08 January 2007

Does Rock Exist (Part Two)?

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
- Peter Townsend

(Part one of this post is entitled “The Day the Music Died”, posted immediately below.)

I’m writing now not so much about the music, but rather the state of mind, the communion between the artists and their audience - a communion that was in theory counter-culture.

But the world I see around me consists in too large a part of unreflective baby boomers who are slipping right into molds cut by their parents: overwhelmed by their kids — and slaves to their mortgages (and the jobs that pay those bankers), SUVs, credit card debt and all the rest of the rat race that North American culture is now.

Where has my counter-culture gone? Part of it is underground, the tip of this melting iceberg visible in blogs, in chat rooms, in coffee houses and community radio stations. Bars have a small but passionate group of patrons who want to turn off the TV, turn on the jukebox and talk rock music or sing along, without the 714s and with or without the JD.

And money, like everything it touches, is clawing at the soul of rock n’ roll in whole new way. I’m not inside the business, so I can’t comment on what the artists endure. But as part of the “rock community”, I’ve paid my dues and earned my say.

Think about what’s become of the great rock (classic rock if you must) anthems and songs. They’re showing up in TV commercials: The Stones selling financial planning, Led Zeppelin selling Cadillacs, others featuring The Spencer Davis Group, The Who, Bob Dylan, and old Motown classics. It all started with the Beatles’ “Revolution” turning up in a tennis shoe ad. Now, gradually, methodically, they’re selling off my culture.

Erik Erikson (1968) wrote eloquently of a youth identity crisis. That crisis could be the fuel that makes rock burn, but a lot of great rock is made by artists over 40. Now that I’m over 40, am I doomed to preach a dying counter-culture gospel? To twist Neil Young’s timeless poetry: old man take a look at your life, aren’t you a lot like they were?

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