Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Duality of Rock

Alright, by the early 70's rock had gotten itself into 2 camps. Progressive rock, and hard rock.  Why is this important? Progressive rock would eventually merge with R&B and evolve into disco and hard rock would become the basis for punk and metal.

So let's get down to it. All the experimentation of the 60's had two lasting effects. The loudness war.

and increasing technicality in both the guitar playing and the sound booth.

These two things became the dominating forces of the music industry for the next kagillion years.

Now before I continue let me say there is plenty of overlap. And that views change. That punk rocker who called Pink Floyd pretentious at age 19 might call them one of his biggest influences at 45.

Progressive rock really got off on the technicality and experimentation that permeated the late 60's and early 70's. These guys were pioneers charting new audio territory, creating sounds never before heard by man.

And a lot of people thought it was kind of pretentious. "Dude I just want to hear a good electrified Chuck Berry riff, not all the fading, and echoes, and silences, overdubbing, and distortion. "

Now to talk about my musical redheaded stepchild.


I hate early Motown. Okay to be fair most of the brits got their start singing Motown covers, and it was the first music I ever learned the lyrics to, but damn is it cornball. Note, that this coming from a black guy from Detroit. I love a lot of the artists, and a lot of them have material I love, but especially in the early days Berry Gordy's music factory was everything I hate about the music business. Let me put it like this.

I know about all other the cool stuff coming out at the same time. Blues, the British invasion, San Fransisco, protopunk. And I think to myself, Motown seemed backwards. Why was it backwards, because Gordy was a musical tyrant, and don't get me started on  payola, royalty and credit wars.  The artists couldn't do anything without his go ahead. As a result compared some of the stuff coming out at the time it sounds a little gamey. It always looked and sounded as if it belonged in the previous decade. And that's not knocking the 50's there was some good stuff, but it always seemed as if Motown were trying to imitate those artists rather than create something new.  Towards the end of the Motown period when it was in decline Gordy loosened the reignes some and God did I get some good stuff. (Well technically my parents got some good stuff but yeah.)

When they finally started to experiment a little they experimented. And along with the prog rockers expanded the audio vocabulary.

Hard Rock
The great question is trying to separate when exactly psychedelic rock became metal. 

As stated a lot of those bands were experimenting with playing faster and louder some even making it their thing. Again listen to Helter Skelter.  I generally draw the line at bands who play that type of music almost exclusively. But especially in the early years that's hard to find. As much as the metal heads and punks hate to admit it they are the children of the hippies. The angry angry children of hippies.

My point is there is no magic moment. Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeplin could easily be lumped in with Santana, The Who, and Hendrix, in thier later years. Hell even Judas Priest were sort of hippie when starting out.

Those are the "You Got Another Thing Coming" guys? Picking a golden moment where it's obviously something different is haaaaarrrrrrd!

If pressed though I would point to Iron Maiden I'll get to why in a sec but lets head over to punk.

One of my pet peeves is the mistaken belief that the Sex Pistols invented punk. Here is why. Let's say you're a 17 year old kid from Queens or London or Tokyo or Detroit  in 1969. You're folks just bought you a guitar for Christmas. You're thinking, "awesome", but as you listen to Sgt. Pepper on the radio you realize something. There is no way in hell you're going to be able to sound like that without another 10 guys, a soundboard and another 10 years of experience, moreover you don't want to. What do you do?

You find a bass player, a drummer and you play whatever Chuck Berry licks you can as fast and as loud as your amp will go hoping it comes out sounding half decent. 

My point is everybody had that problem and a lot of folks had the same solution, which is how punk was invented.... about 2000 times. What made punk thrive was it was an inclusive genre. As long as you didn't act like a jackass, you were welcome at the club, which was probably a local dive down the street. You didn't have to wear you're best jump suite just what you had on, which incidentally was probably jeans, a t-shirt and a leather jacket. You think the grunge guys had it bad when the fashion industry co-opted their style. You have no idea. Anyway, if you can pogo you're in. That said punk had one major flaw. It despised artistry.

I can't remember who said it but they said it best.  "If you liked and cared about playing you did it a lot. If you did it a lot you got better. If you got better you became a sellout in the eyes of the punk crowd."

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal
Eventually you get a lot of London bands reaching that point. They have the artistry and showmanship of the 1960's woodstockers, but the speed, energy, and volume of punk.

Notice something different? Yeah. Iron Maiden one of the most iconic metal oufits started as a punk band. Eventually they changed lead singers and the rest is history.

At the same time Judas Priest was trying to differentiate themselves from everybody and they decide they're "hellbent for leather", thus creating the look.  And metal starts to become metal.

Alright let's get back to R&B

Disco R&B and Prog Rock
Here is the dirty little secret of Motown. A lot of the artists were uncredited. Let me put it another way. Everybody knows the vocalists, but the bass players and drummers on almost every record never get shout outs. These guys though were seriously upping their game by the late 60's. Close you're eyes. Now play "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" in you're head. Just the instrumentals, preferably the long version.  That is some funky playin'.  You want some bass here it is. Notice something there. Yeah. Like I said, Motown always sounded a decade behind, but by the later years musically their instrumentals were moving to the fore. As much as my parents hate to admit it, when done right R&B has always been rock and roll, and that guitar track sounds like something Hendrix would have written.

Same goes for the "Friendship Train," "War," Ball of Confusion", "Psychedelic Shack", and "Cloud 9". But like I said here comes the argument. Motown wasn't made up of teenagers barely able to scrap up the money for a harmonica. ... Well at least not anymore.  These guys were veterans who had the experience, money and connections to experiment. They didn't ascribe to three chords and the truth. Hell I doubt they could. Whoose rules?  Gordy's Rules. Gordy wants a horn section, there will be a goddamned horn section.

By the mid 70's prog rock and R&B and evolved into things similar enough that they merged. Into what. Disco. I know the face everybody is making right now, but listen to me. Compare Court of the Crimson King to the Bee Gees. By the way King Crimson wrote it in '69.

The fundamental goals of 70's R&B and prog rock at this point in time were the same and musically both genres were headed in the same direction especially in their ballads. They were experimenting with musical elements outside of thier roots and since as alluded to earlier they have the same roots.

They started heading in the same direction. The first rule of modern American music is Hendrix or Dylan did it, and the zeroth rule is Berry did it before them.

Disco pushed some serious boundaries incorporating instruments not heard on the dial often. Including a new one, the studio. Advances in electronics allowed musicians to do some trippy stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.