Rock 'n' roll is not an energy drink. It is not a charismatic politician or an ice road trucker or an alligator killer or a Kardashian. It is not a car salesman or a carpenter from Nazareth.
So, what is it? What was Dave Grohl talking about at the Grammy’s last year as he tried to make sense of the “ROCK” categories? If you’re old enough, you’ll remember the groans of dismay at Jethro Tull’s win in the hard rock/metal performance category.
Thus began a slide into the dinosaur abyss. A three-chord graveyard that suffered from an electric power outage from which we are yet to recover.
What is rock 'n' roll? Is it Lil Wayne or Little Richard? Justin Bieber or Muddy Waters? Led Zeppelin or Good Charlotte? Katy Perry or Chrissie Hynde?
The answer lies within the ears, souls and hips of the beholder.
The blues began in the plantation fields of the south. Gospel hymns to Jesus that begged forgiveness were transformed via battered Sears and Roebuck six-string guitars, which later would become the symbol of a cultural revolution never seen before or since. Those carnal tales of lust and longing, revenge and redemption, God and the devil all fought for Robert Johnson’s very soul.
That raw passion was adopted by skinny white working class boys and girls in the 1960s who dressed like Oscar Wilde and played slide guitar like Elmore James. The dichotomy became the strangest hybrid in music history.
Elvis Presley appeared, and with Sam Phillip’s brilliance introduced "colored music" to a white audience. Little Richard’s scream, Chuck Berry’s incomparable, Americana poetry was all infused with carnal undulations of a sexed-up generation. Rock 'n' f**king roll.
That’s what it is, a synonym for sex. Or, it was.
Rock changed everything. Men suddenly had bangs. Boys and girls smoked grass and hashish, dropped acid, experimented with each other’s bodies, read Arthur Rimbaud, Lord Byron, Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs, Henry Miller and Krishnamurti. You get the
picture, only the picture was in a new frame. We were watching a new movie whose only special effect was guitar, bass and drums.
That, my friends, is rock 'n' roll…. and rock is not dead.
We must caress, embrace and thrust ourselves back into the groove. Let’s move to the unprocessed and unaltered spontaneity of authenticity.
Embrace imperfection as we did, and outlaw lip-syncing, auto- tuning, click tracks, loops and samples. No more robotic, Orwellian anesthetizing via the opiate of technological chicanery.
Where are the guttersnipes, the whippersnappers who snap at the heels of those comatose plagiarists who drop ecstasy and disappear in a trance of surrender to the tribe of a lost, tranquilized generation that gets high on video games and Cheetos, Snookie and Spider-Man.
I am not advocating some necrophiliac return to embrace the embalmed corpse of the past. I am advocating making an album with no overdubs, no trickery. I am advocating guys and girls standing in a room with judiciously placed mics counting off a song that they have
played in sweaty, hot nightclubs like their lives depended on it.
Which of course, they do.
For the record (vinyl if at all possible), I adore Arcade Fire, Jack White, The Alabama Shakes and the Black Keys. Absolutely!
My band recorded our album "Carnaby Street" in 7 days and mixed it in 3 days. No overdubs. One, maybe two takes, tops. In the moment, in your face – explosive, existential and rocking. You will love it almost as much as I do. Drop that needle!