Saturday, June 25, 2011

Classic Rock

Yes, I hate that term, too. Doesn't everyone? Well, apart from lunkheads who wouldn't be reading this....
However, it struck me this week that there are bands that occupy that kind of headspace for me. By that I mean; most folks would talk about Elvis and the British Invasion as "Classic Rock". They might add in some 70's stuff like Led Zeppelin and The Eagles, or they might want a bit of San Francisco thrown in, but they have this echelon of musical groups in their heads that are separated and a bit sanctified. Stuff that is raised outside of the realm of critical thinking. There are some acts, as I get older that get lumped into that same sort of category for me. However, mostly because of my age, those musical artists aren't from the 1950's, 1960's or 1970's- they're from the 1980's, or very late 1970's, or very early 1990's. Oh, I get it- I'm part of Generation X, no doubt about it. However, I don't think that this kind of thinking is nearly as endemic to my generation as previous generations. I don't think we'd deign to call our music "classic", except ironically.
However, let me give you a counter example: I saw U2 this week. It was at a mega-stadium, with 85,000 people. The stage show must have cost hundreds of thousands to put on, and tickets were expensive. They put on a two hour show, and played nothing but hits. Most of the audience knew most of the words.The requisite "ooo" and "aaa" moments of technological bliss came at the right spots, and the band both looked and sounded according to the guidebook, and they even varied the songs slightly from the recordings, so's the audience wouldn't think that it was by rote. All in all, exactly the opposite of what this blog is about, and yet, I liked it because hey, man, it was U2.... See what I mean? Separate and Sanctified. Judging by T shirts and hairlines, and tattoos, there was a percentage of folks there- I'd call it at about 20%, who were just like me- people who wouldn't normally go for this kind of show, and certainly wouldn't bother to show up for The Eagles, if they did the same kind of show- and yet, here they were, and like me, they were even buying the T shirts, because "Hey, Man, it's U2". What else evokes exactly that mindset except "classic rock"? So, no, this isn't a criticism of U2, in any way. No, this isn't a review of the show. I'm reviewing myself as an audience member, and realizing that I'm prone to exactly the usual stuff for music fans.
Still, I would stack my generation's "classic rock" up against the prior generations, and I think we come up winners. Put the Beatles up against U2, put The Rolling Stones up against Motley Crue or Bon Jovi (doesn't really matter) and Put The Who up against The Clash, and my generation wins at least twice, depending upon how you count it. If you're talking hits, U2/Crue/Bon Jovi win easily. If you're talking Artistic merit, U2/Clash take on all the above- and yes, I mean that. If you're talking about advancing the Culture, as a whole, U2/Clash win again vs Beatles/Stones/Who. Yes, I know, for our Baby-boomer controlled media all this is heresy but I am saying it's the truth. So, U2 as a "tentpole" act for me? In a way, yes, but that's a mighty big tentpole.