Last week i was sat on a train and i met an old friend from back in the day.
Of course talk turned quickly to rock n roll and swiftly it tuned out that we had two very different takes on the quicksilver magic of the form.
For him rock n roll as an art form was over. The golden days of rock n roll had been and gone. They had started with the Beatles Revolver and ended with Nirvana. These were the times when rock n roll mattered, when rock n roll was moving forward and that it was now over. The creative times were over and bands nowadays were lurking in the mere shadows of the golden era picking on the carrion and the bones of the glorious history.
He argued that the templates had been laid by the likes of the Beatles, Velvet Underground, the Pistols etc and the youth of today were at the best copies of these classic bands and at the worst just not very good. It was like the golden age of jazz or the great age of Russian literature- every art form has its golden period and then slumps back into the shadows, unable to compete.
Personally I disagreed, of course bands don’t dominate popular culture like the Beatles did but then all culture is now pop or popular culture. From the iphone to elections to modern war everything is sold as pop- what chance does a mere band have to compete with this in boundary crossing pop culture terms but whether this had affected the music or not is an entirely different question.
For me there is as innovative music happening right now as there ever was- from the fringes of black metal to the brilliant new rhythms in some top ten pop records to the never ending permutations of metal and rock and hip hop and underground dance- the inventiveness never stopped.
My friend dismissed this argument as rock didn’t count- he laughed when I suggested that Black Sabbath were more influential than the Velvet Undergound…a statement that I admit does sound preposterous if you are talking music in media terms but not in terms of who invented a whole entire huge genre of music that dominates over the much of the world today- and that wasn’t the Velvet Underground.
I explained that when I travel the world which is often music is very much alive with a myriad forms of noise pouring out of every continent and it sounds far from dead. Every permutation is getting explored- ancient forms cranked through new technology. If the anglo american axis is slightly less important it hasn’t stopped the creativity.
So where do you, dear reader, stand on this? Is the war over? Has music become yesterdays papers, a breaking yard of the old riffs? have we seen the golden age of rock n roll or are we now getting old and turning into our parents and moaning about music nowadays and how the only great stuff happened in our own personal golden era before we started staying in and watching the telly? Are we assuming our intensity about popular culture was only for our generation and that the current youth know and feel nothing…