… so you wanna be a rock ‘n’ roll star?


So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star?

Well listen now, hear what I say.


take some time

and learn how to play.


And when your hair swung right,

and your pants get tight

it’s gonna be alright.


Well, then it’s time to go downtown

to the agent man,  he won’t let you down.

Sell your soul to some company

who are waiting there to sell plastic ware.

And in a week or two if you make the charts

the girls will tear you apart.


It’s the price you pay for riches and fame,

was it all a strange game?

You’re a little insane

the money that came, and the public acclaim,

don’t forget what you are,

You’re a rock ‘n’ roll star.

La la la la la la…

… the Byrds, circa 1967


Okay… I’ve been around the block party a time or two. Seen ’em come and go, and come again! One hit wonders, flash in the pans, pop sensations, rebels, boy bands, trend setters, rock geniuses, stage suits and socks on their… ah-hem! (shall we just say ‘private parts?’ … which was pretty ballsy, I have to admit.)

Rock ‘n’ roll never forgets… and what is really cool is the fact that it crosses over from generation to generation. The message is the same… express yourself and revel in the freedom to do so. Grab an air guitar and get down… get funky, get rhythm, get with it, get happy, get back! get it on! …get it together.

To me a guitar is the main stay instrument for rock and roll. When my daughter told me Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was dissing the need for the electric guitar for modern rock, I kinda dissed Radiohead. When Kid A came out, I listened to it once then gave it away (to my daughter) and thought “What happened?” I love Radiohead. OK Computer, Pablo Honey, My Iron Lung (U.K. EP) and my favorite, The Bends, are great efforts that I never tire of. But they lost me on Kid A which was followed by Amnesiac, and that CD was a real downer and (pardon the pun) forgettable.

The cool thing is that we can all be experts and still have our own taste. Rock is all encompassing, it opens it’s arms wide and welcomes all of us. It is universal, at least… for us earthlings. Maybe Kid A was extraterrestrial driven.

I wonder what aliens from another galaxy would think of rock ‘n’ roll? Think early 50’s black and white films of sock hops and hot rod convertibles. Mr. Spock with a duck tail, cuffed jeans and a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his t-shirt sleeve.  Obi Wan Kenobi at Woodstock (the first one) putting on a trippy light show with his sabre, teaching the zen of the force to acid freaks. Or ET as a head banger, text messaging home with his I-phone. Would the music speak to them in the same manner as it does humans? Rock ambassadors of the world unite!

Now a days the industry is in a tail spin, trying to regroup and capture the audience it had in it’s glory days back before the Internet brought a new way of distributing and producing music. But though the message remains virtually the same, it’s delivery has become more diverse. No more the cruel victim of the puppet masters… expression moves without filters, marketeers or censors. Rock has matured and skipped the middle man. Musicians are managing to find their audience and receive royalties from their efforts without giving up a major slice of the pie, which is cool. It always seemed a shame to me that the music that was “stickin’ it to the man” was actually lining his pockets.

But on the flip side, some of the restrictions placed on artists was not necessarily a bad thing, for it’s time. Think of Elvis without his pelvis on the T.V. screen. Or Bob Dylan refusing to change a lyric on the Ed Sullivan Show. Or the Rolling Stones complying, for that matter. Or the Doors saying they would then renegin’ live and being banned from the program for life. You gotta wonder if it was really detrimental to the music or a infringement on the artist’s freedom of expression.

I believe in the right to express oneself as long as it doesn’t infringe on the next persons right not to have to hear it. I support freedom of speech which is freedom of movement from one idea to the next. In this case a rock progression, if you will.

But now the gloves are off… most anything goes. Songs about rape and murder, songs about torture, songs about Devil worship… is this the evolution of rock? Sometimes I feel like there is no place else left to go, that the shock value has run it’s course. Like a kid that gets away from his parents and can now say the “f” word with impunity in order to feel all grown up.  No wonder sales are down, where is the lifting spirit that used to make us soar?

A little bit of restraint is a good thing, a little bit of respect for an audience is a good thing, a little bit of self control is a good thing. The genie is out of the bottle… who can put it back in? Well… we can, the listeners. The people that buy the music.

So there is the rub. Rock rebellion has to be fed by cash. We all may march to a different drummer, but the beat remains the same… your cash ain’t nuthin’ but trash, but it sure comes in handy.

Interestingly enough, Radiohead recently released a new CD, In Rainbows, which was actually downloadable (?) and offered on a contribution basis. No muss, no fuss. No label, no middle man, virtually a glimpse into the future of music production. Of course, not every band is Radiohead. A struggling group just starting out couldn’t afford to go to the expense to offer their work in such a fashion, but that day may be coming soon.

I argued once about lyrical content, saying that John Lennon wouldn’t stretch rock’s credibility the way it has been now. My brilliant and beautiful counterpart said that John was a genius and that wasn’t a fair analogy. But I wonder if genius does not beget genius.  True genius makes us sit up and take notice, it wakes us in the middle of the night because we figured out the message and now we are definitely more hip than we were before we finally heard the lyricists subtle refrain… “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream…” 

I think a sly fox gets away with far more than a barking dog… which is what makes rock and roll fun. The message was supposed to be hidden, because not everyone was going to get it.

So I’ve listened to In Rainbows and I like it. Perhaps there is hope for me. I loaded it on my nano and shuffled it in with my other Radiohead CDs. I even borrowed a copy of Kid A and put it in there, too.

It deserved a second chance because it comes from good stock…

Long live rock.

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11 Responses to “… so you wanna be a rock ‘n’ roll star?”

  1. 15tracks Says:

    “No wonder sales are down, where is the lifting spirit that used to make us soar?
    A little bit of restraint is a good thing, a little bit of respect for an audience is a good thing, a little bit of self control is a good thing.”

    True words man, true words.
    Nice post.

  2. chrisfiore5 Says:

    thanks man,

    I appreciate the visit and the comment…

    rock on.

  3. bananatree Says:

    Rock, like anything else runs in weird cycles. The first few rock bands were extremely simplistic, and as the course of time dragged on, it got more and more complex, this then caused rebellions in the underground. Punk, hardcore and noise/experimental music in the 1970s really shows us that.

    We’re in a period of musical factions that almost out number the acts making them. Radiohead alone has a “Genre Venn diagram” with their name on it. Everything is getting mushed around, and it seems like everyone is making it.

    Right now, rather than have highly complex music to rebel against, we have just so much of it. Waaaayyy too much music is out there to support the old way of selling records, indie bands in the thousands are touring around and selling hand made goods just for the fun of it.

    Soon we will be seeing more and more polished bands, being put out by Record labels with intent on making millions. A new band that comes on the scene with haircuts, outfits and lyrics that all correspond to a certain marketing tactic. This is not new, but the way they will be bringing it to us will be.

    Since almost anyone with a Macbook can cut a record, the people with the most money are going to be able to do it a lot better than those without. Even without talent, corporate crap like William Hung can be punched out and be marketed to millions, while the underground bands are making peanuts.

    Wow, I wrote a lot more than I thought I would. I personally can only take music as a hobby and be fortunate if I make any money off of it.

  4. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hey bananatree,

    you DID write a lot and you’re welcome to do it here…

    and I agree. There is a lot of music out there for every size, shape and lifeform.

    Will the golden days of the industry return? hard to say, and the marketing of such acts was paramount to the groups success and the industry’s revenue. To them, it was never about spreading joy, it was about making money.

    There are thousands of talented bands out there that are building audiences and enjoy relative success, which is good. But the gratifying thing about the industry was that however it was perceived, the world was drawn by a common thread, rock ‘n’ roll. It wouldn’t have happened without the record labels.

    Groups like Radiohead or the Beatles, for that matter, enjoy their fame because of the exposure the labels gave them. They’d never come close to what they know now if not for their marketability.

    thanks for the input…


  5. Brilliant & Beautiful Counterpart Says:

    We’ve now left the well-known and well-travelled paths of rock & roll, where we have built a history of facts and experiences. The Internet has given us a chartless sea of imagination (with all its inherent dangers, of course) to express ourselves, to appreciate others’ expressions, and to just plain be entertained. I’m wondering if rock still hasn’t come of age yet….I wonder if what we see & hear now in music is part of its evolution to stand on its own. In the past, we’ve known rock to be free and pure, and we’ve known it to be imprisoned & sullied by sales & promotion & marketing. I don’t think either of these poles are the true center of rock. There’s no balance yet, just extremes: Radiohead is certainly an established band, & I get what you’re saying about how they wouldn’t have been as successful with the no-fuss release of their latest CD if they had done this at the beginning of their career…. but there are plenty of indies out there who encourage people to share their music for free, to pass it along, who aren’t interested so much in selling their music as they are in promoting it. Promotion isn’t always about making money. Radiohead wouldn’t have been able to offer their CD the way they did had it not been for indies (mostly unknown) doing the same thing. And indies wouldn’t be able to do their indie thing if not for bands like Radiohead.

    The Internet is giving bands the opportunity to swing the pendulum a little more towards center, away from the profit-driven mentality of mainstream artists. Think of big names who release yet again a regurgitation of their greatest hits….or even bigger names who put forth a double CD, one 20-minute disc of mediocre new material, and a second 60-minute disc of their rehashed songs from the past. Thanks, but if I want to get soaked, I’ll go run through my sprinkler.

    But finding balance in rock won’t be for awhile yet, I think, because like Bananatree says, there is wayyyyy too much music out there. I don’t necessarily see that as a detriment to music as an industry, however. It’s part of rock’s evolution, refining through proliferation. In the end, we are the ones who determine how this goes, because we’re the ones buying into it.

    John Lennon is a genius, but he did push rock’s credibility as much as he could in the place that he was in. We’ll continue this conversation…..
    Meanwhile, this was a great post, with many other aspects that I’d love to bring up over tofu & tomatoes one night….

    Peace, my man

  6. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hello BB,

    hmmm… sometimes rather than swing the pendulum circles, searching for an appropriate force to put it back in motion again.

    Interesting thing about John… back around 1969 the social unrest against the establishment was growing stronger and more violent. The popularity of the Beatles as a guiding force amongst their fans was near a zenith. Many critics felt that they could influence the public in a revolution of sorts. But when the song, Revolution, came out with the mantra…

    “…but if you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell you is buddy you’ll have to wait. Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright?” With no call to arms, no burning, no looting… just a peaceful solution was the Beatles request… that may have disappointed some.

    Later in an interview John wisely said, “We knew the power we had at the time, but decided to go the other way.”

    That is the genius I’d like to see future artists emulate…

    But rather than tofu and tomatoes… can we make it Pringles and Ding Dongs?

    much peace to you… Brilliant & Beautiful

  7. msdane Says:

    Regarding your comment to Brilliant and Beautiful.

    Ah, I see you’re still a junk food junkie–remember the song? Pringles and Ding Dongs?

  8. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hello msdane…

    I definitely remember that song, but I gave up being a junkie a while ago…

    I was just trying to come up with a stark contrast to tofu and tomatoes…

    BB and I are like peas and carrots. 😉


  9. roberto Says:

    I beg introduce Website sale for electric guitars Super save today. – http://astore.amazon.com/buy.cheap.discount.electric.guitars-20

  10. Bob Marley Says:

    i always wanted to be a rock and roll star, i used to chill with hendrix back in the 60s we would drop acid and look at lava lamps like the ones on http://www.lavadream.com i miss that guy

  11. chrisfiore5 Says:

    well Bob… don’t get caught up in all that purple haze.


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