Posts Tagged ‘form your own band’

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

January 15, 2008


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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