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Rock Is Dead – or is it?

So rock is dead?

So claims the latest report that sees rock records sink to their lowest representation in the singles chart ever and the ”Ëœhead of music’ at Radio One say that no great rock records are getting made these days and ”Ëœpop professor’ Paul Gambaccini claim that rock has become a dead genre like jazz.This, it has to be said is about the thinnest possible evidence of a genre’s demise you could gather.

I mean who actually cares about the singles chart in the 21st century? You can get a No1 single by selling less than a metal band would draw to one stadium gig in the UK. If anything is dead, it is the singles chart.
In the fast forward rush of multi cultures and internet file sharing and youtube and spotify and a thousand ways of accessing music does the singles chart actually mean anything? is it a barometer of what’s going on like it was once?
Is it fuck.

Or is a place for Major labels to hype their safe acts and celebrity novelty hits and ”Ëœbest ever selling single of all time’ X Factor chancers to no-one apart from autistic males who care about numbers and no-one else? Does anyone in the whole world care what number 18 in the single charts is this week? Can anyone name all the X factor ”Ëœstars’ who have number one ”Ëœsmashes’. Can these ”Ëœstars’ sell anything now apart from burgers at Muckdonalds?
Does rock need to be in the singles chart to prove itself?
Rock music has always been pushed to the side by the record labels and the music industry- we all know they prefer their music far less spiky and the same goes for ”Ëœwonderful’ Radio One- that in its mainstream form still plays anti-rock music.
I’m fine with them and their pop agenda- there are some great pop records-I’m bored of their obsession with Cowell pop though and it been given 99 per cent of media time and the other one per cent to Jools Holland and his damn piano- another show that goes nowhere near anything loud.
I’m bored of this endless editing of what goes on.
How come a band like Rammstein can sell out the arena in Manchester (20 000) people and not get played anywhere on the radio- selling out an arena is an act of a popular band- that’s pop and that should be recognised by the BBC- a public service.
But, of course, they know better and they stick rigidly to their Cowell pop agenda and on the fringes white boy indie rules the roost- ok as a genre as well but rock is forced onto the fringes- do you hear any Scandinavian black metal? Nope- a hugely popular form of music across the world that never gets any mainstream attention. That’s just one corner of the rock empire that carries on ignoring the self-congratulating music mainstream. Even today Kerrang is still the best selling music weekly in the world and Metal hammer is one of the very few music papers that’s circulation increases.
The mainstream media pulls silly faces and acts zany and acts like its got something to do with music but it’s still populated by grinning buffoons and musical conservatives who are STILL scared of guitars turned up above 2/10 because it’s the sound of sex. They still play what they are told to by market researchers. They have the fear.
So Absolute Radio COO, Clive Dickens, told Music Week that guitar-based music was “in a real lull” in 2010 and George Ergatoudis, head of music at Radio 1, said “brilliant” rock songs were rare- someone from Radio 1 thinks rock is dead.
So what?
Radio One has never played rock music. It’s been terrified of anything that is loud and thrilling since the BBC created it to crush the pirates in the sixties. Of course they play fringe music in the evenings and they have loads of great DJ’s doing it pushed away when only the fanatics care. Daytime radio one has been an endless pitiless trough of inanity and always will be.
To be honest neither of these aforementioned heads of music are much to do with music. They hold all the power and have none of the interest. They wouldn’t know what a great rock song is.
You have a huge genre of music with its own infrastructure cut adrift from the cosy world of mainstream media, a mainstream media obsessed with celebrity.
How could it possibly understand what rock music was, how could they tell a good rock record from a bad rock record. They sit there in their ivory towers overlooking London pontificating about music occasionally then it’s back to the rounds of award ceremonies etc. They don’t live in the music world.
Rock is perfectly fine.
It exists in a huge cutting edge form well away from ”Ëœwonderful’ Radio One and the hot top twenty countdown that no-one gives a toss about.

It can be Shellac recent astonishing gigs in the UK or Sunn O))) deconstructing music yet again and creating a new cutting edge. It can by AC/DC with the second best selling album of all time or it can be an endlessly noisy and huge sprawling underground world from punk to death metal. It never needed the charts- it was about music and community and not about being number 7.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. If anything’s dead, it’s the charts. Full of same sounding, manufactured, insipid dross by and large, with the odd exception like Celo Green and Plan B perhaps, who are clearly both inspired by soul artists like Al Green and Smokey Robinson. What will be inspiring people 30 years down the line? Matt Cardle? Leon Jackson? Steve Brookstein? Wagner? For me, you still can’t beat a bit of rock, whether it’s classic stuff like Free or Led Zeppelin, punk’s The Sex Pistols or The Clash, or even cheesier 80s pop rock like Whitesnake or Heart. Music should be about musicianship, not packaging and puffery. It will be a very sad day when we forget that and consign rock music to the scrap heap.

  2. Hear, Hear! Even when all the rock giants are dead and gone, rock will continue to be followed, watched, played, written about and appreciated by millions of people, young and old. Here’s our manifesto at ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP: httpss://bit.ly/fjta26


  3. It seems to me there’s a very obvious question here, which as far as I can see nobody has asked. Why is the singles chart being used as an all-purpose barometer of trends in, and the the health of, music?

    Why is it assumed that artists, or entire musical forms, which don’t show up in the singles chart are somehow a failure, regardless of success they may have notched up elsewhere?

    Why, in 2011, are we still encouraged to regard the singles chart as the all-purpose yardstick of success, as if we’re still living in the early 1960s and the 7″ single is the hottest format of the day?

    Led Zeppelin never made a showing in the singles chart – for the simple reason that they never released a single. By this reasoning, the Zep were a hopelessly unsuccessful band!

    Either the music biz is just being gormless here – possibly nobody in the industry has enough intelligence to figure out a genuinely useful measure of success for the 21st century, so they’re just defaulting back to the way it’s been done for the last 40 or 50 years…

    Or this is deliberate. Somebody, somewhere, has a vested interest in portraying rock as unsuccessful.

    What’s really going on here?

  4. the mainstream and the record companies have no idea-they gave up years ago. music is thriving and new models and new ways of doing things proliferate. whether it’s myspace, twitter or pledgemusic (see @CornershopHQ) there’ll always be a way of getting decent music out there. @freshnet, myspace, online radio and decent shows on 6 music break loads of new bands in a flourishing scene. the king is dead, long live the king. and long live john robb!

  5. BBC Radio 1 DOES Play Rock music in the daytime In fact Really heavy Metalcore bands like While She Sleeps, Bring Me The Horizon & AxeWound have all gotten daytime play in the last few years and Greg James also played Despite My Deepest Fear because he personally likes the track and you also get good Rock tracks from Huw Stephans on daytime weekends, Zane Lowe also plays very heavy stuff (when something new’s out) and he’s on at 7PM which teens like me can listen to, + the Rock & Punk shows on Radio 1 as well honestly there’s so much Rock on BBC Radio 1 especially on night time shows is unbelievable


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