The Last of the Rock ‘n’ Rollers
An uncensored version of this was originally published at MoonRunners
You ever hear a song on the radio and ask yourself, as Eddie Murphy did, “Can you believe this motherf****** shit?” You know the type of song I’m talking about. It’s one of those things that sounds more like an engineer and a computer programmer jerking each other off on a bed of Auto-Tuned bubblegum than anything even remotely related to music. Kid’s name is Beaver or some bullshit like that. It don’t matter. He’ll be gone in a year. Just like Frankie Lyman, just like Bobby Sherman, just like Aaron Carter. The business and the exploitation is all that goes on.
Then there’s the hipster shit. You can smell it five miles away. It’s music too smart for it’s own good, listened to and performed by honkies who resemble Pat Boone and are destroying rock music every bit as much as he tried to. You can hear them now, with shit radiating from their NPR-stained speakers, a $45 cup of Starbucks coffee sitting on their laps. I would gladly give Dee Snider all the money in my pocket if he would beat the shit out of them. (Am I just pissed because one of them got MY Dylan record? Hell yeah, I am! But I still want to see the look on his face when he realizes Slow Train Coming is a gospel record. Ha!)
Anyway, where the heck was I? Oh yeah. The fact that most music these days sucks. If you’re here you already know about XXX, so I ain’t gonna preach to the choir today. But outside of XXX, what is there? Adele is amazing, but she’s singer-songwriter-soul. Taylor Swift is growing as an artist, but even T-Bone Burnett couldn’t make her music escape the pop realm when he produced her latest single. Which is fine. There were some great pop songs at one point in time and I’m all for it happening again. But where the hell is the rock ‘n’ roll?
I’m not talking about rock. There’s always a lot of rock to choose from, some great, most bad. From the Beatles to Billy Joel, The Clash to Neil Diamond, Slayer to the White Stripes, the Flying Burrito Brothers to the Butthole Surfers, it’s all rock.
But it’s not rock ‘n’ roll. That’s it’s own thing which could be classified as the black sheep of rock’s family tree. It’s filled with raw power, freedom, and a hardwired rejection of the quest for art. You ain’t gonna hear “Revolution #9” on a rock ‘n’ roll record. Unlike rock, rock ‘n’ roll has no pretensions and if the songs happen to be great, you can bet your ass it was unintentional. So sorry Dylan and Bruce. Y’all are awesome, but true rock ‘n’ roll artists make music that isn’t intended to do anything other than entertain the audiences and show the the way to a good time. Rock ‘n’ roll is music you can get up and dance to and, yes, it’s music that you can fuck to.
Rock ‘n’ roll is Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It’s Gary U.S. Bonds, Jumpin’ Gene Simmons, and ? and the Mysterians. It’s all of the forgotten rockabilly and garage 45s of the ’50s and ’60s. It’s not the Beatles (although Ringo may qualify). It’s not Radiohead. And it sure as hell ain’t Nickelback or the Fleet Foxes.
So who were the last of the rock ‘n’ rollers that I alluded to in the title of the article? I’m tempted to included the Rolling Stones and Alice Cooper here, but the Stones’ flirtations with disco and Cooper’s affinity for concept albums (art) force me to exclude them. Then there’s the punks, who may belong here, yet I see them as devoted students of rock ‘n’ roll in the same way Leone was a student of John Ford. And bands like the Stray Cats were, with all due respect to the great Brian Setzer, just revivalists.
So that means that CCR and AC/DC are the last true rock ‘n’ roll bands. I could talk about both of them, but y’all already know the music. Now all you have to do is throw your NPR shit out the window and crank them the fuck up.
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MoonRunners is a writers collective internet magazine about, but not limited to Country, and Southern-influenced music, “XXX” and Southern culture.