I don’t believe it is. In fact, I know it isn’t. If you read some of the stories of late you’d be pressed into believing otherwise.
The Guardian kicked it off with this article then followed it up with another piece, but I guess the idea was just to spark interest in the headline. The pieces themselves didn’t say anything thought-provoking in my opinion (more like navel gazing from a music journo kinda thing), but the comments section offered to shine a lot more light on what the readers think on such a subjective story. In fact, a lot of good stuff if you scroll your way down the comments section.
What is rock’n’roll? It means so many things to so many different people. I think we’d agree on a traditional setup of vocals, guitar, bass and drums, but does that mean it’d be like “U2 jamming with Green Day”? Times have obviously changed, tastes, influences, definitive ‘sounds’ have moved on, evolved, then moved on again to something new. Growing up, I thought R’n’R was Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly or Elvis, then the ‘Roll’ seemed to disappear in my teenage years, when most of what I saw, bought, and listened to was predominantly rock (or should it be ‘RAWK’?).
Next, the singles charts (at least in the UK) were never predominantly about rock ‘n’ roll, but more focused on what was popular at the time. I remember taping the chart shows on a Sunday afternoon (think cassette tape here – it was the 80’s) and editing them for content. It was bloody hard work waiting to hear if they’d play “Run To The Hills” (“at this week’s #14”) or not, and eventually giving up on the chart show and instead waiting to hear Annie Nightingale who followed it on Radio One and never used to disappoint.
Rock’n’roll, for me at least, has been more about the albums and the live show experience (whether in person or on video/DVD). Sure, if there was a successful single from the album, great, but albums always seemed to count for more. Getting to #1 in the charts was great for the bank balance, but how many truly ‘great’ songs ever got to #1? Conversely, think about how many truly awful songs got to #1?
Rock’n’roll is about the spirit, the runaway train-like energy, the unsurpassable amount of positive vibes that a performance can create whether amongst the musicians on stage or to the audience. Rock’n’roll is about attitude, spirit, sweat, passion, and to use the Scots vernacular, being a bit ‘Gallus’ never hurt either. Rock’n’Roll is about a riff or a lick. A song under 3 minutes, or a song over 10. It’s about a song from the 50’s or a song from yesterday you heard a band playing at the local bar. It’s about singing in the shower or playing air guitar. Head-banging.
Rock’n’roll’s dead if you want it to be. Sure, there’s plenty of room out there for all of us and our weird and wonderful tastes in music. Sure, other kinds of music have their merits. More creative, more fashionable, more shoe-gazingly experimental, more “look at me I’m wearing a tree on my head and I’m needy”, but is there anything out there as simply satisfying as Rock’n’roll?