What’s new? When it comes to rock and roll, I’m not sure — although there has been a recent effort to, inadvertently and otherwise (advertently?), correct that deficiency.
This blog, basically, is about The Music, the tunes of the 1960s and ’70s. But rock didn’t end in 1979, although the fin de décennie disco trend threatened to kill it off. There was good stuff in the ’80s and, less so, in the fin de siecle of the 20th Century.
The new Millennium? We need to perhaps back up and ask, what is rock? Is it essentially popular music, or just 12-bar African-American blues interpreted by British artists, imported to its land of origin and reinterpreted again, and again, etc.?
But what is the pop music of the 21st Century? Hip-hop? Rap? For those of us who enjoyed the artistry of rock — guitar and keyboard solos, interesting bass and drum work, soaring vocals — those genres leave us wanting. Who ever will say, “Wasn’t that a great guitar riff” in a rap number?
So who’s doing what people like me liked best about The Music — the provocative lyrics, genre-bending instrumentation, etc.? Beats me. I mostly listen to the music I was listening to 40-plus years ago, but friends — including my wife (10 years younger than I, and influenced by a different generation of pop/rock) prod me periodically to listen to something new.
And I do, occasionally. The non-rap/hip-hop field seems to belong to the “indie” artists, and many of them seem to have picked up the torch and carried it on. Bon Iver — which has/had a connection to Eau Claire, Wis., near where I live — is instrumentally complex and accomplished, and lyrically interesting.
I heard a band called Cloud Cult at Ashley for the Arts (an annual festival in our area), that was in the same vein, and enjoyable. When Jeanne and I travel, we listen to other channels on Sirius XM — she doesn’t like my favorite, Deep Tracks — and hear bands like Imagine Dragons, which I also enjoy. But none of these do the same thing for me as the likes of my favorite groups from the ’60s and ’70s.
I regularly listen to the Spectrum on Sirius XM, which blends classic rock with new music. But my 12-year-old pickup has an early sat radio, without the technology that IDs the music; so, unless the DJ tells me who I’ve just heard, I only know that I’ve heard something new.
And sometimes I’m not sure what the Spectrum DJs/programmers consider old, or new. I regularly hear songs like R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion” (which I really like). But it’s from 1991, 27 years ago — so is it classic rock, too, or something new(er)?
When Jeanne and I travel, our usual sat rad compromise is Soul Town, which plays a nice mix of Motown, R&B and soul. But it also had a definite playlist, and repeats it.
So on our recent trip to Milwaukee, my bride took the driver’s prerogative, and seized control of the radio dial. I was going to hear something new, so for two to three hours, I got a tour of the current hits and more-recent musical trends.
Sorry to say, they mostly sounded all the same to me. The beat didn’t seem to vary very much, there wasn’t much meat to the lyrics, and I came away convinced that, at least in that genre, the flame has burned out.
On the way back from the City that Made Beer Famous, we mostly listened to the ’80s on Eight. That was the decade that my tail-end-of-the-Baby-Boom lady came of age, and one that I found entertaining, if not quite up to the standards of its two predecessors.
The ’80s, of course, was the heyday of the music video, so pop music sometimes seemed to be as much about how you looked, as what you played. But there were bands doing interesting music: Dire Straits, the Fixx, Tears for Fears, U2 and others.
The ’90s was not without its charms, either. Its most prominent contribution, Grunge, didn’t do that much for me, but I liked stuff by Barenaked Ladies, Eve 6, the Gin Blossoms, the Wallflowers and some bands that I couldn’t identify if I had to.
But getting back to our drive back home two weeks ago, at some point the programming switched over to a period Top 40 countdown, specifically from 1987, the year that our life together began. And I found myself wondering, did I just not listen to music that year? Who were these bands, and what songs were these by the bands that I knew?
Since then, I’m back home, listening to music while I work on my computer — mostly Deep Tracks — and in my Dakota. And it’s The Music of the ’60s and ’70s. After all, I really can’t get it outta my head …