Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Death and Rebirth of Rock and Roll

When I reviewed Rock of Ages I hated it in part because it didn't seem to get the L.A. scene. Let explain what I mean by that. The '80s, in particular the early '80's are an interesting time in music because you had a lot of different genres who were in their relative infancies. "Rapper's Delight" had come out in '79.

The Sex Pistols tour in '78 had started to galvanize U.S. Punk.

Metal Health had made it to #1 on the billboard charts in '83

The new wave of british heavy metal was in full swing.

Not to mention jangle pop.

And Techno

And New Wave, which would eventually become the basis for post-punk. Yeah I said it. Without Flock of Segals there would be no Weezer.

My point is that a lot of interesting stuff was happening for a bunch of genres.  I was going to to try to do something with that but my head ran like this.

"I should do a review on The Decline of Western Civilization Part II or This is Spinal Tap. They captured the heavy metal scenes of the '80s well.

Then again to aquatically portray the L.A. scene I have to go to the new wave of British heavy metal and to portray them right I have to talk about punk, and to get them right I need to talk about protopunk, which was a rebellion against some of the wilder bits of psychedelic and progressive rock. So if I were going to talk about the San Fransisco scene where would I start."

The Death of Rock and Roll
Well let's talk about the day the music died.

Well the day cemented the feeling that this type of music had run it's course. Three of the biggest names in rock died in a single plane crash, Richie Vallens, Buddy Holly and the big bopper. Further more there was the feeling that this movement had died before it had a chance to begin. Vallens was 17 and Holly was 22.

That day really is only the focal point in a much larger decline. Chuck Berry was also halled off to jail in '59. Elvis was drafted in '58 and God only knows he wasn't the same after. While I respect him for it I was a little bummed to learn that even Little Richard had given up rock for a while in the early 60's.

There was just a feeling like the river had run it's course, and it was a good ride while it lasted.

The Rebirth
When talking about psychedelic rock I like to use one song as an audio aid. It illustrates two different phases in the music.  "All Along the Watchtower".

This song forces people in two relatively equally sized camps. Ones who prefer Hendrix, and ones who prefer Dylan. Oddly enough that encapsulates the evolution of the San Fransisco scene. Pre-Hendrix and Post-Hendrix.

In the early days of what I'll dub, Hippie rock, a lot of the obvious idols were... unavailable(dead, dead, in jail, dead, converted, dead). If you want to learn guitar you do two things. You listen to a lot of records and you go up to the closest guy you know who plays what you like. Well the closest guys were old blues and folk artists.  The reason why all the pre-woodstock stuff sounds kind of twangy is because that's how these guys learned. You learned from your local Woodie Guthries and John Lee Hookers and Mississippi Freds, and Pete Seegers and Lead Bellies


The Festival Scene and Hendrix Explosion
Around the same time as this you get the festival scene. You want to know what popularized the electric guitar? Try getting acoustic to power out to a crowd of 50,000. "Can you hear me in the back?" Tough aint it. All of a sudden you have all of these acoustic guys trading in their old acoustic guitars for electric. It changes the sound of rock and roll. And creates the loudness war.

At this point, there were a lot of musicians who all kind of knew each other because they were touring the same places.  Monterrey, Isle of Wight,Woodstock. These guys hung out a lot. And professionally they all agreed on one thing. Hendrix was nuts on a guitar! The man could make sounds come out of the thing nobody else saw coming.  Minds were blown. Again these aren't just rabid fanboys who say this stuff, we're talking his contemporaries.

It can't be said enough. Jimi Hendrix expanded the language of rock and roll. He is it's Shakespeare.

The First Arms Race
When you have a guy that technically good playing your shows. You got to bring your A game. So everybody in that scene was trying to one up Jimi, whether it be in the sound booth, or guitar technique, everybody is trying to do what they can to stay relevant in the shadow of the monster, and for that matter the other guys who are also creating new sound techniques. It creates a really interesting environment of musical experimentation.  Which has a lot of side effects. By the late 60's early 70's some of these artists were doing things that wouldn't become popular until 15 years later. Some of them were alienating their fans who wanted the old stuff back.  Regardless the next generation would respond.

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