The Who continue to perform “My Generation” in their 2016 tour dates, even with that line about hoping to die before they get old. And with Mick Jagger becoming a great-grandfather in 2014, rock culture really is thumbing its nose at the idea of growing old gracefully.
So if grandpas these days can be rockers, maybe our associations of rock = rebelliousness = youth have collapsed altogether. Or perhaps we have actually become accustomed to the idea that “youth” is an attitude, not a chronological stage in the human life cycle. From that point of view, a rock & roll pose of “sticking it to the man” is available to anyone, even “the man” himself.
While the spirit of rock & roll lives on in lots of teen subcultures and inspires many new bands, it’s also true that kids who grow up rocking out alongside their parents think of this music as … well, old.
If you play Metallica to your baby in the cradle, he might grow up thinking of “Enter Sandman” as a nostalgic song that brings back sweet memories of bedtime.
The recent rise in child stars who rock out note-perfect versions of Van Halen guitar solos and Keith Moon drum ...
The Rock Hall's award-winning education department debated, arm-wrestled and ultimately high-fived their way into answering one impossible question: what song is each 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's definitive track? A tall order, to be sure, but here goes it:
Deep Purple – "Smoke on the Water" (1972)
Seriously. That riff. Who can't hum it? Formed in London in 1968, Deep Purple embraced the sounds of progressive rock, psychedelia-influenced blues and heavy metal, but the group of musicians always fit squarely within the hard rock genre that they helped solidify. Back to that guitar riff – a distinctive, repeated melody with a driving rhythm that builds a song's energy. The opening to Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is arguably the most famous riff in rock history. All credit to guitar extraordinaire Ritchie Blackmore, who took four simple chords and transformed it into a monster of a melody. But it wasn't just the notes. The rhythm of the riff is equally important: Blackmore mutes—or forcibly stops—the chords strategically to highlight the song's backbeat, which anticipates Ian Paice's drumbeat. Add a liberal dose of distortion to Blackmore's guitar and boom!: hard rock history ...
Metallica looking very metal in 1986 / photo by Ross Halfin / via metallica.com
As a child of the 80s, my first intro to Metallica came via MTV's Headbangers Ball, specifically the video for ...And Justice for All's epic metal anthem "One." Shot mostly in black-and-white, with scenes and dialogue from Johnny Got His Gun interspersed with the group thrashing in an abandoned warehouse, the video was intense, creepy, brutal – and all the other superlatives that inspired shock and awe in my impressionable young mind. I was hooked with full-on Beavis & Butt-head excitement. Like any enterprising adolesccent metalhead, I was soon fully immersed in Metallica's first three albums: Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. To the chagrin of my parents and their eardrums, the latter became my favorite. On the 30th anniversary of its release, listening to Master again took me headbanging down memory lane.
Master of Puppets not only pushed the limits of the metal genre in terms of sheer musicianship and creative force, but also redefined the paths to success and critical acclaim.
Metallica's meteoric ascent began in earnest with the release of 1983's Kill 'Em All, introducing the band ...
When Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock" dropped in 1982, it was nothing short of a revelation. In its cool grooves, the Bronx and Manhattan collided with a message for the citizens of One World. The lyrics were upbeat and utopian: "Party people, can y'all get funky!" The music – based around the rhythms of Kraftwerk's 1977 Krautrock hit "Trans-Europe Express" – was electronic and, in fact, funky. Hip-hop's first self-conscious art record suggested just how far this new musical sound could go. This was the Star Trek take on science fiction: harmonious, multicultural, with technology connecting people rather than alienating or threatening them.
And its rhythmic core? The Roland TR-808 drum machine, a hugely flawed, relatively inexpensive piece of early 80s technology that forever transformed the modern musical landscape of many styles – hip-hop, electro, dance, techno, pop, rock and industrial, among others.
808 The Movie tells the story of this unlikely musical hero, and I caught up with producer Alex Noyer to get the inside story on why he and his crew were inspired to make the film and the surprising stories they heard from the likes of Bambaataa, Phil Collins, Fat Boy Slim, the Beastie ...
A fan has left a rose at the entrance of 2400 Fulton Street in San Francisco, where Jefferson Airplane once lived, in acknowledgment of Paul Kantner's death. / photo by Richie Unterberger
I felt like a part of my San Francisco died when I heard the news of Paul Kantner’s passing. For fans like myself who so profoundly identify with certain music and musicians, it feels like we are losing part of ourselves each time one of our heroes passes away.
I discovered Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Jefferson Airplane when I was a senior in high school and a classmate shared a boxset of their music – Jefferson Airplane Loves You. As a teenager, it was perhaps my first taste of psychedelia and the counterculture. I went on to study the history of the Summer of Love as an American Studies major in college. When I was 22, my parents took me to San Francisco, and I actually wore flowers in my hair.
Several years later I found myself with a job at UC Berkeley, and I made regular pilgrimages across the bay to see Richie Unterberger give presentations on rare rock films at the Haight-Ashbury branch ...
Without a doubt, Sam Cooke was one of the most influential performers in the history of American popular music. His work cut across the genres of gospel, R&B and pop, and Cooke is credited as being one of soul music’s primary architects.
Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1931, and his family moved to Chicago when Cooke was a toddler. He started singing in the church, and joined the most popular gospel group in the country, the Soul Stirrers, when he was still a teenager. His career with the Soul Stirrers was enough to secure his place in the annals of music history, but his ambition and talent would take him much further.
With the release of “You Send Me” in 1957, Cooke embarked upon a career in secular music that transcended the boundaries of R&B and pop. He was a pioneering figure in African-American entrepreneurship, gaining remarkable artistic control of his music and the business surrounding it. Recognizing the importance of owning publishing rights to music, he founded his own record label, SAR, with J.W. Alexander and Roy Crain in 1961, despite being courted aggressively by the leading record labels of the day. He ...
As the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland unveils its new Beastie Boys collection, we sat down with Rock Hall curator Meredith Rutledge-Borger to find out why curating this exhibit was personal.
RRHOF: Do you remember the first time you heard the Beastie Boys?
MR: I lived in New York City in the late 70s and early 80s. I worked at a record store and one day when I went to work there was this crazy thing on the turntable that was somebody prank calling a Carvel store and then it turned into this rap song. And [the song] kept repeating –"Cookie Puss, Cookie Puss" - which was the tasty treat that Carvel ice cream stores made. I immediately had to find out what this record was because it was just so funny, and it turned out it was the Beastie Boys. I fell in love. I was like, "Who are these kids?! This is so genius!"
So curating the new Beastie Boys exhibit at the Rock Hall must have been a trip down memory lane...
This is really the first time that I've worked on an exhibit with an artist that I've watched from the very ...
Photo: Glenn Frey, ca. 1994, photographer unknown. From the Jeff Gold Collection at the Rock Hall's Library & Archives.
It's been a rough start to 2016 for rock fans mourning the loss of two Hall of Fame Inductees: David Bowie and Glenn Frey. Tributes have poured in from around the globe, a testament to the lasting impact and widespread influence of the music each created. Last week, we looked back on some of the David Bowie songs that shaped rock and roll, and this week it's only fitting we rewind to one of the Eagles' most enduring hits: "Take It Easy."
Guitarist Glenn Frey was a rocker from Detroit who headed to Los Angeles, where he befriended fellow musicians Jackson Browne and John David Souther. Drummer Don Henley and Frey met while backing Linda Ronstadt. Guitarist Bernie Leadon had previously done time with Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman in the Flying Burrito Brothers; bassist Randy Meisner was a founding member of Poco with Richie Furay and had played in Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band. And they had all played together on Ronstadt's Silk Purse. No wonder they sounded accomplished from the get-go.
Decades later, in 2014 ...