“Old Time Rock And Roll” and the staying power of modern music

“Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll”

 – Bob Seger

You know, there’s nothing better than “the good ol’ days.”  Memories are always better than reality.  It’s so easy to reminisce of great stories of yester-year, all the while, dreading the start of a new work-week.  While growing up, I never understood my parent’s infatuation with listening to oldies.  Every time we got in the car, I was forced to listen to the likes of The Mamas & The Papas, Captain & Tenille, and Tommy James and The Shondells.  And I complained incessantly of not getting to listen to anything new.  When dad got behind the wheel though, at least there was a bit of a compromise.  I knew that I would hear something that was at least tolerable.  Instead of Diana Ross & The Supremes, I got Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. 

By the time I hit high school, I was more familiar with Jimi Hendrix, Bad Company, Queen, The Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith than I was with Bush, Live, Collective Soul, and…Aerosmith.  (At some point they’re gonna have to consider just sticking to the classics and stop putting out new albums!)  My cd collection more closely resembled a vinyl collection that was slaved over and gathered by some drugged-out hippie from my parent’s generation, than a 16-year-old growing up in the hair metal to grunge rock transition.  I completely ignored the birth of rap.  (But who could blame me for that?)  My dad would always laugh when I told him I wanted to listen to bands like Weezer, Buckcherry, and Cake.  It never failed, he would follow his laughter with the same question, “Where do these guys come up with these names?  Whatever happened to the days of Strawberry Alarm Clock, Mott The Hoople, and Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs?”  (Of course, he was being as sarcastic and ironic as he could.)

There has always been forgettable music, even in the hey-day of the all-time greats like The Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  I was going to try to refrain from mentioning these two, but it’s hard to ignore them when talking about some of the greatest, most influential music ever created, and I will get back to being on point after this miniature rant: I have NEVER been a big fan of The Beatles.  I think they are quite possibly the MOST overrated band of all time.  Yeah, you read that right.  I am more than willing to acknowledge that they were pioneers of rock and roll, and to this day are arguably the most successful performers in history.  I won’t deny that they had more #1 hits than I’ve had dates.  It’s their “fans” that get under my skin so much.  I loathe those that tout The Beatles for being the creators of rock and roll – for originating the styles that we hear today.  Oh really?  Then why are they not called the Kings of Rock and Roll?  Why is that title reserved specifically for Elvis Aaron Presley?  Do your research.  He birthed rock and roll.  I’ll concede that The Beatles advanced and evolved the genre, but they did not start it.  And for all the accolades they receive, why do other bands get overlooked for their contributions?  I would contend that Led Zeppelin had just as much to offer in terms of inventing and evolving the modern rock sound.  Moving on to my second half of the rant…do you know how many #1 hits CCR ever had?  Zero.  That’s right, none.  As far as I’m concerned they are the greatest band of all time to not have a #1 hit.  They were perpetually robbed by Jimi Hendrix or…The Beatles.  Maybe I’m a little bitter.  I still think CCR put out better songs than some of the ones that kept them off the top of the charts.  Sorry, I’m done here…back to the point.

Irrelevant, forgettable music is just as important, and obviously more abundant…just turn on the radio.  However, it provides listeners with the scope of how to gauge just how good REAL music is.  Without Creed, how would we know the talent level of a group like Pearl Jam? 

Shock factor has always been present, going back as far as Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off of a bat or anytime Alice Cooper stepped on stage, but now that has become the focus of the music.  The garbage that comes out these days has no “staying power,” so the so-called “superstars” have to resort to nonsensical stunts to stay relevant.  Over the weekend, I was subjected to repeatedly hearing about Justin Beiber’s  “haircut heard ’round the world.”  Last week it was Lady Gaga showing up to an awards show in an egg, then appearing on a talk show the next morning while wearing a full body condom.  Before that it was Britney Spears losing her mind and going off the deep end.  Remember Marilyn Manson’s rather tit-illating body suit?  These are all just news stories, but what is the last great album you remember? 

 Bizarre antics will always be a staple of the music industry to try and garner publicity, but it used to be a side note.  It used to take a backseat to the music that was being produced.  Now, the headlines are all that are remembered.  KISS produced stage shows that will never be forgotten.  Slipknot is a poor man’s modern-day ripoff.  Black Sabbath created albums that still sell huge numbers to this day.  This time next year, nobody will remember who had the best-selling album of 2010. 

Even some of my favorite modern bands, such as Seether and Disturbed, have resorted to the Hollywood recipe for success by just retreading some long-forgotten pop hit from the 80’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge sucker for a good cover song, but the originality is lacking, and may possibly be disappearing.  The ingenious styles of Eddie Van Halen and Tom Morello can only be duplicated (if you’re lucky), but will never be reinvented.  You could argue that the musical limitations that the guitar offers are close to being tapped out.  But that’s only an excuse.  With the infinite combination of notes, chords, scales, time signatures, rhythms, instrument combinations, synthesizers, etc., there will always be the possibility for the next “new thing.”  What I’m wondering is if anyone will know how to pull it off well.

(Note:  Country music and boy bands were intentionally ignored for obvious reasons.)

Thank you, that is all.


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