Most people I share my music with are pretty impressed with my wide range in musical tastes. You’ll find me listening to Mogwai one moment, Brahms the next, an 80s pop classic the next, some psychedelic deep cut the next, and then maybe a song that everyone loves (but no one wants to admit to loving). Picking a favorite genre is like picking a favorite appendage. Do I like post punk and my right pinky? Do I like classic rock and my big toe? What about 1960s hippie music and my right thumb? Or maybe new wave and my – you get the point? But truth be told – while picking a favorite genre is indeed like picking a favorite appendage, I do have a favorite genre….and that is my – that is good old rock and roll!
What do I mean by rock and roll? Do I mean Rock out with your….uhhh, Def Leppard? Thoughtful, politically motivated and passionate U2? Soulful and R & B inspired bands like The Rolling Stones? Journey, Jack White, The Eagles, Roxette’s first album? The answer is simple…..YES! Yes, I mean it all! Every single one of those! I like the stuff that makes me sing into a hair dryer, 80s style. I like the stuff that get’s my booty moving, I love the stuff that’s incredibly complicated musically, and, I’ll admit —- I kind of even like Stryper. The question I ask is simply – does it rock? If yes, it does indeed rock, then I consider it rock.
Why do I like it though? Why can I jam to Bad Religion’s 21st Century Digital Boy? Why can I scream the lyrics of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck? And why do I make fun of Lars Ulrich? Well – the answer to the first two questions is because – it rocks! It just does. It sounds good loud, (and it might get loud). The answer to the second is that Lars Ulrich is a pansy! I mean a sell out! I mean a member of a band that used to be good! I mean a …..I’m digressing, but shame on you Metallica. Break up already!
Don’t get me wrong by the way – I’m not at all trying to define rock and roll for everyone – I’m just trying to define it for me – and to me, rock and roll is true to the musician – even if that means the musician is a shallow fogwad that only cares about getting stoned and laid. Warrant’s cherry pie is a dumb song – but it rocks nonetheless! KISS’s I want to rock and roll all night might be dumb and banal lyrics – but they’re true to themselves in that message. And let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to rock and roll all night and party every day? Ok….ok. Maybe I would need a break now and then to sleep and read and freaking get some peace and quiet….but the song is hyperbole anyways!
By the way, every artist is allowed a little stupidity or banality. U2, who is one of my favorite bands and is known for their politically charged and passionate lyrics wrote a song for the soundtrack of Batman freaking Forever. No, Hold me, Kiss me, Thrill Me Kill Me wasn’t the angry call to justice as say, Sunday Bloody, Sunday – but it was fun and even if they sold out by making a song for one of the most hated superhero movies of all time, I still feel like they put themselves in the song – and therefore the song still rocks (and at least Bono didn’t wear Robin’s bat nipple costume – ugg).
This of course doesn’t mean that a rock song can’t suck. Steve Miller’s lyrics really do suck at times (Big ol’ Jet Airliner anyone)? And do we really need to mention STIX’s Come Sail Away? ALIENS? Really? Some would say “We Built this City” by Starship is one of the worse rock and roll songs ever recorded. I disagree – but those people are certainly entitled to their opinions. Personally, I think “Sweet Home Alabama” is kind of dumb. But just as I’m not here to define rock and roll for the masses, I’m also not here to say my taste in songs is the only correct one. I’m just saying some rock songs suck, and just because they’re from the heart and all that – this doesn’t mean that they get a pass.
Back to the definition of Rock – I kind of left out something important. It’s why the Beastie Boys song “Sabotage” rocks, and “Intergalactic” does not.
I love both songs. I really do – but the former rocks because, to me, if it’s going to rock, the dominant instruments have to be an electric guitar, bass, and drums. There’s just no getting past that. I love a lot of the new wave songs of the late 70s and the 80s – but they don’t rock! Nothing they can do will ever make them rock, because they’re so steeped in keyboards and not steeped enough in electric guitar. I’m looking at the song “Stepping out” by the brilliant Joe Jackson. Seriously, this is one of my favorite songs – but it doesn’t rock. Going back in time, the 1960s had a lot of guitar based songs, sure, but Dylan did not rock (well, maybe when he went electric), Simon and Garfunkel did not Rock, Crosby, Stills, and Nash did not rock. The Beatles – well they rocked sometime. The Stones? Ok, the Rolling stones rocked a lot more than most of their counterparts. And again, I’m not here to define what rock is to the masses – hell – the 60s and the 50s was when Rock was born. But while a lot of the songs were considered in the rock and roll genres, they did not, to me, rock.
Joan Jett loves rock and roll. This is a fact. But I think I love rock and roll more than she does. Ok, maybe that’s unfair – I am just a lowly blogger with a passion for writing about music and a lust for the talent I do not possess. Joan Jett has been rocking us with her bad Reputation since before I learned to talk. Rock and roll is one of my passions – but Rock and Roll is Joan Jett’s life. But I still love rock and roll more than a normal person should. I always have. I even loved it when my version of Rock and Roll was a Petra tape in seventh grade! I thought I was so badass when I was listening to my headphones and my aunt Arlene asked me what I was listening to – I said TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL!” (by Stryper). I still remember her reaction – she was kind of shocked and taken a back. She just kind of said “well then….” Heh, yeah….I thought I was so hardcore (though I was still more hardcore than Lars Ulrich is now, but I digress).