Rock n' Roll and the American Spirit


28 aug 2006, 19:40

Since my last journal, in which I turn a shade of Incredible Hulk green while ranting about the idiocy of a specific music mag, I've had a fair amount of time to reflect about music and other things.

I went on a week long trip to Washington D.C., fell in love with Bullets And Octane all over again, and thought about the true nature of rock n' roll.

You see, Washington D.C. is a very imposing city. Huge, magnificent buildings, loads of history (for a 200 year old country), and a lot of really great American moments that have been captured in stone or on film.

I love Washington because of the potential I see there. I can't help but look at buildings like the U.S. Capitol and think that it's beauty deserves much better than the 535 jackasses and countless staff and lobbyists who work there. I like to think of Washington as an ideal of what America is capable, rather than what America actually does.

And I realized that this is the same manner in which I think about music...capable of so much, with such a wonderful history, yet currently achieving so little of any importance. Rock n' roll and American history are really very similar. They're both (ideally) about breaking down barriers and effecting change. Whether the tyranny of a foreign king or of repressive values, America and rock n' roll have, hand in hand, made some incredible strides.

Consider this lyric from Freedom:

"Jesus Christ, America, and Elvis Presley
Are some of the most rebellious acts in history."

Oh, Hell yeah!

And this is what is simultaneously wrong with America and rock n' roll, these days. There's no sense of uprising. When a "rock" act does something against the grain today, it's because some asshole marketing exec thinks giving them a more edgy image will sell more shitty records. And when Americans continually accept this back and forth loop of mediocrity that is comprised of our elected representatives, we only harm ourselves.

That said, here are a few things rock n' roll means to me:

You do NOT write music that you think people will like. You write music that is so fucking good, that it grabs the public by the balls and beats them into submission.

You WRITE your music. How can you be passionate about a subject when you didn't even write the damned song? If you're not talented enough to write the songs, maybe you shouldn't be in music. I can only think of one notable exception to this rule, and that's the songwriting/performing team of Bernie Taupin and Elton John. But when most don't write, it's becaue they aren't talented enough to do so.

You do NOT cover someone else's hit to make a name for yourself. If you cover a song, it's because you're paying homage to a band that inspired you and your music. Knockin' on Heavens Door is an example of a cover done the right way. Bringin' on the Heartbreak is not.

You WILL challenge society's stagnant opinions on any subject. You WILL NOT dress like a whore simply to make yourself more marketable.

Look, you don't have to like the music I do. That's not what this is about. There are loads of artists/bands I don't really like all that much, but for whom I have respect for the way they engage their music. If you're listening to music because of the way the artist looks or dresses or because their music is stuck in your head (because it's catchy...not because it's good!), then reconsider why you listen to music at all. You could just as easily watch MTV on mute, see the marketable image, and save $15. Rock n' roll isn't about being pretty. Neither is America. They're both about the freedom to challenge the norm and to create something better.

Rock n' roll in America is really a historical soundtrack. The 50s and changing social standards about what was acceptable were also the times when Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley were our rock gods. The 60s saw rock rise in opposition to our presence in Vietnam. And so on.

But now, as Americans sit frustrated with our government, and the perceived ineptitude on both sides of the aisle, will music effectively respond? Will Americans sweep mediocrity aside in both government and rock n' roll, to do something great once more? God, I hope so.


  • Suspect-device

    you know, as i gaze upon pictures of our queen, i cant help but remember the 70's and 80's where punk rockers like sex pistols put up a preverbal finger to society and then i remember other great bands like pink floyd and Led zeppelin who rock hard! And AC/DC with its half scottish lineup do make me feel proud to be a scot! You see, Even though america fashioned rock music, i still like to believe that we brits refined it with bands like the Who and the Kinks but then again, we do have james blunt :(.......[b][/b]

    28 aug 2006, 20:20
  • scottwallace01

    Oh, yeah. I love the British rock too. I just don't know much about how it coincided with social movements, etc. Even though most of my comments were regarding the US, it certainly applies to rock music everywhere.

    28 aug 2006, 20:30
  • Vami

    You know, if now such movement as the 50's or 60's music would come off, the lyrics would be about gay marriages, abortion and stuff. And that makes me sick. I see you like some southern rock. Why not revive those ideals?

    29 aug 2006, 11:57
  • RuffRidr

    Very good journal entry. I love the comparison between American government and the Music Industry. The problem as I see it is that America is a bunch of sheep. We blindly accept what is stated in the media as fact. Most of us don't vote. Half of those who do vote are idiots that are not informed on the issues. They just vote because they are a Democrat or a Republican, or because they think one candidate is cooler than the other. Now look at Rock'n'roll. Same shit. We just buy what we see on MTV or hear on Clearchannel. Most of us are too lazy to go out and search for that amazing new talent. We just gobble up the candidates that are spoonfed to us by the RIAA.

    29 aug 2006, 14:15
Se alla 4 kommentarer
Lämna en kommentar. Logga in på eller registrera dig (det är gratis).