Rock is Dead

As a rock music fan, it is difficult for me to stand back and appraise the impact of rock and roll in an objective and neutral manner. Growing up, I listened to music continuously, and over the years have bought it in almost every format from album to cassette to CD to digital. I owned early MP3 players (like the Rio) on to pretty much every variety of iPod. In addition, I have been going to concerts for many years, some of which I’ve discussed in the blog. I’d consider myself pretty knowledgeable about rock music from the ’60s through today.

At Lollapalooza I’ve seen the growth of “Perry’s Stage”, which is an electronic music tent. Here is a link to a post I wrote about it after the August 2011 show. I noticed how the young kids migrated over to the DJs and had a great time, while the “old” concert goers sat on blankets and watched the mainstream acts.

Today we look back on rock music as if it has always existed in its current form but it used to be an electric, alive, underground party. The rebellion has moved over to hip hop but the party migrated over to electronic music. Rock doesn’t stand a chance today in the popular consciousnesses compared to the DJs.

While rock bands struggle to find a few thousand fans at a show, the “Electric Daisy Carnival” can pack in over 100,000 fans a day. Here is the link to the trailer for the inaugural event that they will hold in Chicago.

It is amazing that the last Grammys telecast didn’t feature much in the way of electronic music, but then again they have not been a very good indicator of anything. They had many performers but none of the electronic winners were highlighted (last year they had a mash up with Deadmau5 and Dave Grohl, at least). The Grammys too are in the thrall of the past, but that’s to be expected since their demographics and voters skew so old.

It is easy to figure out where they kids are going. They are heading where ever there are bikinis and a good time. Bye bye rock music.

Cross posted at LITGM

20 thoughts on “Rock is Dead”

  1. Rock! It died last century sometime. When anything becomes mainstream it will die as an art movement almost right away.

    You really think the massive tours and income of Fleetwood Mac, not the real first band, had anything to do with art? Not me. I quit listening to Niel Young long ago and he’s about my age.

    Hip hop has largely taken over as the music of the young and there is so much high grade jazz now I have no problems. It’s true you might not recognize jazz these days as it has taken over a lot of the hard edge rock once had.

    Listening to “Best Regards” form Buckethead, Brain and Melissa these days. An absolute masterpiece on five CDs. I would have a hard time classifying it. I guess it’s BB&M meet Ornette Coleman and do the small band thing he used to own.

  2. I remember standing in a big nightclub-type place in Chicago, on Rush Street in the 1960s. It was a convention and a bunch of us went to this place. The band playing was called “My Brothers Keeper” and sounded just like the band “Chicago” later did. For a long time I thought it was the same band. Anyway, I have no time for Hip Hop or the other varieties of tuneless music my daughter likes.

  3. Rock is a niche music now. It is not part of a massive youth movement. So the energy won’t be there. And there is no longer a mass market like there used to be. When the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, almost everybody watched it. There is nothing close to that now.

    Still, I am finding that if you even dig around on you tube a little you can find young bands playing all kinds of good stuff.

    Rock can’t die. But it can’t be what it once was, either.

    Here are a few recent finds:

    Blooper, Astronaut

    Thee Attacks, It’s Alright

    Neighbors, Sober

    The Shucks, Where’s My Mom

    The problem is there is too much to wade through. But there are a lot of diamonds in the muck.

    Rock ain’t dead!

  4. Rock is dead.

    Here I am riding and listening to the Mamas and Papas which technically I suppose isn’t really rock – but realizing I am probably the only one in town at that moment listening to them.

    The Stones? Almost sad these days to see Mick jumping and prancing. With an equal age audience.

    Maybe each generation has its own music and for us it was rock.

    BTW when I was in Australia 25 years ago saw a TV movie on a little known (at least to me) but influential early rocker – Johnny O’Keefe.

    Wrote Shout among others. An Australian Bill Haley.

    Had a rather sad ending and the industry passed him by.

  5. Also, I can assure that there are teenagers who like rock and who are learning to play it.

    Last week I saw a bunch of teenage girls doing Sweet Child O’Mine — and it was good.

    It can’t be dead because I’ve seen it walking around.

    The truth is out there, gentlemen.

    That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.

  6. Emily’s Army, Broadcast This — this whole album is good. These guys are teenagers, with teenage fans.

    The problem for us old guys is the rock we loved is dying because the musicians we loved are all a bunch of geezers.

    But that doesn’t mean we have to pay attention only to the old geezers.

    That’s why God made teh Internets, to bless the diligent with new discoveries.

  7. Pete Townshend “Long Live Rock ”

    Down at the Astoria the scene was changing,
    Bingo and rock were pushing out X-rating,
    We were the first band to vomit in the bar,
    And find the distance to the stage too far,
    Meanwhile it’s getting late at ten o’clock,

    Rock is dead they say,
    Long live rock.
    Long live rock, I need it every night,
    Long live rock, come on and join the line,
    Long live rock,
    Be it dead or alive.

    People walk in sideways pretending that they’re leaving,
    We put on our makeup and work out all the lead-ins,
    Jack is in the alley selling tickets made in Hong Kong,
    Promoter’s in the pay box wondering where the band’s gone,
    Back in the pub the governor stops the clock,


    Landslide, rocks are falling,
    Falling down ’round our very heads,
    We tried but you were yawning,
    Look again, rock is dead, rock is dead, rock is dead.

    The place is really jumping to the high-watt amps,
    ‘Til a 20-inch cymbal fell and cut the lamps,
    In the blackout they dance right into the aisle,
    And as the doors fly open even the promoter smiles,
    Someone takes his pants off and the rafters knock,


  8. Bill, it is neither dead nor dormant. It is simply no longer the main music enjoying mass popularity. But there is lots of rock being made, some of it good, but it is for niche audiences not mass audiences.

  9. }}}} It is amazing that the last Grammys telecast didn’t feature much in the way of electronic music, but then again they have not been a very good indicator of anything. They had many performers but none of the electronic winners were highlighted (last year they had a mash up with Deadmau5 and Dave Grohl, at least). The Grammys too are in the thrall of the past, but that’s to be expected since their demographics and voters skew so old.

    I can’t recall the last time I bothered to
    a) watch the Grammys.
    b) pay any attention to who won the Grammys.
    c) listened to anything because “Hey, it won a Grammy award”.

    I’m put in memory of Sports Night, s1e2, “The Apology”
    Casey: Can I just say one more thing about the Starland Vocal Band?
    Dan: Sure.
    Casey: 1978, they win the Grammy for Best New Artist. You know who they beat? Elvis Costello. Now is it your belief that Elvis Costello isn’t cool?
    Dan: No, it’s my belief that the Grammy voters aren’t cool.
    Casey: Now they tell me.

    Note: according to the Wiki entry (which I believe to be correct): Casey is incorrect about the Grammys. The Starland Vocal Band won their “Best New Artist” award in 1976. They couldn’t have beaten Elvis Costello for the win, as his first album wasn’t released until 1977.

  10. The most notorious example of the Grammys being out of touch was the 1989 Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal when it was awarded to Jethro Tull instead of Mettalica.

    They seem to have lost their relevance long ago. It started when there were only a few major labels with only about several dozen real recording artists at most on a handful of radio stations whose playlists were controlled by the mob. The industry was controlled from the top down with the award being bestowed by the central planners in order to give legitimacy to their designated stars. Now technology has blown the system wide open. There could be as many as a million composers, songwriters, and publishers with streaming content services using algorithms to suggest songs (and soon algorithms to actually create the music). It’s been reborn as a bottom up ecosystem. Giving awards now would be like honoring the best tree species of the year. Turns out human creativity doesn’t follow commodity models for very long.

    The recording industry over the last decade or so is actually going to be a good model for the manufacturing industry, especially if Apple starts making things.

    I wonder if much of the problem with rock is it can’t scale with the changing platform. It still dominates radio, but that technology’s time has come and gone also.

    Anyway, this is my first post. I came across your blog some time ago and have enjoyed reading it. Interesting discussions.

  11. – The scale/operations of the business is much different, where bands once toured to build an audience, they now need to be savvy media consultants. Operationally, labels don’t necessarily send their groups out on the road anymore because it is costly and requires a longer development time. Of course with the advent of software-based recording set ups, it is less important for labels to require high levels of musicianship that can only be developed over time. Precision/mastery is easily replicated by the sound engineering team.
    – When bands toured, they honed their craft. The live product was exciting because you were able to experience new and rare moments tht took the music to new levels. Most of today’s acts are rehearsed stagecraft, where the chances of seeing/hearing something new is low. Conversely, you are much more likley to see an electronic act do something new and risky live that results in a memorable experience tht rock and rollers loved about its own genre.
    – When labels trot out the 60’s acts as rock headliners, its no wonder kids as a whole aren’t interested. No kids get excited for their grandparent’s music (Sinatra, et al excluded)

  12. Not dead, my teenage kids listen to it, everything from Led Zep to the rock bands of the early Oughts. IT won’t die as long as some kid is playing three chords on a second-hand guitar (geez , can I throw in a few more cliches?) Just no longer the dominant music or cultural driver it once was.

    I’m cool with it, 60 odd years is more than enough a back catalog to keep me hearing something new (and a lot that’s derivative) for a long time.

  13. Wow, that Electric Mess is really good! I have no idea how I’d ever find it, though, without Lexington Green to point me at it. I can’t imagine it being played anywhere other than a college radio station.

  14. @Peter – and then there were….The Monkees. I read that initially they couldn’t even read music; being created for a TV Series. Then they started to learn how to play. As Micky Dolenz put it: ” “The Monkees really becoming a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.”

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