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The Magic of Rock Music

18 November 2012, 20:25

Rock music is the most versatile and, without a doubt, the most inventive genre of music since its birth in late 1940s.

It was initially a composite of jazz, gospel and country music and was verboten for decent white American kids. Which made them all listen to it, of course.

In 1951, Alan Freed coined the term Rock ‘n Roll to describe this new genre which was sweeping across America, much to the horror of middle-class America.

Officially, ‘Rock around the Clock’ was the first rock ‘n roll song, although some musicologists claim that singular honour for ‘Johnny B Goode’ by Chuck Berry.

This was all small fry, of course, as the king was on his way.

In 1956, Elvis took the crown and never relinquished it until his death in 1977.

‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was unique in many senses, not least because it was the first time a white man had recorded a Blues song.

It didn’t take long for Elvis Presley to become just Elvis, and his impact on music in general, and rock music in particular, can never be overstated.

From those early years through The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and, the first rock band to have a one-word name, Cream, rock music evolved in so many different directions that, by the late sixties, it could be fairly said, music was at its creative peak.

And it was all driven by rock.

From about 1966, the Revolver era for The Beatles, you had bands like Cream, the fledgling Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, The Nice, Atomic Rooster, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Renaissance, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Focus, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and the list goes on and on…

These bands were unique in a very large sense: they all had their own sound and were working on ways to develop that sound.

The record companies were also more patient then, so Yes could go into the studio for six weeks, and come out with ‘Fragile’, one of the all-time great records. And of course, there were no electronics to fix voices in those years. You played your instrument, you played it well, and your voice was as good as you could make it.

I recently watched Woodstock again, for the first time since 1970 and yes, it is overwhelmingly pretentious in places (who really wants to see the stage being put together and the grass cut while Crosby Stills Nash and Young sing ‘Wooden Ships’?), it was a record of some truly marvellous music and, unfortunately and era which has passed.

The best of the modern bands sound like they come from that era. And there are some very good modern bands, make no mistake. But where is the next Hendrix coming from?

He’s not, because music has become too formulaic for someone as uniquely individually gifted to survive, let alone thrive.

A great guitarist like Allan Holdsworth plays to audiences of hundreds, while Lady Gaga plays for tens of thousands. King Crimson are still going strong, but their music is never going to sell big, because it is too avant garde.

U2 are huge and pretty old, and I don’t see any bright new stars on the horizon. Joe Satriani had everyone talking in 1987, but who has there been since him? The answer is no-one.

In my opinion, and it irks me to say it, Metal is carrying the torch at the moment. I don’t like it, aside from a few rare songs, but they are as original and varied as rock bands from the golden era.

The worst is, of course, when great bands, like The Beatles, do appalling rubbish like ‘Oobla di oobla da’ or Emerson Lake and Palmer do ‘Ce La Vie’. Dog turds from thoroughbreds.

When The Archies did ‘Sugar Sugar’ or Middle of the Road did ‘Chirpa Chirpa Cheep Cheep’, that’s acceptable. They were an earlier version of Justin Bieber.

I cannot think of a band playing today who could write ‘Eleanor Rigby’ or ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

The bands still somehow turning out great songs, always did. Deep Purple are still doing it, but they’re in the minority. Show me another ‘Child in Time’. Where is it going to come from?

Kansas produce their last album in 1999 and it was brilliant, but what is there that comes close to this, their last offering, ‘Somewhere to Elsewhere’?

I would like to hear your thoughts on this and see if I am alone in this. Music is dear to my heart and jazz is probably my favourite genre, but rock is very special and it would be terrible to see it die to the bulldozers of mediocrity.  

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