Jan 122016

I sometimes get people mad at me when I tell them that the majority of people these days don’t like rock. I guess I’m not the only one that thinks this. In a recent No Depression Q&A with a movie director named Gorman Bechard, he agrees with a comment made by Lydia Loveless in a new documentary he is making about her and her band.

Q.  In the [movie] trailer, [Loveless] says, “I don’t think people really like rock and roll although they claim they do.” Where do you think that comes from?
Gorman Bechard:  Oh I think she’s one hundred percent right. I think people are scared by rock and roll. I think people want to think they like rock and roll but wake up people, Vampire Weekend is not rock and roll.

What do you think? Have we passed the point of no return…or like me do you think/hope this is a cyclical down cycle for r-o-c-k?


  24 Responses to “Thinking About Rock in 2016”

  1. 2000 Man

    I love Lydia Loveless.


    I think people like Rock N Roll. I think people are lazy and don’t want to work any harder than turning on their radio to hear it, and I think all the radio plays is the same old shit. Then there’s streaming with its stupid algorithms that never play anything someone that types in “The Beatles” could possibly hate. Vampire Weekend isn’t Rock N Roll but the Drive By Truckers are.

    I can’t wait to watch the thing with Lydia, though. She’s the real deal.

  2. cliff sovinsanity

    I think the biggest challenge in trying to determine whether past the point of no return is to define what’s the definition of rock and roll. To me, it’s always been the musical expression of teenage rebellion. Since the mid 1950’s kids and young adults have looked to music to give them a voice. It’s a rejection of what came before them. That’s why the music of your youth has the most impact on your life. This has changed in the new millennium.

    I’ve realized in the last 10 years that rock and roll doesn’t mean a whole lot to young people. Teenagers and young adults these days are expressing themselves on the internet through blogging, social media, and gaming. That’s not to say they don’t listen to music and new bands. It’s just a smaller slice of the pie. If the majority of young people were looking to rock and roll to save their lives we’d hear more songs about issues like corporate greed, war, the environment and other social injustices.

    There still is great music out there. Lydia Loveless is a perfect example of someone who would have killed in the mid 90’s. Unfortunately though, she’s most likely attracting guys in their mid 40’s to her show instead of young disassociated girls.

    Yes, we are beyond the point of no return. The internet and all it’s possibilities are the future. And music is only small part of the internet. Regardless, that shouldn’t stop you from checking out current rock bands or passing the torch to your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and the neighbors kids.

  3. cliff sovinsanity

    I also wanted to touch on Bowie. Think about the impact he had on culture, especially the LGBT community. He was a rock and roll performer. Yet, he represented something more beyond the music.
    I don’t think we are going to see someone from rock and roll today and in the future having such an impact on young people let alone society.

  4. Oh, I’m very worried, seriously. I check a lot of listings to ensure that something I’m interested in doesn’t slip by. I’ve noticed that in the last few years some clubs like the Bell House in Brooklyn have gone from basically full time music venues to having comedy and other events, say NPR quiz shows or some other such bullshit about 85% of the time. I know there are great things out there, but when I see someone like Lydia Loveless, it seems so clear that she’s doomed to scratch out a meager existence with virtually no chance of making it genuinely “big”. There are acts out there that I try to never miss because I’m concerned that if I don’t show, I might never get a chance again because they might just give up.

  5. BigSteve

    I’m tempted to say that I wish the rock era were over. Sometimes I think that if I see another guy with a guitar in front of a drummer telling me how he feels I’m going to strangle someone, perhaps myself. Those of you who are familiar with my listening patterns know that I am increasingly drawn to the more abstract forms of electronic music or to styles of of music where the lyrics are not in English, so I have little or no idea about the content of the lyrics. And this is coming from someone who has spent thousands of hours singing and making music with guitars and drums. It’s beyond me why someone in his or her teens or twenties would have any interest in learning to play guitar. Computers are everywhere and they can be used to make music. Why wouldn’t they do that? I’m in my sixties, and I’m begging young people to do things I can’t even comprehend.

  6. 2000 Man

    Lydia might hit it big. but certainly not like Adele or Taylor Swift. She’s a hell of a songwriter and she probably has the best odds at hitting the charts on the country side of things, and I hope she does someday.

  7. cliff sovinsanity

    The thing holding Lydia Loveless back from bigger success is her authenticity and sincerity.
    Unfortunately, modern country fans want to be spoon fed shit about Kentucky girls swimming in the fishin’ hole and looking out at stars from the back of pick up truck.

  8. Eh, I continue to be a true believer in rock ‘n roll; there’s just less to believe in these days, at least less in terms of my core tenets of faith. That little snippet of her warbling “…I’m so emotionally dead…” was a turn-off for me. Just another example of what I call Selfie Rock. I’m all for personal revelations, but give me some craft and style. (I don’t meant to cast dispersion on her entire catalog, by the way, based on a 3-second snippet without context, but this is an example, within the trailer, of the kind of rock that doesn’t interest me.)

    I do think there’s a kernel of truth in the broad statement regarding people not really liking rock ‘n roll anymore. It’s no longer at the heart of our cultural discourse, as it may have been through the ’80s or early ’90s. Rock ‘n roll seems more an accouterment to people’s identity, and I don’t see that changing until the music form adapts to the whole selfie/social media root of our cultural discourse. The day artists start producing short, ephemeral, Twitter-like songs to blast out to followers may be the day the genre is back in the center of our discourse and identity.

  9. misterioso

    I don’t see any reason to think that rock will stay in or near the “center of our discourse” any more than swing or bebop or whatever else may have come before. The fact that a massive industry grew around it may have extended its life–but I am not sure whether the size of the industry was the cause or the effect. Although I am not drawn to the same alternatives as Big Steve, I am sympathetic to his assessment of things. And as for rock being more of “an accoutrement to people’s identity,” don’t you think it has always been that way except for a small minority of get-a-lifers such as the denizens of the Rock Town Hall?

  10. I agree that any style has only so long a vital life, as you suggest. As you also suggest, I agree that rock culture’s extended life outlived its artistic life by about 10 years (thinking that it was still going pretty strong in 1993).

    I wasn’t suggesting that our culture at large took rock anywhere near as seriously as our crew, but I do think it was more ingrained in broader cultural identity than it is today. Think of all the “normal people” in the ’80s who strongly identified with/took cues from hair metal and the likes of Bon Jovi. Today, those cues are more likely to come from rap artists, if any music scenes at all. Just as likely, if not more so, they’re taking cues from reality TV, viral videos, and the like.

    In the ’70s, American Graffiti looked back on ’50s rock culture. In the ’90s, it was Dazed and Confused looking back to the ’70s. Any day now, if the movie is not already out there, there’s going to be a similar slice-of-teenage-life movie looking back to Boy Band culture. As a matter of fact, there was a movie I saw last year about teenagers in some bad part of LA who were driven by ’90s fun hip-hop culture, like De La Soul. I always forget the name of the movie. The slice-of-teen-life movie of 2030 will hearken back nostalgically to the days of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake parodying ’90s Boy Band culture. If you can see this far into the future with me, I’m sure I’ve clarified.

  11. BigSteve


    Rock may be dead, but the music club in my neighborhood seems to book an endless stream of twentysomethings in the typical guitars/bass/drums configuration. That’s the part I don’t understand.

  12. misterioso

    Yes, I see what you are getting at. Every generation’s nostalgia seems ridiculous to other generations.

    Anyway, I can’t work up any outrage, or sadness, or whatever, over people taking cultural cues, or what have you, from reality tv or some other vapid crap instead of vapid crap like Bon Jovi. I don’t see any real difference there, only that one is guys with guitars and therefore (only in theory) closer to something I can connect with than, I don’t know, the Kardashians or something.

  13. misterioso

    I clicked on the link to a recent article by the same author, “Rock and Roll Is Dead, and Even Axl & Slash Can’t Save It.” I thought it must be a joke. Which it was, but not in the way that I was hoping. The author is pining for the halcyon days when Guns ‘n’ Roses was in their prime, ’cause they were so, you know, awesome. And MTV ruled. You could put on MTV and watch Axl swim with the whales. Man, that was when rock was king, before it got ruined by digital media.

    Sorry: G ‘n’ R sucked, sucked big time. If, in fact, rock is dead, they helped pound the nails into the casket. Wait, isn’t that in the November Rain video?

  14. tonyola

    But do they get paid anything beyond the tip jar or passing the hat?

  15. cliff sovinsanity

    I don’t know if this is related to the discussion, but has anyone else noticed a lot more tribute bands playing at venues that used to book original bands?

  16. Absolutely. Another frightening trend in addition to the gradual conversion of Music venues to comedy that I noted above.

  17. What I don’t get is when bands that have been playing original music for 35 years suddenly decide to spend months preparing for a 1-night-only tribute show. Or wait, I do get that.

  18. BigSteve

    I’m not sure about that. I think they’re just hoping to put out some recordings on bandcamp. Maybe a track will get picked up as background music for a commercial. That’s the new definition of success.

  19. It wasn’t a swipe at you, more so at the Photocopied Genesis, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty cover groups that have lately been turning up in places I might prefer to see someone trying something new. But then again…

    Hey, when is that show?

  20. Oh, I wasn’t taking it as such. Rather, I was having fun and seeking a way to let out some of my excitement over this coming show. The date is being rescheduled, most likely for April or May. Hope to have a date in the next week or two!

  21. tonyola

    As someone who is slowly approaching old-fartdom, I have paid little heed to the current music scene since around 2000 or so. Also, much of what I’ve been listening to over a lifetime has been outside of what is generally accepted as rock and roll. Nowadays, if I want a new audio experience, I generally spend more time listening to music from nooks and crannies of past rock that I have previously left unexplored. In short, I don’t put much emotional investment in the present state of rock and roll.

    With all that said, I think that rock and roll isn’t so much dead as having gone temporarily or permanently underground. Perhaps rock lovers will be like vinyl record fanciers – hard-core commitment to their love despite shrinking numbers. There will be people who will provide these folks with their musical fix but it’ll require some digging to get it. As others here have mentioned, the sticking point for many rock and roll musicians these days is whether there’s any money in it beyond being weekend-warrior bands playing for tips or getting at best a pittance for being on social media.

  22. BigSteve

    I’m not totally convinced that making a living playing rock & roll is a net plus. There are at least as many artists/bands that were great as long as they still had days jobs then got worse once they started spending their lives in the van as there are artists/bands that got better once they focused all of their energies on their music.

  23. It’s like what Robert Fripp once said:

    “The business of a musician is music. The business of a professional musician is business.”

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