Rock and Roll will never die (just f-f-fade away)

December 7, 2011

I just got interviewed in A&G. You can see it online here .

Old Leicester chum Watto says he is getting a T-shirt made referring to the big-photons episode. Another old Leicester chum, Grimmers, aka @compactdwarf, referred to the interview as a “centrefold” which left me feeling a tad uncomfortable, but there we go. It also sparked off a debate with my grad student @wordled_muds, aka Jack The Lad. I thought I would expose the argument here and see what you think.

My children tell me that online social networking is the great cultural contribution of their generation, like rock and roll was the great contribution of ours. I don’t really like Facebook (although I do join in) but I love Twitter and blogs. I jumped on Google+ as soon as it came out, and yes indeedy it was dead cool – but also a tad disappointing. Somehow I was expecting something radically new and surprising, whereas it turned out to be pretty much like Facebook but done better. So it seems the revolutionary era is over, and we are into variations on a theme.

In a similar fashion, because rock music seemed to turn the world upside down between 1955 and 1968, I assumed that there would be some kind of revolution in music once a decade. But in fact, I would contend, nothing revolutionary has happened since. The different flavours of music since are really just variations on the same kind of stuff. I am not saying that the old stuff is the best. I think I might vote for Pretty Balanced  as best band ever. But its the same type of music I knew and loved in the seventies.

Jack M thought this wrong, and quoted dance, electronic, and dubstep as the proof. My feeling is that dubstep in particular is indeed pretty original, but not that far from the structure and feel of rock music. More to the point, none of these had the wide cultural and social impact of rock and roll. I could point you at even more radical modern music, but only about four and half of us care. A stronger case might be made for rap music, which is on a line through gospel and soul and Detroit rather than through blues and country and rock; and rap has had considerable social impact.

But I still think that if you take the helicopter view, jazz and rock were the only two musico-cultural revolutions in the twentieth century. I might give you rap music as a major earthquake without being a full scale revolution.