Fender guitar -- you know, the cheap kind of guitars, costs upwards of $1500. Then you will need an amp. And a PA for the vox. A playable drums can be had for about as much. Of course, all this requires a space to play in, and that space can't be around other people because of noise complaints. Rock Music instruments ain't cheap, because people have deified them so much.

I realize I'm late to the discussion, but this is just outrageously wrong on so many levels. The "average 'real' Fender" costs upwards of $1500? What in the world are you talking about? American Strats and Teles, brand new at full price at Guitar Center, go for under $1000. And my best Strat, in a closet full of "real" Fenders and Gibsons, all bought used for way under $1000, is a mid-80s MIJ Fender Stratocaster that I bought for $150 in 2010, reconditioned for about $30 in parts and then played professionally on an album that debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart.

So when you say "Anybody used to be able to buy a master-built guitar that would last several lifetimes, but these days the only affordable ones are guitars that are really only in the shape of the guitars you see pros play," well, I'm a pro and I play with a lot of pros and I strongly disagree. Sure, the American Vintage 52 Reissue Telecaster is a really nice guitar, plays beautifully, and costs $1500. But that's not the "average real Fender guitar." Likewise, a fully-optioned out Gibson Les Paul will cost you two grand, but a Les Paul Studio feels and sounds exactly the same for under $1000, and an SG is even cheaper and, frankly, better in a lot of ways. And my 67 reissue Gibson Flying V cost me about $600, including the Rio Grande pickups and custom bridge.

Do you want to know what's expensive? Trilian and Omnisphere. You want to talk about a huge cost difference between amateur and pro music? Start getting into synthesizers, Pro Tools plug-ins, and outboard compressors and A/D-D/A converters. A UA 6176 Channel Strip will run you around $2500. Want to make an electronic album that sounds like the pros? They're mixing on studio monitors that cost more than a new car and recording their vocals on microphones that cost as much as a couple semesters of college.
posted by The World Famous at 12:05 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guitars are super-cheap compared with violins, trumpets, pianos, and lots of other instruments of equivalent quality.

A top-of-of-the line, professional guitar is about $1500 - $2000. Professional-level violins start at $10,000 and go way up from there.

Don't know if it speaks to rock's imminent death or its immortality but it feels somehow right that a discussion such as this should wind down with folks discussing gear.


"Rock music is mostly about moving big black boxes from one side of town to the other in the back of your car." - David Thmoas of Pere Ubu.
posted by straight at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


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