“Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.”
The lyrics of this famous Neil Young song resound in my head even after my mp3 battery sadly dies down and I’m left to my own curious thoughts. I often sit and wonder, when Young wrote these lyrics; did he know he was giving birth to a phrase which would be chanted by millions for generations to come?
How many times in a week do you hear someone mention ‘rock and roll’ in some form or the other? Maybe it’s while watching ‘LA Ink’ and hearing tattoo queen Kat Von D go ‘Rock on dude’ (no seriously, I can sue her for using that phrase THAT many times for anything and everything), or maybe when you’re doing the walk of shame after your mom ecstatically yells ‘this is so rockin’, invariably in front of your friends. ‘Music is a refuge, an escape for many. A place without music would be one full of mourn and dread. “Music is higher revelation…music is religion… music is a moral law”. Rockers like Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Page and the entire lot of them never thought they would start a revolution when they spoke these few, but truthful words.
From the time when the Rockabilly’s Elvis Presley first warned people from stepping on his blue suede shoes, to the time when Nirvana made grunge seem like the coolest thing in town, to Pearl Jam making us feel more alive; music has never sounded better. Their music is continuing to transform lives of many people, while people themselves continue to shape and remold it in order to do what they love, face what they fear, get rid of what they hate and restart what they stopped.
The timeline of rock and roll unfolds as a crazy roller-coaster ride of debuts, smash hits, breaking stereotypes, coming out of corners, iconic bands, landmark records, creation of sub-genres and many more breath-taking, foot-tapping, head banging events. They mark an emergence of a completely new movement, which forced people to come out, to not comply with social norms (read – Racism) and to break free, as the ever-popular band Queen would claim.
The problem with today’s music is that it’s all about trends and popularity. People WANT to hear music that appeals to them. This leaves us with artists mimicking artists, which in turn leaves us with a muck-filled pool of sweet nothingness. There’s more of production than reality. The surrounding fluff of glitzy sets, skimpily clad background dancers and music video budgets big to feed a small third-world country often take away the focus from actual music making and confuse the listener. Such music is usually evaluated for its visibility and not for its merit. The hottest, the best and the most worthwhile music are usually the ones with a huge fan following developed due to its catchy nature. It’s true that the Beatles were commercially successful, but the commercial is not synonymous with the mainstream. An artist who is good does not deserve to toil for years under obscurity and it would be biased to say that some of the music produced today is not good. However, the problem is that ‘some’ is too less in number to actually come out and dominate the music scene.
An argument can be started on both sides of this issue. It’s mostly grey matter, not a black or white one. It takes a broad brush to paint the entire industry as ‘mainstream and commercial’, but it is we who control the music we listen to and not the majority, and it is only we who can change what we listen to. As Bono said, “Pop music often tells you everything is OK, while rock music tells you that it’s not OK, but you can change it.”